While you don't have to use fresh mozzarella for a melty, gooey sandwich like this, it really makes it so much better. The whole thing is just such great comfort food. —Erin Jeanne McDowell
Test Kitchen Notes
WHO: Erinmcdowell is Food52’s Test Kitchen Manager and pie whisperer.
WHAT: The meatball sub had a mid-life crisis and bought a brand new car.
HOW: Brown flavorful chicken meatballs in a sauté pan with olive oil as you make a quick tomato sauce. Then, melt slices of fresh mozzarella on a baguette until they’re melty. Pile on sauce and meatballs, grab a handful of napkins, and start eating.
WHY WE LOVE IT: It’s the moment we’ve been waiting for -- the meatball sub is exciting again! With chicken meatballs, fresh mozzarella, and homemade tomato sauce, the classic sub has a whole new life. We recommend making extra meatballs and sauce to eat on pasta throughout the week. —The Editors
For the chicken meatballs:
sweet onion, minced
cloves garlic, minced
pound ground chicken
chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper, to taste
red pepper flakes
breadcrumbs, or more as needed
Olive oil, as needed for cooking
For the tomato sauce and the finished sandwich:
small onion, minced
cloves garlic, minced
4 to 5
tomatoes, roughly chopped (or one 15-ounce can)
In a small sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the onions until translucent, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, 1 minute more. Set aside, and let cool.
In a large bowl, combine the cooled onion mixture with all the other meatball ingredients. Mix well to combine. Using your hands, roll the mixture into small balls.
Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Place the meatballs in the hot pan, and allow to cook until nicely browned on each side and cooked through, about 8 to 10 minutes (you can also sear the meatballs and finish them in the oven, if desired).
To make the tomato sauce, heat the olive oil in a small pot. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, 1 minute more.
Deglaze the pan with the tomato paste, then stir in the tomatoes. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer. Simmer until a good flavor develops, then stir in the basil just before serving.
Place the mozzarella on half of the bread slices (if your bread is stale, you can toast it first; I used a fresh baguette, so it didn't need toasting). Run the bread under the broiler until the cheese is melted and bubbly, about 2 minutes.
Toss the meatballs in the tomato sauce, and spoon some meatballs onto the bread. Garnish with hot peppers, if desired, then serve!
I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, The Book on Pie, is out on November 10th, 2020.