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Food & Recipes

The Secret to Making The Perfect Meatball Subs — While Cutting Prep-time In Half!

Plus, two extra-fast, extra-delicious recipes guaranteed to wow your crowd

Hearing the words “meatballs sub” is guaranteed to get your mouth watering, and it’s no secret why: Juicy meatballs smothered in rich tomato sauce delivers a rich, hearty, satisfying taste. And the gooeyness of the melted cheese complements the crispy, lightly toasted hoagie roll. Taken all together — hearty, gooey, crunchy — it’s a little bit of heaven right here on earth.

Meatball subs are best when homemade, but we know it can be time-consuming to roll and shape each meatball. Luckily, we asked First for Women Test Kitchen Manager Susan Chiusano for her best shortcut. And she delivered with a tip that helps you form delicious meatballs in half the time. Plus, we share our top two meatball sub recipes that are cheesy, saucy — and oh, so delicious.

Keep reading to learn how to whip up a batch of homemade meatball subs to enjoy as a fun, family weeknight dinner — or at a game-day weekend gathering with friends.

The key to speeding up meatball prep

Anyone who is used to preparing meatballs knows that shaping them can take time because they need to be the same size in order to cook evenly. Usually this involves grabbing a scoop of the meat mixture and rolling it into a ball.

However, Susan co-signs a speedy test kitchen tip that takes the guesswork out of shaping even-sized meatballs: “Roll the uncooked meat mixture into 2 or 3 logs and cut each log into equal slices, then roll each slice into a ball.” Not only does this trick produce juicy meatballs, but it also prevents the meatballs from overcrowding the sub and falling apart — a win-win.

Once shaped, cook the meatballs as directed in your recipe of choice. While there are a few different ways of cooking them, Susan notes that she “likes to bake meatballs as it’s faster and easier than frying, although they do taste a little better fried — what doesn’t?”

(Click through to discover more ways to create delicious meatballs by adding ricotta cheese to the mixture or stuffing them with cheese.)

Susan adds that you can easily freeze extra meatballs and reheat them at a later time for more subs, or as an addition to pastas and salads.

RELATED: Guaranteed Juicy Meatloaf Every Time — Here’s the Easy Step That Most Folks Skip

2 mouthwatering meatball sub recipes

This sandwich traditionally consists of beef meatballs, marinara sauce, mozzarella or provolone cheese and crusty bread like a hoagie roll or baguette. However, tweaks like swapping marinara for BBQ sauce and using ground turkey in the meatballs instead of beef create a meatball sub that’s suited to your flavor or nutritional preferences.

Here are two recipes beloved by Susan and the rest of our test kitchen for being both simple and surefire crowdpleasers.

Meatball Heroes 

Meatball subs_image #1
Bhofack2/Getty Images

Prep these tender meatballs in advance, then simply assemble sandwiches and broil when ready to serve.


  • 1 ½ lbs. ground beef (preferably 85/15)
  • ½ cup Italian-style dry breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten 
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 hoagie rolls, split
  • 1 ½ cups tomato-basil pasta sauce, warmed
  • 6 slices mozzarella


  • Active: 30 mins
  • Total time: 55 mins
  • Yield: 6 servings
  1. In bowl, combine beef, breadcrumbs, eggs, parsley and garlic; shape into 24 balls. Coat nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Heat over medium heat. In batches, cook meatballs, turning, until browned, 5 minutes per batch. Return all meatballs to skillet. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover; cook until no longer pink in centers, 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil; arrange roll bottoms cut sides up on top. Spread with half of sauce. Add meatballs, remaining sauce, then mozzarella. Broil until cheese melts, 5 minutes. Add roll tops.

Chipotle BBQ Meatball Hero 

Chipotle BBQ Meatball Hero
LauriPatterson/Getty Images

BBQ meets Tex-Mex in these ready-in-a-flash sandwiches featuring turkey meatballs slathered with fiery barbecue sauce and topped with melty cheese.


  • 1 cup BBQ sauce
  • 2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped, + 2 Tbs. adobo sauce
  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • ¼ cup Italian-style dry breadcrumbs 1 egg
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • ¼ cup + 1 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 (9-inch) hero rolls, 6 oz. each, split
  • 1 cup shredded Colby Jack cheese, 4 oz.


  • Active: 30 minutes
  • Total time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings
  1. Heat oven to 425°F. Coat large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. In micro- wave-safe bowl, combine barbecue sauce, peppers and adobo sauce; reserve. In separate bowl, combine turkey, ¼ cup reserved sauce mixture, breadcrumbs, egg, scallions and ¼ cup cilantro.
  2. Shape into 12 meatballs. Transfer to baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes or until no longer pink in centers, turning halfway through cooking time.
  3. Microwave remaining sauce mixturein 20-seconds intervals until hot. Reserve ⅓ cup. Toss meatballs with remaining sauce. Place roll bottoms cut sides up on baking sheet; top with meatballs, reserved sauce and ½ cup cheese.
  4. Sprinkle remaining cheese on cut sides of roll tops. Bake 2 to 3 minutes or until cheese melts. Sprinkle with remaining chopped cilantro; cover with roll tops. Cut each sandwich in half to serve.

What to serve with meatball subs

Although meatball subs are tasty on their own, serving with a crisp salad or a starch like potatoes makes it a more complete meal. Try these recipes for homemade baked potato chips, refreshing summer salads or oven baked French fries the next time you want a yummy side to savor with your meatball subs.

How to reheat meatball subs

Unless you’re cooking for a crowd, you’ll have leftover meatball subs. But, there’s no need to worry as Susan shares an easy method for reheating the sandwiches so they’re cheesy and toasted like before. “For reheating, wrap each sub in foil and place on a baking sheet. Heat the subs in the oven at 350°F for about 10 to 15 minutes,” she explains. “If you want the bread toasted a bit, unwrap for last 5 minutes or until it’s golden brown.”

Click through for more hearty sandwich recipes:

What’s Better Than A Grilled Cheese Sandwich? One That’s Dipped in a Light Batter and Fried, Italian-Style — Delizioso!

Smokehouse Chef’s Easy Secret To Your Best-Ever Fried Bologna Sandwich

The Muffuletta Is the Perfect Sandwich to Satisfy a Crowd — Here’s 6 Easy Recipes

Amy Sedaris Sees Friends As Sandwiches and Favors Food That ‘Comes to Life at Night’ — Exclusive Interview

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