Meatball Subs with Fresh Tomatoes and Basil

Meatball subs may seem a little heavy for the summer, but subbing fresh tomatoes and basil in for regular tomato sauce puts a lighter spin on it and uses up some of that summertime garden bounty.  Even as a former vegetarian, I really enjoy using the meat grinder.  Ground meat at the grocery store always grossed me out a bit.  It seems inevitable that you often end up with some gristle or a texture that is more like meat paste than ground meat.  Being able to grind your own not only lets you control the texture and quality but lets you customize your own blends with different cuts of meat from different types of animals.  And the freshness compared to store-bought ground meat is night and day.

Grind into a bowl large enough to fit remaining meatball ingredients.

One of the great things about meatballs is that you can use just about any meat.  If you steer clear of beef or pork, chicken thighs would work just as well.  And if you or someone in your family hunts, wild game works too!  The only thing you need to keep in mind is that you need about an 80/20 ratio of meat to fat in order to have juicy meatballs.  I belong to a local meat club and get a monthly delivery of all kinds of stuff.  After being out of town a lot, I had a freezer stuffed full of random cuts of beef and some really fatty bacon.  Meatballs to the rescue!!  I used some chuck roast, some steaks and then since the roast didn’t have a lot of fat in it I added some of the bacon.  I always chill my meat and metal components of the meat grinder before grinding, especially if using poultry.  This prevents the meat from gumming up inside the grinder and keeping that nice ground texture intact.

While meat is chilling in freezer, use that time to prep the rest of your ingredients.  If you use bacon, just remember that it has salt in it and you won’t need to use as much when seasoning the meatballs.

 

I used stale bread in this recipe instead of dry bread crumbs.  And instead of regular milk, I soaked the bread in buttermilk for extra flavor.  After it soaks in the buttermilk, you will want to run it through the meat grinder along with the meat.  Make sure you run a portion of meat through afterwards to push all the bread through.

Instead of dry bread crumbs, using stale bread not only lets you use up those leftover bits of bread no one will eat, but also makes it easier to use whole wheat or gluten-free if needed.

 

After the meatballs are all mixed up, take a small portion, form into a little patty and cook in a skillet.  This will let you taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Meatballs are a great recipe to double and freeze half for easy meals later on.  Just lay them out on a tray, freeze, and then store in a freezer safe container.

 

Since it is summertime, I went with fresh tomatoes instead of a typical heavier tomato sauce.  I just toss the tomatoes and some fresh basil and garlic in with the meatballs and let it all hang out a bit.  The tomatoes hold their shape and still taste fresh but make just enough of a sauce to bring the dish together.

These cook right on the stovetop, no need to turn the oven on and heat up the house.

 

If you want to make your own buns, take the Homemade Hamburger Buns recipe, and instead of shaping into hamburger buns, roll each portion out into a 6 inch long cylinder shape.  Leave only about 1/2 inch space between each bun for the second rise on a half sheet pan to achieve pull-apart buns.  Bake for same amount of time as hamburger buns.

Place meatballs in buns/rolls of choice, top with cheese and broil for a few minutes.  Meatball heaven.  Enjoy!

 

Meatball Subs with Fresh Tomatoes and Basil

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

 

1 cup (1/2-inch cubes) stale bread

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 1/2 pounds meat (weigh after trimming excess fat)

1 egg

1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley

2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil

1 large clove garlic, finely minced

1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

freshly ground pepper to taste

Sauce:

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes, chopped

2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil

1 large clove garlic, finely minced

salt and pepper to taste

For Serving:

10 hamburger buns or sub rolls

5 large slices provolone or mozzarella, halved

 

Place the cubed stale bread and buttermilk in a small bowl and stir to combine.  Set aside to let soak.

Cut meat into chunks that will fit through the grinder attachment.  Lay out on a pan and chill, along with metal components of the meat grinder, in the freezer for 30 minutes.

After chilling, assemble meat grinder attachment and place a large bowl underneath.  Turn speed on the highest setting and use the plunger to push the meat AND the soaked bread cubes through.  If using extra fat, run that through last to “clean” all the meat out.

Once meat has been ground, add all the remaining meatball ingredients to the bowl and use your hands to thoroughly mix together.

Using a tablespoon or small disher, scoop out heaping tablespoons worth of meat mixture and roll into balls.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large 12-inch skillet.  Cook the meatballs on one side until browned, about 3 minutes.  Turn meatballs over, toss remaining sauce ingredients right into the pan and cook 12-15 minutes, until meatballs are cooked through.  As meatballs are cooking, gently stir the tomatoes into the pan so they don’t remain sitting on top.

To serve, place three meatballs into each bun.  Top with provolone cheese and place under broiler until cheese has melted, 1-2 minutes.

 

Yield: 30 meatballs, 10 meatball subs

 

 

 

Published by

Carmi Adams

Carmi Adams has loved cooking from a very early age; requesting fondue pots and cookbooks for birthdays as a child. She further pursued her passion for food at the Art Institute of Atlanta and obtained a degree in Culinary Arts. Carmi landed a job on the show Good Eats, which aired on the Food Network. For seven years she did everything from food research, recipe development and testing, product testing to feeding a hungry film crew. Now living in the central coast of California, Carmi enjoys the bounty of agriculture, vineyards and farmers markets at her culinary disposal. She has been using the Ankarsrum mixer for over 15 years and feels that it is hands-down the best on the market for home cooks.