Not From Concentrate

Meatball Subs


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Ok cards on the table, I tried to sit down and write this post yesterday, but it just wasn’t happening. I was really hungry and the second I opened up Aperture to look through the photos, my entire mouth filled with saliva. Pasan made these meatball subs and they are so good! Like, give-Subway-a-run-for-their-money good. I often get asked “who’s the cook” between Pasan and I, and for some reason people are surprised most of the time when I say that we both enjoy cooking so the “cook” is whoever wants to make dinner that night. The truth is, I really enjoy my cooking (most of the time, hence the category coming soon called “foodie failures“) but I love Pasan’s cooking. He really makes the best meals ever, and so for that reason it’s time to give some of his recipes the spotlight here at Not From Concentrate!

This sandwich is very slightly adapted from a recipe by David Lebovitz. Pasan pulled these together a day before we were set to head to Columbia to spend Christmas with my parents. At that time I was in the holiday spirit as far as eating was concerned. I had it set in my mind that starting in January I (along with everyone else in the world) would get healthy and fit since it’s so hard to start a routine like that in the middle of eating-huge-meals season. So I kind of saw this meal and a few others like a criminal on death row sees his last steak dinner in that I knew it would be a while before I indulged in this kind of thing after New Year’s. Is that a little dramatic? Probably so. But I’m very passionate about good food and it is taking all my self control to stay on a tight diet until I’m finished with my 60 days of Insanity. If you’re unfamiliar with Insanity, it’s a crazy workout program that absolutely kills me but brings fast results when you follow the diet plan. Pasan and I started once this past summer, and then two weeks before the end, we brought baby Ridley home and that pushed working out to a low priority over our new little bundle of sunshine. I mean, who could resist this face?


It’s hard to believe he was that small once upon a time! I guess the hundreds of photos I go through occasionally are proof though. So anyway, 2013 is my year to get fit. And so far so good, but unfortunately the meal plan is pretty boring. Pasan keeps telling me that we just have to stick it out for two months, so I’m counting down the days until I can eat whatever I want again (within reason) and until then we are emptying the vaults and taking this time to catch up on recipes that are awaiting daylight on the blog.


Well now I’m back to wanting another one of these subs. And as long as you are getting healthy meat (we usually get ours from Whole Foods or a local butcher) and eat an appropriate portion, these aren’t going to ruin any diet plan that you’re on.


Fresh herbes are one of Pasan’s favorite add-ins for any sauce, which is probably why his meals always taste so good. He seems to have a knack for knowing exactly what to toss in the mixture.


Speaking of delicious looking vegetables, my friend Puja over at Inner Scientist recently spoke at an event and talked about the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen. If you’re like me, you immediately first thought of Clint Eastwood, but apparently that’s not the case! Since sourcing organic food can become quite pricey in this country,  the Environmental Working Group compiled a list of fruits and veggies that are best to buy organically and ones that are ok to purchase at any grocery store. You can find a cool printable guide here, which Puja recommends to keep on your refrigerator for easy reference (she’s full of good ideas like that!)


This is the remove-your-rings-and-get-your-hands-dirty part. (Not my favorite part but the end product is too good to complain!)


The parchment paper is not a requirement but in the interest of preserving the life and beauty of our one nice pan, a cover is a must. Plus who wants to scrub a pan with baked-on stuff all over it? Not me.


At this point you’ll probably want to make sure you’re prepared because people tend to show up out of the woodwork with a spoon, wanting to sample a little of the sauce and just one meatball! And the sautéed mushrooms are just the icing on the cake if you ask me.

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The original recipe makes up to 12 sandwiches and while that’s never a bad thing, we’re only two normal sized people here. Our version of the recipe cuts it down to roughly two or three subs.

*Update: Thanks to Rachael in the comments below for letting me know that the recipe didn’t include the step with eggs! We’ve added it in now :)

Meatball Subs

Makes about 3 subs

Tomato Sauce

1/2 onion, peeled and minced

olive oil

1 clove garlic, peeled and minced

2 cups canned crushed or diced tomatoes, along with their juice

1 teaspoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

one bay leaf

few springs of fresh thyme

1/4 teaspoon sugar

For the meatballs

1/2 white onion, peeled and minced

olive oil

1 clove garlic, peeled and minced

1/2 lb ground beef (80%/20% meat-fat ratio)

1/2 lb ground pork

2 medium eggs

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary (if you have dried rosemary it’s better than nothing)

1 cup dried breadcrumbs

1/4 cup milk

1 teaspoon salt

freshly ground black pepper

For the sub

Fresh mozzarella cheese (or any cheese that you like!)

Crusty bread – Italian or French (not’s too soft)

Sliced mushrooms


1)For the tomato sauce, sauté the onions in olive oil in a large pan or Dutch oven. You’re going to add the meatballs later so you’ll need plenty of room in the pot. Season the onions with salt and pepper and let them cook, stirring frequently until they wilt or start to get all soft. Add the garlic and cook until your onions are completely translucent.

2)Add the canned tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, oregano, pepper flakes, bay leaf, thyme and sugar and let simmer for 15 minutes over low heat. Give it a stir occasionally and when it’s done, take it off the heat and leave it aside.

3)For the meatballs, start off by sautéing the onion in a skillet seasoning with salt and pepper just like before. Once the onions are soft, add the garlic and cook till the onions are soft and translucent. Set the onions in a large bowl and let cool to room temperature.

4)To this large bowl, add the meats (beef and pork), cheese, rosemary, salt, black pepper, breadcrumbs and milk. Lebovitz also adds fennel seeds to his mixture and I’m sure it is awesome – we just didn’t have any at the time. Mix everything thoroughly with your hands. Add eggs one at a time until the meat mixture comes together (you may not need both eggs, but we did).

5)Preheat the oven to 350Fº and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

6)Scoop up the meat and form into meatballs. Don’t make them too big – roughly the size of unshelled walnuts as Lebovitz says. Or maybe like golf balls (easier to picture).

7)Bake the meatballs for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven. Pluck out the bay leaf and thyme sprigs from the tomato sauce and plop the meatballs right in.

8)Heat the sauce with the meatballs in it until everything is cooked through.

9)While the sauce is heating up, sauté the mushrooms until they are nice and soft.

10)Here’s where the magic happens: Take your bread, cut it open and scoop some of the bread out (if it’s too bready for you). Slice some of the meatballs in half and put them in between the bread, pressing down to mush em in. Toss in the sautéed mushrooms and pour some of the sauce over it. Top with slices of cheese and then put them under a broiler in the oven for a couple of minutes until the cheese melts all over the place.


  • Puja

    Hannah, I’m finally here! I LOVE the blogpost and the pics are amazing. They had me drooling ;) Thanks for the mention and keep up the great work!

    • Hannah Premaratne

      Thanks for visiting! And for the encouragement :) More drool-worthy posts coming soon!

  • Zach Grover

    This recipe was great and easy and was delicious afterward . A+

    • Hannah Premaratne

      Thanks Zach! I’m so glad you guys tried it!

  • cupcakemuffin

    Love this – so need to try it! I LOVE meatball subs and definitely need to make they am home rather than always buying them :)

    • Hannah Premaratne

      Oh I know meatball subs are possibly one of my favorite meals! Let us know how it goes when you try it :)

  • Rachael

    I’m make the meatballs right now and noticed that you list eggs in the ingredient list but they aren’t in the recipe. Help!

    • Hannah Premaratne

      Hi Rachael! I’m so sorry about that I’ll update it right away! For the eggs, you probably need two but add them one at a time into the meat mixture as your mixing with your hands before you form them into balls. If after one egg it seems solid enough to stick together in a ball form, then you don’t need to add the second egg.
      Thanks for visiting!

  • Lauren

    Just made these Meatball subs and we LOVED them!!! Even my 4 picky children ate them all up!

    • Hannah Premaratne

      That is music to my ears! I’m so glad they were a hit :)

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