Homemade Meatball Subs are simply amazing, toasty sub buns, with marinara and melty cheese, they are one of our family favorite meals! They are only as good as the homemade meatballs, store-bought meatballs just don't compare! This is a large batch, meal prep recipe to stock some in your freezer. The basic meatballs are versatile and can be used in any sauce for a different meatball night any night!
Why We Love Them!
- Homemade Meatballs are absolutely delicious! - There is no comparison to store-bought, homemade meatballs are just that much better! Tender and juicy, and not hard to make! This meatball marinara recipe is our favorite way to eat them, you can build them into meatball subs, or use them in place of the meat in Mom's Spaghetti.
- These are just really amazing basic meatballs, Versatile with different sauces! - The beauty of these guys is that they are just really incredible basic meatballs, so you can use them with all different kinds of sauce recipes! This is a large batch to meal prep extra meatballs to freeze. Making meatballs may seem like a lot of work, but remember you are making a lot, well worth your efforts! Freezing the meatballs raw or cooked without sauce means you can use them in different ways!
- Try the SAME meatballs as Norwegian Meatballs with Lefse in a simple gravy sauce or as cocktail Sweet & Sticky Appetizer Meatballs at your next game day party!
Ingredients & Substitutions
For the Meatballs
- Onion - Caramelize the onion slowly cooking over low heat until golden brown, bringing out its natural sugars and flavor before mixing in with the meatballs.
- Ground Beef and Pork - You can also use bulk Italian sausage in place of the ground pork for more flavor. Any combination of beef and pork totaling 4 pounds will work. For example, 3 pounds beef and 1 pound Italian sausage is fine too.
- Eggs - Serve as a binder for the meatballs, holding their shape.
- Breadcrumbs - Helps the texture of the meatballs, making them not too dense.
- Worcestershire Sauce - Adds flavor.
- Milk - Combined with the breadcrumbs, milk gives you tender meatballs.
- Salt and Pepper - Enhances the flavor of all ingredients, do not skip!
- Parmesan Cheese - Really important for texture! The parmesan cheese gives the meatballs a soft delicate bite, making them juicy and delicious! Without it, your meatballs will be dense and tough.
For the Subs
- Marinara Sauce - A jar of store-bought marinara is fine, a basic homemade tomato sauce would be great too!
- Hoagie Buns - A good hearty hoagie bun is needed to hold all those saucy meatballs!
- Cheese - You want a melty white cheese like provolone or mozzarella. Slices or shredding your own is fine!
Step 1 - Caramelize the onion. In a large pan over medium low heat, add olive oil and lightly saute the onion until golden brown, bringing out its natural sugars and flavors. About 20 minutes.
Step 2 - While the onion caramelizes, add all ingredients for the meatballs to a large bowl, including the onions when they are done. Mix very well to combine, clean hands are the best mixing tool!
Step 3 - Portion the meatballs into ping pong to golf ball size meatballs using a portion scoop or an ice cream scoop to get them all the same size. Roll them in your hands and place on a sheet pan. You will get about 60 to 70 meatballs, depending on the size. At this point you can freeze any meatballs you don't plan to use, or cover and refrigerate a day in advance.
Step 4 - Preheat the oven to 400°. Over medium high heat, reheat the pan from the onions, and add 1 Tablespoon olive oil. Brown the meatballs on one side, then flip and do the other side (about 2 minutes per side). A metal or wooden spatula works best to flip them. Don't try to move them around in the pan while they are searing, let them sit 2 minutes to get a nice brown crust before flipping. Cook about 8 to 12 at a time in batches so you do not crowd the pan. When done browning the outside, return them to the sheet pan (don’t worry that it had the raw meatballs on them, you will be baking the whole thing).
Step 5 - Bake the browned meatballs in the oven for 10 to 20 minutes, depending on size to finish cooking them through. Cut one open to make sure it's done.
Step 6 - Add the marinara to the large pan you seared the meatballs in, scraping up any bits of flavor left by the searing process into the sauce. Add the meatballs when they are done baking. Simmer 15 minutes until heated through.
Step 7 - Assemble the subs on hoagie buns and top with cheese. Bake on a clean sheet pan at 400° until toasty and cheese is bubbly, about 10 minutes.
- Make Ahead and Storage Instructions - Meatball Subs can seem like a bit of work, but a large batch makes them well worth your efforts! Invest a little time on Sunday afternoon, meal prep a ton of meatballs and freeze them for all different meals. There are a handful of options for making this meatball marinara recipe ahead of time. Remember, extra meatballs to freeze can be used in different sauces like Norwegian Meatballs with Lefse or Sweet & Sticky Appetizer Meatballs for the crockpot. First, you can freeze meatballs raw or store them in the fridge a day or two in advance. Second, you can sear and bake and then freeze or store the cooked meatballs in the fridge a day or two in advance. Finally, you can assemble the cooked meatballs in the sauce and freeze or store that in the fridge a day or two ahead. Leftover meatballs in their sauce can be frozen or stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Just thaw overnight in the fridge and reheat.
- Egg Substitute for Meatballs - A half cup of ricotta cheese can be substituted for the eggs in this meatball marinara recipe.
Recipe Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, and you should! Homemade meatballs are a bit of work, but so much better than the frozen store-bought kind. Freeze extra meatballs raw or cooked to use in any meatball recipe with any type of sauce. They are a great meal prep recipe for easy weeknight dinners, and are a great freezer meal for new moms! Thaw them overnight in the fridge and use them in any way!
A big salad is the best side for meatball subs! Try my Pear & Blue Cheese Salad with Glazed Honey Walnuts, or just a simple green salad with tomato, cucumber and a quick vinaigrette. Simple vegetables like blanched carrots, broccoli or green beans also go well with toasty subs!
Yes! To make this meatball marinara recipe gluten free, simply substitute gluten free breadcrumbs or make your own by pulsing gluten free bread in a food processor. You can also replace the breadcrumbs with regular rolled oats pulsed a few times in a food processor. Serve meatballs on gluten free buns for subs or over gluten free spaghetti.
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For the Meatballs
- 1 large onion small dice, olive oil, salt and pepper
- 2 pounds ground beef you can also do 3lb beef and 1lb pork, just total 4lb
- 2 pounds ground pork or bulk Italian sausage
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups breadcrumbs panko or homemade
- ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1 cup milk
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 12 grinds black pepper
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese grated
For the Subs
- 1 jar or homemade marinara sauce (more or less depending on how many meatballs you are cooking at a time)
- hoagie buns
- provolone or mozzarella cheese
- In a saute pan over medium low heat, caramelize the onion until golden brown in a little olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Stir occasionally, about 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, mix all other meatball ingredients in a large bowl, including onions when they are done. Clean hands are the best tool to really mix well!
- Form into meatballs and set on a sheet pan. They should be about ping pong to golf ball size, use an ice cream scoop to portion and then roll them with your hands. Makes 60 to 70 meatballs, depending on size.
- At this point you can freeze or refrigerate meatballs, some or all, for later use in any different sauce. Freeze extra raw meatballs in containers or freezer bags, in portions right for your family (frozen meatballs should be thawed overnight in fridge before cooking).
- Preheat oven to 400°.
- Over medium high heat, reheat the pan from the onions or use a clean large pan, add 1 Tablespoon olive oil. Brown the meatballs on one side, then flip and do the other side (about 2 minutes per side, don't try to flip them too early or they will stick and break). Cook about 8 to 10 at a time in batches so you do not crowd the pan. When done browning the outside, return them to the sheet pan (don’t worry that it had the raw meatballs on them, you will be baking the whole thing).
- Place pan in oven for about 10-20 minutes to finish cooking the meatballs through, cut one open to check.
- Add marinara sauce to the sauce you browned the meatballs in to warm through, adding the meatballs in when they are done baking. Simmer about 15 minutes or on very low until ready to serve.
- Assemble subs on hoagie buns topped with cheese. Bake at 400° on a clean sheet pan until cheese is bubbly and bread is toasted, about 10 minutes.
- This is a large batch for meal prep! Meatballs can be frozen raw, cooked, or cooked and in the sauce. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before cooking or reheating.
- Browning the meatballs in the pan just adds flavor, it does not cook the meatballs all the way through. Finish them in the oven. To save time, you can skip the sear and just bake them directly in the oven, about 20 minutes but cut one open to be sure they are cooked through before adding them to your sauce.
- Meatballs can be made any size, just try to make them all equal so they cook evenly, a portion scoop works great!
- These basic homemade meatballs are versatile and can be used in different sauces!