Do you know how they say that a way into a person’s heart is through their stomach? I whole-heartedly believe this because I’m pretty convinced that Mike married me because of this meatball sub.

I mean, who doesn’t love tender, juicy homemade meatballs that have been braised in a tangy-sweet tomato gravy tucked into a butter toasted bun with lots of melty cheese?!

the best meatball sub recipe |

What makes a good meatball sub?

Good meatball subs have big, soft, tender, juicy meatballs. I feel like meatball subs shouldn’t have meatballs that have been crisped up or browned in any way. The meatballs should just about fall apart the instant they hit your lips. The sauce should permeate and cling to the surface of the balls and they should be good enough to eat on their own but even better when put into a saucy, cheesy sandwich.

meatball sub recipe |

The absolute best way to make meatball subs

Here’s how I like to build my sandwiches:

  1. Choose great bread. You can go with whatever bread you love. We used baguettes here because this is a love story about meatball subs and baguettes. Cut the bread in half lengthwise.
  2. Butter the bread. This is absolutely necessary because the buttery bread with the tomato sauce is heaven. Bonus points if you use garlic butter! You don’t need to toast the bread on it’s own because it’s going to get a little toasty in the oven while the cheese melts.
  3. Sauce your bread. After the butter, you need to sauce your bread. Some people don’t put sauce on the bottom of their subs, but I feel like you need that sauciness.
  4. Cheese and meatball and cheese. Top the sauce off with shaved parmesan because cheese then with some extra saucy meatballs. On top of that you need a cozy blanket of low moisture mozzarella cheese and a shower of more parmesan.
  5. Melt. The other side of your sandwich should get some extra sauce too. Everything is popped into the oven until the cheese gets gooey and delicious. Close it up and you’re in meatball sub heaven!

melting cheese for meatball sub |

The magic comes in when you make the meatballs from scratch:

  1. Soak some bread in milk. Milk-soaked bread make for the tenderest most juicy meatballs out there.
  2. Mix everything up, but gently. Gently does it. Mix up the meat, bread, eggs, garlic, parmesan, flat leaf parsley, salt and pepper.
  3. Shape. Make you balls according to the size bread you’re planning on using. Don’t pack them too much.
  4. Braise. Add the meatballs directly to the tomato sauce and gently braise until they’re cooked through. Now they’re ready for their bread bed!

meatballs on a meatball sub |

What toppings go on a meatball sub?

I keep it classic with melty mozzarella cheese and sauce but you can go for onions, peppers, mushrooms, provolone, pepperoncini, jalapeños, parsley, sky’s the limit!

meatball sub shot new york style

What kind of bread for a meatball sub?

You can use any long bread you like. We went with a baguette for these photos because of my love for baguettes but sometimes I like a soft and squishy roll like a submarine sandwich roll or hoagie roll. We’ve even made these with hot dog buns. Sliders and pull apart buns work too!

meatball sub squished down |


meatball sub |

Meatball Sub

Super tender and tasty meatballs braised in a tomato-y sauce topped off with melty cheese in a toasty baguette.
Serves 2
4.80 from 20 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes



  • 3 cups bread cut into small cubes
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3/4 cups Parmigiano Reggiano cheese grated
  • 2 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 4-5 cups basic tomato sauce or your favorite tomato sauce

For the subs

  • 1 french demi baguette or bread of choice
  • 4 meatballs and sauce
  • 2-4 slices low moisture fresh mozzarella cheese
  • Parmigiano Reggiano cheese grated, to serve


  • Heat the oven to 400°F. In a large skillet or saucepan with a lid, heat up your tomato sauce over medium low heat.
    tomato sauce for braised meatballs |
  • Place the bread cubes in a bowl and cover with milk, tossing so that all the cubes are saturated. After 1-2 minutes the bread should be soggy and wet. Using your hands, squeeze out as much milk as possible. Use your fingertips to break up the bread into very small breadcrumbs.
    breadcrumbs for meatballs |
  • In a large bowl, mix together the bread, ground beef, eggs, garlic, parmesan, flat leaf parsley, salt, and freshly ground pepper. You want to mix everything so that it’s homogenous, but loose – don’t work the meatball mixture too much.
    how to make meatballs |
  • By this time your sauce should be simmering with several bubbles breaking the surface. Form large meatballs (I made 7 big ones) and drop them directly into the sauce. Simmer in the sauce, partially covered, over medium heat, flipping occasionally. Simmer gently until cooked through, about 25-30 minutes.
    meatballs for meatball sub |
  • Cut the baguette in half so you’ll have two sandwiches, then cut lengthwise. Top both sides of the baguette with a generous amount of sauce and a bit of grated parmesan. Place the meatballs on the bottom baguette and top with slices of mozzarella and some more parmesan.
    meatball sub recipe |
  • Bake until the cheese is gooey and melted. Place the top half of the sandwich on top of the meatballs and enjoy!
    meatball sub |


There will be extra meatballs leftover.
Meatballs inspired by Mario Batali.

Estimated Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Meatball Sub
Amount Per Serving
Calories 631 Calories from Fat 163
% Daily Value*
Fat 18.1g28%
Saturated Fat 7.3g46%
Cholesterol 238mg79%
Sodium 1114mg48%
Potassium 755mg22%
Carbohydrates 59.8g20%
Fiber 3.5g15%
Sugar 8g9%
Protein 54.4g109%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.


  1. Bruce says:

    Is that a sourdough baguette?? Hooray for meatballs and sourdough!

  2. Marie says:

    Great recipe! Just made meatballs the other day and our recipes are alike but I add anise seeds and minced onion. Found an easy way to get this meatball mixed without overworking meat is soak bread and milk until “squishy” ? and then add the eggs, cheese and herbs/spices to milk mixture. Mux well then add the ground beef. It mixes fully in smooth and the meat is much easier to work with.
    Thanks so much for recipe. Delicious!

    1. Stephanie says:

      thanks for the tip marie!

    2. Diane says:

      Anise seed..interesting. I use Fennel seed in my tomato sauce, haven’t tried it in meatballs. Will do

  3. I feel so hungry after reading this and will go to the store to get everything now. I can’t wait to try it ~~~~
    With Love

  4. Cheryl says:

    Hi Steph, I’ve been a longtime reader of your blog and I just wanted to leave a quick comment. I was just perusing through your old recipes, and we must have similar tastes because I was just reminded again of how delicious everything you make looks! I especially love your renditions on classic Asian recipes. Please don’t stop doing what you do! ?

    1. Stephanie says:

      thanks so so much cheryl – warms my heart to know you’re a longtime reader :)

  5. I am on meatball duty today and will certainly try your recipe. I think using 3 meats will make these stand out! Thanx for sharing!

  6. 5 stars
    wow, now that’s a real sandwich
    thanks a lot for this great recipe

  7. Susan says:

    Stephanie, do you put the bread with sauce only, in oven too, along the meatball and cheese side to melt cheese? Or do you close up the sandwich and then put in oven? Thanks

    1. Stephanie says:

      i put the whole sandwich in the oven, but deconstructed, so the bottom half has the sauce, meatballs and cheese and the top piece of bread is just placed on the side, naked, so it gets a little toasty, then i put the top on after i take it out of the oven. it’s easier to see if the cheese is melted if you don’t close the sandwich before you put it in the oven :)

  8. Jonny says:

    5 stars
    Looking to make a subway copy cat but obv it was too lame… This is on point. I will be adding fennel seed powder too for that.. unusual backdrop. Thanks 😘

  9. Fernando says:

    Any thing special with the sauce?

  10. Barry says:

    5 stars
    You don’t cook the meatballs before putting in the sauce?

    1. Stephanie says:

      that’s right, they braise in the sauce so they are soft :)

  11. Jessica Trujillo says:

    5 stars
    It is delicious!! c: the meatballs recipe seems key to improving the flavor and maintaining the shape of the balls. Also, the tomato sauce gives it the juiciness to be pleasant.

  12. K says:

    5 stars
    Thanks for another keeper of a recipe!

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Thanks for reading as always!
-Steph & Mike