In this classic Italian American sandwich recipe, tender meatballs drenched in tomato sauce are tucked into crisp rolls, then covered in a blanket of gooey cheese. The end result is joyfully messy, but not too messy, thanks to light meatballs and rolls that have been hollowed out and toasted. Still, some crispy-gonesoggy bites are welcome, just as the cheese pulls, sauce drips and sloppy fingers are, too.
• 4 (6-inch-long) sub, hero or hoagie rolls, split lengthwise but still attached on one side
• 1 egg
• Kosher salt and black pepper
• 2 garlic cloves, peeled
• Extra-virgin olive oil, for greasing
• 1 pound ground beef (at least 15% fat)
• 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
• 2 tablespoons basil leaves, chopped, plus more for serving
• 2 cups marinara sauce (homemade or from a 24-ounce jar)
• 4 slices mozzarella or provolone
Heat the broiler to high with a rack no more than 6 inches from the heat source. (See tip if you don’t have a broiler.) Using a fork, scrape out some of the interior of the rolls until you get about 1 cup bread crumbs. Add them to a large bowl along with 1/2 cup water, the egg, 1 teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper. Finely grate 1 garlic clove into the mixture, then stir to combine. Let sit for 5 minutes.
Lightly grease a large (12-inch), ovenproof skillet with olive oil. To the bread crumbs, add the beef, Parmesan and chopped basil. Stir with your hands until combined, avoiding over-mixing. Roll into 12 balls (about 2 heaping tablespoons) and place them in the prepared skillet as you go. Broil the meatballs until browned and nearly cooked through, 5-7 minutes.
Move the skillet to the stovetop. Add the marinara sauce, stir to coat the meatballs, and warm over medium-low heat while you toast the rolls: Place the rolls on a baking sheet, cut-side up, and broil until lightly golden, 1-2 minutes. Rub the cut sides of the roll with the second garlic clove.
Divide the meatballs and sauce among the rolls, then top with mozzarella. Broil until the mozzarella is melted and browned in spots, 1-2 minutes. Top with more grated Parmesan, basil leaves and black pepper.
Total time: 30 minutes, serves 4.
If you don’t have a broiler, you can make this recipe using a 450-degree oven. The meatballs will take about 15 minutes to cook through (or you can sear them on the stove), and the bread-toasting and cheese-melting will take 2-4 minutes each.