Grinders: Meatballs and Sauce Revisited

When I was back visiting my dad, I made him a few meals, including meatballs in sauce. I left him the fixin’s for meatball subs (called grinders when I was a kid).

I didn’t realize how much making meatballs and subs was wrapped up in memories of my mom, until I re-read my original post. From 2013:

Meatball Subs1

A few weeks back I made meatball grinders – subs to most people – and was talking to my mom about them, because after all I used her recipe. She told me that one of her favorite things to do is to buy ground beef when it’s on sale and make and freeze a whole bunch of meatballs. Then they are available to make all kinds of good stuff, like meatball soup and various meatball sandwiches.

Until that moment, I hadn’t given meatballs much thought. I mean they’re good, but beyond the occasional grinder, I didn’t really use them.  But now when I make them, I make extra so add to soups, sauces and subs.

I’ll post a basic meatball recipe below and include the grinder/sub recipe. They are just as good with pasta.  At the bottom of this post is a link to vegetarian meatballs if you’d like to go meatless.

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Photo by JeffreyW

A quick tip, cookie scoops make meatball production easier and quick.

This is a DOUBLE recipe that makes 8 to 10 subs, you can easily halve the ingredients or you can freeze extra meatballs and sauce for later.


  • 2 lbs lean ground beef*
  • ½ cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ½ tsp crushed garlic
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • ½ tsp basil

baking sheet

Mix all ingredients together and mix well. You’re going make 1 ½ inch balls. The easiest way to do this is to use a cookie/muffin scoop (see photo above). Place on the baking sheet and bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes. Don’t overcook, as they will finish in the sauce.

*For spicier meatballs you can substitute 1/4 to 1/2 of the ground beef with spicy Italian sausage.


  • 4-15 oz cans tomato sauce
  • 2-6 oz cans tomato paste
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tsp oregano, crushed
  • 3 tsp basil, crushed
  • 3 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and finely grated

In large saucepan or dutch oven, add ingredients, bring to a low boil, reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add meatballs and stir gently. Let simmer for 10 minutes or longer.

Grinder/Sub Assembly:

  • 8 large hoagie/sub rolls
  • 2-4 oz parmesan cheese
  • 8 oz sliced mozzarella cheese

baking sheet

Slice rolls, but DO NOT slice completely in half.  Place 4 to 6 meatballs in each roll, add lots of sauce, sprinkle with Parmesan and top with slices of mozzarella. Place on baking sheet, cheese side up and bake at 375° for 15 to 20 minutes, until cheese is melted and bread is toasty. Keep a good eye on it, they will burn quickly. Serve with lots of napkins.

NOTE: My mom has this trick of slicing out a wedge on the top of the rolls (instead of slicing them in half lengthwise) to make the pocket (see photo at top). Then they actually sit on their natural flat bottoms while baking. This has the added advantage of creating instant breadsticks from what is cut out that you can brush with olive oil and garlic and bake.

If you’d like to go meatless, these are very good:

Vegetarian Meatballs (recipe here)