Instead of just seeing meatballs served with a plate of spaghetti, these days they are appearing in a wide variety of preparations and presentations. From Bahn Mi sandwiches to Albondigas soup, cocktail bites to turkey meatballs, they are showing up across the nation in specialty shops and corner grocers. Today’s Grilled Meatball Hoagies is a perfect example of their versatility.
A classic sandwich is upgraded by simply grilling the meatballs! A touch of smoke and crunchy exterior are addicting. The sauce is spooned over the meatballs on hefty Hoagie rolls (mine was gluten-free) then cheese is melted over the top. This is a meal your whole family will be clamoring for!
The biggest challenge to cooking meatballs on the grill is having them stick. There are a couple of things that will help that. I like using a griddle or grilling pan that sets on top of the grates. It helps contain the meatballs (they have a tendency to roll around) and helps reduce the amount of sticking. And if you preheat the grill thoroughly, making sure the grates are screaming hot, the meatballs will sear quickly, sealing in the juices and releasing more easily.
The good news is that once the first side is browned and loosened, the other sides do not stick nearly as badly. That allows you to move them so that all sides get a beautiful golden brown.
If your meatballs stick, use a long offset spatula to ease them off the grill. The slender metal spatula worked really well. I also used a long-handled spoon to move the meatballs around the grill and turn as needed. The spoon was the perfect tool to transfer the cooked meatballs off the grill and onto a clean platter.
If the snow is too deep for you to break out the grill right now, you can make these on a stove top griddle or grill pan. It won’t give you quite as much smokiness, but the meatballs will still be delicious.
The sauce I made to go over the meatballs was the perfect blend of strong tomato and seasonings with a touch of heat from the Sriracha. You can leave that out if you like, but I think it complemented the smokiness from the fire.
The Artist bought a French baguette for himself and gluten-free rolls for me. Both were delicious and I was happy to have a roll that stood up to the meatballs, sauce, and cheese. Regular hot dog buns would also be fine for this, but they are very soft, so be sure to toast them to give them a little more structure. And as with most gluten-free breads, toasting them really helps the internal texture from becoming gummy.
The Artist and I loved these Grilled Meatball Hoagies and I hope your family does as well. The signs of Spring are starting to show and soon the snow will be gone and the green grasses and flowers will be all around us.
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
If you make the meatballs ahead and freeze them, be sure they are fully thawed before grilling them. You don’t want a raw center when you bite into one!
If you can’t find decent gluten-free rolls, you can always wrap the meatballs in warmed gluten-free corn tortillas. Schar’s has pretty good rolls that hold their shape and don’t crumble when you bite into them.
- 2 tbsp organic olive oil
- 1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, (discard bitter center core), minced
- 2 tsp dried oregano leaves
- 1 (26 to 28 oz) container crushed, or pureed tomatoes (I like Pomi brand strained tomatoes)
- 1/2 to 1 tsp Sriracha, Tabasco, or other hot sauce, optional
- 1/4 cup dry red wine, sherry, or water
- 1 tsp kosher or sea salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 3/4 lb ground pork
- 3/4 lb ground dark turkey (you can substitute beef for the turkey or use all pork)
- 1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs (gluten-free if needed)
- 1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 3 tsp dried oregano leaves
- 1 tsp kosher or sea salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 to 2 tsp Sriracha or other hot sauce, optional
- Organic olive oil
- 4 hoagie rolls, torpedo rolls, or a baguette cut into 6-inch lengths (gluten-free if needed)
- 4 slices mozzarella or Monterey Jack cheese
- Fresh basil leaves or green onions, chopped for garnish (optional)
- Make Spicy Tomato Sauce: In a deep, heavy-bottomed pot such as a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. When the oil is rippling, add the onions. Stir to coat evenly with oil. Cook, stirring occasionally until softened and translucent but not browned, about 3 minutes. Stir in garlic and oregano. When you can smell the garlic, but before it browns (about 30 seconds), add tomatoes, chile sauce, and wine. Add salt and pepper; stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and let sauce simmer slowly for about 30 minutes. Add a little water if sauce becomes too thick. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add more hot sauce if you want a spicier sauce. Keep warm over low heat.
- The sauce can be made several days in advance. Store, covered, in the refrigerator and reheat before pouring over meatballs. Extra sauce will hold in the refrigerator for several days or in the freezer for about three months.
- Prepare the Meatballs: Place all of the meatball ingredients except the olive oil in a large mixing bowl. Use your clean hands to completely blend together. Divide the meat mixture into 16 portions and roll into balls about the size of large walnuts. Place the meatballs on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and brush each one lightly with olive oil (to help keep them from sticking to the grill).
- Preheat your gas grill over medium-high heat for 15 minutes or build a two-tiered medium-hot charcoal fire. Bank charcoal on one side of the grill. Scrape the hot grates to remove any cooked-on foods.
- When the grill is hot, turn one side down to low. Brush the surface of your grill basket or griddle with vegetable oil to help avoid sticking and place on the hot side of the grill or over the hot coals. Discard parchment on baking sheet.
- Cook the meatballs about 4 to 5 minutes on the first side. Turn them carefully and gently with a long offset spatula (the kind you use for frosting a cake). If they are sticking, leave them alone for another minute until they release on their own. Turn to brown all sides. When they are cooked through, transfer to the clean baking sheet using a long-handled spoon. Tent meatballs with foil to keep warm.
- Assemble the Sandwiches: Split the rolls in half lengthwise, brush the cut sides with butter and set cut-side-down on the grill. Toast lightly. Set them cut-side-up on a baking sheet. Place 4 meatballs on each toasted rolls. Spoon some of the sauce over the meatballs and top with the cheese slices. Place the sandwiches back on the grill, on the cool side; cover the grill and cook until the cheese is melted and meatballs are warmed through. Sprinkle chopped basil or green onions over melted cheese if desired. Serve immediately.
- Yield: 4 servings
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