These savoury, cheesy subs capture the flavours of two Italian favourites – Chicken Parmesan and Meatball Subs. A perfect way to satisfy a craving, they can even be made gluten and dairy free!
I had never eaten a meatball sub until quite recently. I’d seen them on menus and thought they looked quite appealing, but I’d never actually ordered one. And then, for some reason, I got it into my head that I needed to make them. So I did, and discovered that we really liked them. Then I saw a recipe on Pinterest for Chicken Parmesan Meatballs and figured that they would make delicious meatball subs. And oh, they do! I’ve played around with the recipe, and discovered that with a few ingredient swaps, a dairy and gluten free version is possible, and just as delicious as the original.
For the meatballs, you’ll need ground chicken, breadcrumbs, an egg, garlic, onion, red pepper flakes, and some fresh herbs (oregano, parsley and basil.) Oh, and some salt and pepper too. Parmesan cheese if you’re doing the dairy version.
For a gluten free version, use gluten-free breadcrumbs. I like the President’s Choice ones you see in the picture, but if you can’t find crumbs at the store, just toast some gluten free bread in the oven and then give it a whirl in the blender or food processor. Panko crumbs work well for the gluten-eaters.
Start by chopping up your herbs. I used fresh herbs straight out of my garden, but dried are fine if that’s what you’ve got. If you have any extra herbs, set them aside to toss into the sauce later.
I have this Jamie Oliver herb cutting board and blade, and I love it. It makes chopping herbs a breeze, and I used it to mince up the onion and garlic too. My knife skills leave a lot to be desired (though they’re getting better!) and it’s easier to cut things very small with the chopping blade.
I minced up some fresh garlic here too, but I typically use minced garlic from a jar. You can either mince or grate the onion, but you want it quite small, no one likes a big chunk of onion in their meatball!
Mix all of the meatball ingredients together until totally combined.
Use your hands or a cookie scoop to form the meat mixture into balls. I like to keep them fairly small for subs – it makes them easier to eat. I use a small cookie scoop and ended up with 22 meatballs. Make them as large or small as you’d like.
Now it’s time to brown the meatballs. Heat a bit of oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.
Pop half the meatballs in and cook, turning frequently, until most of the sides are browned. Place them on a clean plate, add a bit more oil if necessary and brown the rest.
Put all the meatballs back in the pan and pour the sauce over them. Sometimes I make my own sauce (the sauce for lasagna without the meat) but I often just use the stuff from them jar. If you’re using jarred sauce, feel free to toss in some seasonings to amp up the flavour. I saved some fresh basil and oregano and tossed it in at the end.
Lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into your biggest meatball reads at least 165°.
Meanwhile, get your bread ready. You can use sub buns, baguette, gluten free buns, whatever your heart desires. These roasted garlic baguettes are our favourite for meatball subs (and no, Dempster’s is not sponsoring this.)
We like our subs open-faced, so I toast the bread for just a minute or two to let it start crisping up.
Spoon on the meatballs and sauce, and top with grated mozzarella. I use Daiya mozzarella style shreds for a dairy free version. Add a bit of parmesan too, if you like.
Bake for about 5 minutes, just until the cheese has melted and the edges of the bread are brown (dairy free cheese might take a few minutes longer.) Broil a minute or two to brown the top if you’d like.
Look at that cheese!
Sprinkle the top with parsley, if you’d like. Let the subs stand a minute or two before serving, then use a large pancake lifter to place them on plates ( I rarely accomplish this step without flipping one upside down!)
Here’s the gluten and dairy free version, just as tasty!
For a quick dinner on a busy night, brown and simmer the meatballs ahead of time. All you’ll need to do at supper time is assemble and eat! The meatballs also freeze well, and are delicious over pasta too. We enjoyed the leftovers of this batch over spaghetti and zucchini noodles.
- 450 g (1 pound) ground chicken
- ¼ cup bread crumbs (gluten-free if necessary)
- 1 egg, beaten
- 3 tablespoons grated or finely diced onion
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon each chopped fresh oregano, basil and parsley (can substitute 1 teaspoon dried)
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ cup parmesan cheese (optional)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 (739 ml/24 oz) jar marinara sauce
- Baguette or sub buns (gluten-free if necessary)
- Grated mozzarella cheese (or non-dairy substitute)
- Parmesan cheese (optional)
- Chopped fresh parsley (optional)
Combine all meatball ingredients except olive oil and sauce in a large bowl. Mix until thoroughly combined.
Using your hands or a cookie scoop, form the meat mixture into 1 ½ inch balls.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add half the meatballs and cook, turning frequently, until all sides are browned, about 5 minutes. The meatballs will not be fully cooked inside. Remove the meatballs to a clean plate and add a bit more oil to the pan if necessary, then brown the other half.
Return all meatballs to the pan and pour the sauce over them. Lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer the meatballs for 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature is at least 165°F.
Heat oven to 425°F.
Slice the bread or buns and place on a foil lined baking sheet. Toast the buns in the oven until they are just beginning to brown, about 3 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven and spoon meatballs and sauce over each piece of bread. Top with desired amount of mozzarella and parmesan.
Bake subs for 4-5 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the edges of the bread are browned. If desired, broil for 1 minute to brown the top.
Sprinkle with parsley and allow to stand for a few minutes before serving.
Makes 20 – 24 meatballs, enough for 6 – 8 subs. Meatballs may also be served over pasta.