The Greenmarket in NYC sells spicy turkey sausage that I am obsessed with from DiPaolo Turkey Farm. It is delicious. I bought some recently and have been pondering what to do with it. The idea that I kept coming back to was making a meatball sub. What makes that idea unbelievably strange is that I have never ordered a meatball sub in my life, nor have I ever been tempted. But I couldn't resist the idea of ciabatta bread filled with spicy turkey sausage meatballs, topped with fresh mozzarella cheese, and lots of fresh basil. We cheated and used jarred tomato sauce, but the sub was all about the other ingredients for me anyway. I just wanted the tomato sauce to add a little moisture and a hint of tomato sauce flavor. I briefly considered making some homemade tomato sauce and decided that was taking a meatball sub just a little too far.
Seeing as I have absolutely zero experience with meatball subs, I am not sure that I am a fair judge of how this one ranked against the all of the legitimate meatball subs out there. Nor do I even know what makes a standard meatball sub. Alex tells me that our sub wasn't as saucy as a normal meatball sub and that our mozzarella was much fresher and higher quality than what you would usually find on a meatball sub. So that is the sum total of my meatball sub knowledge. With all of that said, I really enjoyed this sandwich. The fresh mozzarella melted down over the meatballs and was all warm, gooey and delicious. The meatballs were moist and very flavorful, both of which are serious achievements with turkey. The sausage we used was fairly spicy, but if you are using a sweet turkey sausage, or if your sausage just isn't that spicy, you can add a pinch of dried chili flakes to the spaghetti sauce. Then you had all of that fresh, sweet basil to give the dish a little something extra. If you don't love basil as much as I do (and I think it's absolutely heavenly), then you can cut back on the amount of basil in the sub and be just fine.
Recipe after the jump!
Spicy Turkey Meatball Subs
1 lb. spicy turkey sausage
2 garlic cloves, grated
3 tbsp red onion, grated
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tbsp minced parsley
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 large egg
3 tbsp evoo
1 jar store-bought tomato sauce
1 loaf ciabatta bread, sliced in half lengthwise, drizzled with evoo and lightly toasted
1 ball fresh lightly salted mozzarella, sliced thinly
1/4 cup fresh basil
Combine turkey, garlic, onion, Parm-Reg, panko, parsley, salt, and egg in a large mixing bowl. Using your hands, thoroughly mix ingredients. If mixture is still really wet, add more breadcrumbs. Form turkey mixture into meatballs roughly 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter. Drizzle meatballs with 1 tsp evoo. Heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Once pan is hot, add remaining evoo. Carefully add meatballs one at a time to hot oil. Do not overcrowd the pan. If necessary, cook meatballs in two batches. Brown the meatballs (you want them to be a nice golden brown color) all over, roughly 6-8 minutes total. They will still be somewhat raw in the middle so do not eat them yet!
Meanwhile, heat the tomato sauce in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once meatballs are done browning, add them to the sauce and simmer, turning the meatballs over periodically if they are not fully submerged, about 10 minutes. If the sauce starts to boil, turn down the heat. Before making the sandwiches, cut one meatball in half to make sure they are fully cooked. You don't want to eat undercooked turkey.
Remove fully-cooked meatballs from sauce and place on bottom piece of toasted ciabatta bread. Top with sauce to taste (I didn't add any extra sauce, but you might want to if you like your meatball subs saucy). Add slices of mozzarella and then basil. Top sandwich with the other half of your toasted ciabatta.
With a large serrated knife, cut sub into smaller individual-size sandwiches. Serve.