Meatball Sub | Open Face

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Sink your teeth into a hearty, satisfying meatball sub, a beloved staple for sandwich enthusiasts everywhere. This iconic sub stacks juicy, well-seasoned meatballs drenched in a robust marinara sauce and smothered with melted cheese, all nestled within a toasted, crusty roll. Whether craving a quick lunch, a filling dinner, or a late-night snack, the meatball sub delivers comfort and flavor in every bite, promising to become a go-to in your sandwich rotation.

Vertical view of the bread with sauce, meatballs and melted cheese with a pan in the backgroundPin

The semantics of sandwiches

What do you call the above?  Submarine sandwich?  Hoagie?  Sandwich?  Grinder?  Hero?  Sub? Inquiring minds would like to know.  Leave me a comment to tell me.

I call it a sub.

One of the reasons this one is open faced is because I couldn’t get the bread to split without it separating into two pieces.

It’s been a while since I’ve had an open face sandwich.  I miss having one after a big holiday.  Nothing beats an open face turkey sandwich.


I love meatball subs.  In fact, if I went to a sub shop, that’s what I would get.  There used to be a shop downtown that had the greatest subs and pizzas.  I especially loved their eggplant subs.  Mmmmm.  Eggplant was my sister Nancy’s favorite.

Unfortunately, the owners passed away and the family had a dispute and they closed the shop. It was a sad day for the peeps in my hometown.

I dedicate this recipe to both that long ago pizza parlor and my sister Nancy.

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How to make the open face meatball sub

Crushed tomatoes, onion, tomato paste and ground beef on a tablePin

Here are some of the ingredients.  We have some cans of crushed tomatoes, some tomato paste, an onion and some grass-fed ground beef.

Now, I know that you don’t usually put meat in marinara sauce, but for this recipe I do because smooth gravy goes better with a sub, instead of my usual chunky gravy.  And it is a meatball sub so I had to put them in the gravy.

Do you see?  There is a method to my madness.

First thing I do is heat my dutch oven on medium and add 3 – 4 tablespoons olive oil. Next, I dice the onion and toss it in the pan along with 2 teaspoons garlic paste, which is my new best friend.  I’m sure I’ll cook with cloves of garlic again but I need to run this string out.

I wonder how long this garlic paste frenzy is going to last.

As the onions start sautéing, I toss in some oregano, basil, thyme, salt and pepper.  I sauté the onions for five minutes.

Diced onion and herbs sautéd in a red Dutch ovenPin

Fragrant and lovely

I love the smell of sautéed onions.  Don’t you?

I open up the two cans of crushed tomatoes and pour them into the pan with the onions. Also, I open a can of tomato paste and plop that into the gravy as well.  I fill the can twice with warm water and pour the contents into the gravy.

Finally, I add a bay leaf.

Red sauce with a bay leaf in a red Dutch ovenPin

Looking good, though it will change once it’s fully cooked.

I open my grass fed beef package and plop it into one of my mixing bowls along with 2 eggs, 3/4 cup bread crumbs, oregano, parsley, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce and mustard.

Beef and herbs and spices, egg, cheese and bread crumbs in a bowlPin

Dig in with those hands

I mix the beef all together and roll it into small meatballs.

Meatballs formed and on a jelly roll panPin

I line them up on this parchment paper covered jelly roll pan because I want to put the meatballs into the gravy at the same time.

Now, here is the hardest part.  When you put raw meatballs into the gravy, it takes a while for them to cook.  So, you must wait.  Patiently, if you can.

I can do it.

Yes, I can.

I hope I can.


I let everything cook for 6 hours.  It probably took less time for the meatballs to cook all the way through, but it doesn’t do any harm letting the gravy cook.

In fact, it makes it taste even yummier by letting the meat flavor the gravy.  So if you start the gravy in the morning, it will be piping hot and ready to eat by dinner.

A red Dutch oven filled with cooked marinara and meatballs added to itPin

I turn the broiler on high and get ready to make the subs.  I gather 4 slices of mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese and the sub rolls.

Now, I cut the one of the rolls in half and place it on a foil covered jelly roll pan.

Bread cut and placed on a foil lined pan with cheese and the sauce in the backgroundPin

I get two pieces of mozzarella cheese, tear them in half and place one slice on each piece of bread.  Into the oven it goes to melt the cheese and toast the bread.

If you don’t toast the bread it gets soggy.  The toasting and melting only take a minute or two.

Cheese melted on bread with more cheese and sauce in the backgroundPin

I get my ladle and place two meatballs on each slice of bread. Then I cut the meatballs in half and ladle on some gravy.

Meatballs and marinara sauce on the bread with cheese and sauce in the backgroundPin

I sprinkle on some Parmesan cheese and place two more half pieces of cheese on the gravy.  Into the oven it goes.  It should only take a minute for the cheese to melt.

A white plate with melted cheese on the meat ball subPin

Doesn’t that look goooooood?

I can’t wait to eat it.  I just have to take one more shot.  A close up!

Close up of the melted cheese on the meatballs and sauce filled breadPin

I grab my knife and fork and dig in.

It is delicious!

I hope you enjoyed this meatball sub recipe!

And as always, may all your dishes be delish!

If you’ve tried this or any other recipe on the blog, I’d love the hear what you thought about it in the comments below.  I love hearing from you!  You can also FOLLOW ME on FACEBOOKTWITTERINSTAGRAM and PINTEREST  to see more of my delicious food and delightful cocktails!

Vertical view of the bread with sauce, meatballs and melted cheese with a pan in the background - squarePin

Open Faced Meatball Sub

This meatball sub with marinara sauce takes longer but it’s worth the time. The meatballs get so soft and yummy being cooked so long!
5 from 4 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Sandwich
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: meatball sub
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 hours 10 minutes
Total Time: 5 hours 20 minutes
Servings: 6 subs
Calories: 450kcal


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons garlic paste (equivalent to 2 garlic cloves, minced)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 56 ounces crushed tomatoes 2 cans
  • 12 ounces tomato paste
  • 2 cans water using the paste can
  • 1 bay leaf


  • 1 1/2 pounds beef grass fed
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon mustard I used Gulden’s
  • 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese


  • 4 pieces of mozzarella cheese cut in half
  • Parmesan cheese
  • 6 rolls


  • Heat a heavy large saucepan or dutch oven on medium heat, add olive oil and once that heats up, add onion, oregano, basil, thyme, garlic paste, salt and pepper. Sauté for 5 minutes
  • Add cans of crushed tomato and tomato paste along with the water. Stir until mixed and add 1 bay leaf


  • Place beef in a large mixing bowl. Add eggs, breadcrumbs, oregano, parsley, garlic powder, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce and mustard
  • Mix beef and ingredients together with hands and form the beef into small meatballs
  • Place all the meatballs into the red sauce
  • Lower heat to a simmer and let cook for 5 – 6 hours


  • Turn your oven on to broil (high)
  • Line a jellyroll pan with foil, cut the roll in half and place the bread on the pan
  • Place a piece of mozzarella cheese on each half of the bread, so one piece each
  • Place in broiler and toast the bread and melt the cheese, it should take between 1 – 2 minutes
  • Put two meatballs on each slice of bread and cut the meatballs in half. Cover the meatballs and bread with gravy (red sauce)
  • Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top
  • Place two more pieces of mozzarella cheese on the meatballs and gravy
  • Broil for 1 minute until cheese is melted
  • Plate sub
  • Eat
  • Smile
  • Enjoy
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If you want to speed up the process, you can either bake the meatballs for 30 minutes at 350 F, or sauté them for up to 10 minutes. That means you will cook the marinara sauce for 30 minutes.
But I like the slow cook method.
Also, I didn’t account for the calories in the whole batch of gravy. This is for individual subs.


Serving: 1sub | Calories: 450kcal | Carbohydrates: 76g | Protein: 36g | Fat: 35g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 136mg | Sodium: 1924mg | Potassium: 1775mg | Fiber: 9g | Sugar: 24g | Vitamin A: 1535IU | Vitamin C: 38.9mg | Calcium: 226mg | Iron: 19.9mg
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From lighting up stages with her BA in theater to crafting delightful dishes and cocktails, Elaine Benoit's journey is a testament to passion's transformative power. As the CEO of Dishes Delish, she offers a blend of healthy, comforting recipes and exquisitely crafted cocktails. Beyond the kitchen, Elaine voiced her culinary adventures on her podcast, "Dishing," and co-owns Food Blogger Help, extending her expertise to guide budding food bloggers to success. Whether it's for a heartwarming dish or insights into food blogging, Elaine's diverse experiences make her a beacon in the culinary digital landscape.

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  1. I haven’t had a meatball sandwich in forever! I think I’ll make the recipe for dinner. It looks delicious!

  2. My mouth is watering this looks so good!! It’s been a while since I’ve had a meatball sub…I’m craving this for lunch now.

  3. Love all the spices used in this recipe. I can imagine how tasty it is just from the photos!

  4. Love the different takes on sandwich names! I’m always a big fan of all types of sandwiches and this one looks pretty tasty!

  5. This looks fantastic! I love Cento tomatoes too, they are the best canned that I have found so far. Thanks for sharing!

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