Grandma’s Italian Meatball Sub

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Grandma's Meatball Sub

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OK, so I have a confession. I never remember my Italian Grandmother making a meatball sub. She did, however, make meatballs. Good meatballs. Lots and lots of meatballs.

Pasta too, from scratch, by hand. No pasta machine necessary. Very old world. This meatball sub is a Grandmother/ Granddaughter collaboration, some 35 years after her passing. I took her meatball recipe and made it into a sub with cheeses we love.

My maternal Grandmother immigrated from Italy in 1917 at the age of 16, leaving 9 older brothers and sisters, including a twin, as well as her parents, to live in the United States with a sister.

She met and married my Grandfather, also an Italian immigrant, who worked for Potomac Electric. She was widowed by the age of 40 and left with 3 daughters to raise, the youngest being 9 (my Mom).

Although she achieved her US Citizenship, she spoke only broken English. She worked as a seamstress at Raleigh Haberdasher in Washington, D.C. to provide for her family. It wasn’t until her daughters were grown that she remarried and moved to Florida.

She never lost her sewing talent. She made maternity clothes for my Mom. Then made dresses for my dolls and matching aprons for my Mom and me. I still have a few of the dresses and one of the aprons, a Christmas one. My Grandmother died when I was 12, long before I had ANY desire to learn to cook or sew, for that matter.

While she didn’t technically teach me to make her meatballs, I do have her recipe from my Mom, who also made her meatballs.

Now I make them all the time not only for spaghetti and meatballs but also smaller versions for barbecue meatballs as an appetizer and for these meatball subs that my family loves.

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Grandma’s Italian Meatball Subs

Taking Grandma's meatballs and making a delicious sandwich.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Total Time30 minutes
Course: Sandwiches and Sliders
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 4


  • 1 ½ pounds ground beef
  • ½ cup finely chopped sweet onion I like Vidalia onions
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 Hoagie rolls uncut
  • 1 jar pasta sauce or 18 ounces of your homemade sauce
  • 8 slices Provolone cheese
  • cup Mozzarella cheese shredded
  • Parmesan to grate over tops of sandwiches


  • In a medium bowl combine ground beef, onion, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. Mix gently to combine without overworking the meat. Make 12 meatballs from the mixture. (3 good size meatballs for each hoagie roll). (Adjust accordingly for more or less sandwiches).
  • In a medium saucepan heat pasta sauce, covered.
  • Over medium heat, cook the meatballs in a large skillet, uncovered, adding a small amount of water to the bottom of the skillet. Turn meatballs frequently to avoid burning, adding small amounts of water as necessary. Cook meatballs until no longer pink in center.
  • Once meatballs are done, transfer to saucepan with sauce. Let simmer while you prepare the hoagie rolls.
  • To prepare hoagie rolls: Do not slice completely through the hoagie rolls. Leave a sort of pocket to cradle the ingredients. In each hoagie roll, place 2 slices of Provolone in the crease of the roll. Top with 3 meatballs and a bit of sauce. Sprinkle shredded Mozzarella cheese over top of meatballs. Grate Parmesan cheese over top of subs, if desired.
  • Serve hot.

Recipe Notes

This recipe is designed for 3 meatballs per hoagie roll. Adjust to the rolls you choose to use. If you make smaller meatballs, use more in each sub.

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  1. Even though you never cooked with your grandmother, it’s amazing how food can still bring generations together many years later. Thanks for sharing!

  2. My grandma was Italian from Italy as well. Sadly, I never met her because she died a year before I was born. My mom still makes her meatballs and sauce and she taught me how to make them too. I’ve never made meatball subs out of them and I’m so glad to read your post because I can’t wait to do it too! That was a great story about your grandma. 😀

  3. How neat that you have your grandma’s old recipe. I wish I had more family recipes, especially now that all my grandparents are gone.

  4. Love your inherited recipe, Ellen. Love the story behind the meatballs even more. What an inspiring woman your grandma was…Wondering if you have photos…sounds like a perfect YA story =)

    1. I do have photos! I should add one of her to the post. What a great idea! My son has been doing an immigration unit at school and we’ve been talking about her a lot.

  5. This totally has my name all over it. I’m always looking for new po-boys (as we call them down south) to try with the family!

  6. I love meatball subs! This one sounds delicious. It’s wonderful that you used your grandmother’s recipe and created something new with it. I think that’s why family recipes are so special and precious.

  7. Wow, my husband is going to love all these meatball dishes. Now we have enough recipes to last a year!

  8. Your grandma sounds like quite the lady! I love meatball subs, but never think to make them. Thanks for the idea!

  9. Aren’t recipes passed down through generations the best! You grandma looks like she knew a thing or two about meatballs! YUM!

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