Friends, I have the BEST food idea to kick off tailgating season.
Giant, open-faced meatball sub sandwiches that can be cut into wedges and served to a crowd! I can barely contain my excitement about this one.
There are so many reasons to love this recipe.
First, these can easily be prepped ahead and heated in the oven just before you want to serve, which really makes for the perfect entertaining or tailgating recipe.
Second, they’re hearty and delicious. There is so much incredible FLAVOR going on here. A little bit goes a long way!
Dan and I LOVE meatball subs (I get it from my father), but rarely, if ever, have I been able to eat a whole one. They’re always just so HUGE. And heavy. And I always feel incredibly gross afterwards. Haha. No human is meant to consume that much bread, meat, and cheese at once. I’m convinced.
So, I thought it would be fun to make a still-huge one but serve it open faced and family style – that way, everyone can have one piece or three pieces and get the experience of a meatball sub without the total gluttony.
And I’m not food shaming here – I LOVE this kind of food and I don’t feel guilty about indulging here and there. I’m just saying that from my personal experience, a full meatball sub is too much for me. I love this idea of making a big one to share with lots of people.
Is this an everyday meal? No. But is it a super fun one to share with friends and family? Heck yes.
This recipe starts with a batch of my classic meatballs. We actually only need a half batch, but I do recommend making the entire batch for enjoyment during the week. If you’re gonna take the time to make meatballs, GO FOR IT. Plus, there’s nothing more comforting than a sauced meatball warmed up. In fact, I usually double my recipe so we can have them for lunches or quick dinners all week long.
Once the meatballs are baked and ready, the sub sandwich part of things happens rather quickly.
First, we make garlic bread boats. Yes, boats. Halve a large loaf of crusty bread – I used ciabatta here – and hollow out some of the middle. We want to create a space for the meatballs to sit, so they aren’t rolling all over the place when you’re trying to eat this.
Crafting the perfect sub sandwich is an art form, I think.
Season that baby up with some butter, olive oil, garlic, and seasonings and toast it in the oven until golden and crisp. We want it to be able to hold up to all the meaty-cheesy stuffing. The bread is delicious enough to eat on its own, but that’s for another time. Resist the temptation!
Into the garlic bread boats goes some marinara, a layer of meatballs, more marinara, and then a hefty sprinkling of cheese. I love mozzarella and parmesan here, but you can mix in some provolone or pecorino – whatever your heart desires!
Then, the whole things gets baked until ooey-gooey, saucy magic happens.
I mean, it’s a thing of beauty.
All that’s left to do is to slice it up and arrange it on a platter or cutting board, and allow people to help themselves! I like to add some additional marinara on the side, as some people really love the saucy aspect of a meatball sub.
All that’s missing are some cold beers and a football game on the TV. Both those things will be remedied this weekend!
These Open-Faced Meatball Subs for a Crowd are the perfect thing to make for parties or tailgates! Huge meatball subs, served open face and family style, are so hearty and delicious! They are much easier than making individual sandwiches as well.
- ½ batch classic meatballs
- 1 large loaf of crusty bread (French, Italian, ciabatta, etc).
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon dried Italian herbs
- 1½ cups marinara sauce
- 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
- ½ cup grated pecorino or parmesan cheese
- Fresh herbs, such as basil or parsley, for serving
- First, prep your meatballs according to this recipe. We only need half the batch of meatballs for this recipe (you can halve the recipe or make the full recipe and save half for another use).
- Once the meatballs are ready, increase the oven temperature to 425°F and line a large baking sheet with parchment or foil.
- Halve your bread lengthwise, and using your hands, gently pull out some of the middle of the bread, ensuring that you don’t go too close to the edge. We want to create a hollow area in the center of the bread so the meatballs have a place to sit. Place the bread halves, cut side up, on the baking sheet.
- In a small bowl, melt the butter in the microwave. Stir in the olive oil. Brush the mixture all over the two bread halves and sprinkle evenly with the garlic salt, garlic powder, and dried herbs.
- Bake for 10 minutes or until the bread is crisp and golden.
- Spread a couple tablespoons of marinara on the bread halves. Top each half with the meatballs, followed by the remaining sauce, the mozzarella, and the pecorino/parmesan.
- Return the bread to the oven and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted, gooey, and lightly browned in spots.
- Allow to cool for a few minutes before slicing into big wedges. Garnish with additional pecorino/parmesan and fresh herbs and serve while warm. I love to serve this family style on a large cutting board or platter with a side of marinara for optional dipping.
- Feel free to use store-bought meatballs for this recipe, if you prefer. You can also switch up the cheeses. Shredded provolone would be amazing here!
- These can be made ahead and kept in the fridge (or freezer). I recommend making the meatballs and garlic bread, assembling the subs completely, and then wrapping well in plastic wrap and foil. If baking from fridge, add 5 minutes to baking time. If baking from freezer, add 15 minutes to baking time.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 45 minutes (includes making the meatballs)
- Category: sandwiches
Keywords: tailgate recipes, meatball subs for a crowd, open-faced meatball sub sandwich, meatball sub sandwich