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Vegan Meatball Sub

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A Meatball Sub was my go to at Subway, so let’s make it a Vegan Meatball Sub!

Back in the 90s, I ate a lot of Subway. I was the perfect demographic: late teens / early 20s and perpetually stoned. All the different ways you could customize your sandwich were awesome, and I definitely annoyed many a sandwich artist with my rococo order, but more often than not, I would get a footlong meatball sub. They were so simple and comforting and just kinda perfect!

So naturally, since Subway has been SLOWLY rolling it out to stores and teasing us, I got a hankering for my old flame and decided I’d just beat them to the punch and make my own Vegan Meatball Sub! For this recipe, we’re gonna make some standard Italian style meatballs, and a mozzarella cheese sauce! Use whatever marinara you like, though for this I used some awesome vegan bolognese I found at my local Ralph’s! HUZZAH!

Here’s a handy dandy video!

the meatballs

I don’t know what to say other than these are super dang good! It may seem like a bunch of work, but it’s honestly way easier than it looks, and totally worth it! If you want to make a meatball sub like Subway using store bought vegan meat like Impossible or Beyond, I have a recipe for that in my Cookbook: VEGAN FAST FOOD!

This recipe was inspired by one I saw by Bon Appetit with quite a bit of modifications. Namely the vital wheat gluten! On my first test I made them without it, and they were good, but still a bit too mushy. So I hit up my friend Lacey at Avocados And Ales, and she gave me some great advice!

Once we have all our meatballs rolled, we need to pan-fry them, steam them, and then bake them. It seems like a lot of work, but it’s pretty passive and just a lot of waiting, good time to watch some Sopranos or something (which is what I did!)

This recipe makes about 24 (1 oz.) meatballs, and I used about 4-5 per sandwich, so you should get 5-6 sandwiches. Or you can totally use the leftovers to make Spaghetti and Meatballs too!

The Red Sauce

This is a pretty simple red sauce, but it’s a bit different from others that I’ve seen in that we are boosting the umaminess with mushroom seasoning and nutritional yeast! We’ll also add in some calabrian chiles for heat! But obviously skip that if you don’t like spicy!

You can serve this sauce as soon as you’re done putting it together, but it gets a lot better the longer it simmers. I would suggest making this first, then letting it simmer on low, covered, for about an hour. Which is the perfect amount of time to make the meatballs!

The Cheese

You can do the cheese anyway you like! I tried some shredded vegan cheese in the oven. I covered it with foil to steam it, since vegan cheese can get dried out in the oven, but it didn’t really melt too much. I also tried some vegan mozzarella slices in the microwave, and that worked out surprisingly well! It even steamed the bread a bit! So that’s a great low effort option.

But the best option for me is to make a cheese sauce. I’ve included a recipe for that. It does include sodium citrate, an emulsifier that makes the sauce smooth and velvety, which I highly recommend, but if you can’t get it, don’t sweat it. I would just add a bit more liquid or vegan milk until it’s at the consistency you like!

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Yield: Makes 5-6 Hoagies

Vegan Meatball Sub

Vegan Meatball Sub

Ingredients

Meatballs

  • 2 cups (250 g) cooked lentils (brown)
  • 3 slices white bread (crust removed)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened plant milk (divided)
  • 4 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 shallot (finely diced)
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 2 Tbsp chopped basil
  • 4-5 Tbsp aquafaba
  • 1 tsp Beefless Broth concentrate (or use veggie concentrate)
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2 Tbsp mushroom seasoning
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 heaping tsp of calabrian chiles (for heat)
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 60g vital wheat gluten
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • Salt & black pepper to taste

Red Sauce

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 - 5 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 (28 oz.) can of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tsp calabrian chiles (for heat)
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 Tbsp mushroom seasoning
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cheese Sauce

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp sodium citrate
  • 8 oz. vegan mozzarella
  • 1 Tbsp tapioca starch (to thicken)
  • Season to taste

Instructions

meatballs

  1. Dip the crustless white bread in 1/4 cup of unsweetened plant milk. Gently squeeze out the liquid, and then dice the bread into cubes about 1/4 - 1/2 inch. Set aside.
  2. Add some olive oil to a pan and saute the diced shallot until translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Add in the minced garlic and cook for 1 minute, then remove from the heat.
  3. In a large bowl, add everything except the vital wheat gluten and baking soda. Mix thoroughly by hand. Whisk the vital wheat gluten and baking soda, then add that to the meatball mixture and mix to combine by hand. If the mixture is too dry to stick together, add in some more plant milk a little at a time until it comes together. You should have a big meatball that weighs about 750 grams. Let that rest for 10 - 15 minutes.
  4. Scoop out about 1 oz. or 30 grams of the mixture and roll it into a ball. Repeat until the entire mixture is used up, you should have around 24 meatballs. Add them to a pan over medium heat with some olive oil, and brown them on at least 2 sides. Should take about 8 - 10 minutes.
  5. Add 1/4 cup of water to the pan, and then lower the heat to medium low, cover and steam for about 10 - 15 minutes. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and then add the browned and steamed meatballs to it. Cook for 15 - 20 minutes at 350 F / 180 C, or until the meatballs are firm with a bit of bounce to them. They won't be super stiff or dense, but they should be soft enough you can push down on them a little and they'll bounce back.

red sauce

  1. To a saucepan over medium heat, add the olive oil and garlic and stir frequently.
  2. Cook the garlic for 30 seconds, then add the Italian seasoning and cook for another 30 seconds stirring.
  3. Then add in everything else starting with the crushed tomatoes. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Can be served right away, or ideally, covered and simmered on low heat for an hour. The perfect time to make the meatballs!

cheese sauce

  1. Add the water and sodium citrate to a pan over medium heat. Once the water is at a light boil, add in the mozzarella and tapioca starch. Whisk constantly until cheese melts. Season to taste!

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