Meatball subs

I got the idea of a meatball sub into my head recently(completely smitten kitchen‘s fault) and immediately started salivating like crazy.  It had literally been years since I’ve eaten one and wowie, did this turn out DELICIOUS or WHAT.  Italian food is so nice, homey, and simple.  Basic but perfection.  Just like this blog (JK!).  Must give great thanks to my friend Richard (find him @The Paper Cup) who so graciously took this photo.

Meatball subs cheese bread italian food


Meatball subs

Prep time: 20 minutes                Cooking time: 40-45 minutes              Servings: 5-6

Budget for ingredients: ¥1500

Big bowl
Frying pan


2 half loaves of the french bread…so really 1 loaf
500 g ground meat (I used the 50/50 of beef and pork)
1 package of parsley (パセリ <paseri>)
1/3 c powdered Parmesan
3/4 t salt
1/4 t paprika
2 small garlic cloves, minced
1 t garlic puree
1 t Worcestershire sauce
1 large egg

Putting together the sub:
Olive oil
2 cans diced tomatoes
1/2 onion
1 c shredded cheese


  1. Cut your rolls horizontally, leaving one side together.
  2. Pull out some of the bread white to make a little resting spot to nestle your meatballs into later.
  3. Rip the whitebread into minuscule bits. Set rolls aside until later.
  4. Put the bread in a large bowl with 3/4 cup warm water mix with all the meatball ingredients with a fork.  Use a spoon or wet hands to make 2-inch meatballs.  At this point, you can even freeze your meatballs individually for around 20 minutes, and then transfer into a freezer bag.  Or continue!
  5. Brown your meatballs in a frying pan with a couple tablespoons of olive oil.  DO NOT touch them until they are actually brown, otherwise they will crumble in the pan!  Let them rest on paper towels and throw out the oil (aka soak it up with towels and discard in a trashcan).
  6. Using the same pan, heat up the tomato sauce.  Then lower to medium heat and add in the meatballs, cover and let cook for 30 minutes or so.
  7. Next, put the meatballs in the bread with sauce.  Add on some chopped onions and cheese, and pop it into the toaster oven until the cheese melts.  It took me 10 minutes at 160C.  Tada!  CHOMP.


After I took the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) back in December, I really wanted to celebrate the end of it by having some hearty delicious meal.  What better method than with pasta, meat, tomatoes, and LOTS of cheese? YES, LASAGNA!

But speaking of cheese, it is extremely difficult to find a variety outside of the standard Camembert, cheddar, cream cheese, waxy something, or candy (I am not kidding) cheeses that regular Japanese supermarkets have to offer.  If you can get your hands on ricotta, awesome, but be prepared to pay around  ¥2000 for a teensy tiny bit.   If you are insistent on getting ricotta, you can try the following options:

1. Make it by yourself with milk & vinegar (via  Set aside 1.5-2 hours for this.  You can freeze this afterward if you make a bunch. 

2.  Nihonhacks has a great article giving you directions on how to find/order/get cheese delivered to your door.

If you really are nonplussed about doing the above, then continue onto my style of the cheap and not necessarily authentic, but it gets the job done.  At least everyone who has tasted this recipe says so!  It is also easy to adjust this recipe (ie- make it vegetarian by nixing the meat and layering zucchini or eggplant instead) to any tastebuds.


Prep time: 45 minutes                Baking time: 25-30 minutes              Servings: 4

Budget for ingredients: ¥2500 (more if you use more expensive cheese)


1 big bowl
1 frying pan
Electric mixer
20 x 20 x 5 cm square baking pan
Toaster oven


300 g cream cheese (or whatever cheese you want to spend money on, mascarpone or kiri worked well for this too), at room temperature
1 egg
1/2 t nutmeg
2-3 sprigs Italian parsley, chopped

1 T garlic (either chopped garlic cloves or garlic paste)
1/4 onion, finely diced
200 g ground beef (or if you want cheaper, ground beef/pork)
1 can crushed tomatoes
1/2 T oregano
1/2 T basil
Salt and pepper to taste

40 spinach leaves *
8-10 lasagna noodles
1 cup mixed cheese (the shredded stuff every supermarket sells)

* Note: Spinach is called ほうれん草 <hourensou>.  It is green with red at the end! There is usually a bunch of sand in these, so make sure you wash thoroughly. 


1. Cream together egg, cream cheese, and nutmeg and parsley.  Works best with an electric mixer to fully blend.

2. In a pan with medium heat setting, combine olive oil, garlic, onion and beef and cook until the meat is browned.  Should take around 5-10 minutes.  Remove the beef grease that forms.  You don’t want your piece of lasagna dripping with oil later!

3. Add the can of tomatoes and spices to the meat.  I usually simmer this on low for 30 minutes, but I hear the longer the better.

4. Spread cheese mixture on the bottom of the pan with spatula.  Stick two pieces of lasagna noodle next to each other.  Pour 1/4 of the meat mixture on top of this, then layer with 8 spinach leaves.  Next use the spatula again to directly apply cheese mixture to lasagna noodles.  Repeat until you are near the top of the pan!

5. Cover the lasagna with mixed cheese.  Make sure it completely covers the top because you don’t want any of the flavors to come out while baking, or for the lasagna noodles to burn!

6. Bake in a  preheated toaster oven at 180°C for 15 minutes, and then 160°C for 10-15 minutes. 

7.  After it is done baking take it out and let it rest for 15-20 minutes.  Slice, serve, and share.  Not that you really want to share it.