Meat and Poultry, Soups, Stews and Sandwiches

Italian Meatball Hero Sandwich

Loreto November 12, 2016

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Italian Meatball Hero Sandwich, an absolutely delicious, hearty packed panino with organic Messinger meats and meatballs made by Massimo’s, in a rich tomato sauce, fresh peppery arugula, and creamy hand spun Italian fresh mozzarella, all held together in a crusty Italian panino bun.  

Italian Meatball Hero Sandwich

[This post is sponsored by The Italian Centre Shop, we’ve been compensated but all opinions are our own.]

Italian Meatball Hero Sandwich, for those families with hungry teenagers, or for the guys during a game watching party. This Italian meatball panino is so packed with dimensions of flavor and texture, it’s definitely a two handed affair and multiple napkins required. 



It has been an absolute pleasure developing these recipes for The Italian Center Shop. There are so many ingredients to choose from and now their pre-made area, hosting some delicious products such as sauces, salads, pasta, pizza dough, and these tender, flavorful, meatballs made by Massimo’s, a division of tThe Italian Center Shop. They are made using a great Messinger Meats ground beef.

There is nothing like a panino, crusty bun with varieties of combinations like, prosciutto e mozzarella, mortadella, Genoa salami, provolone. The use of red pepper spread we call Gloria spread, as it is a brand name of a popular sandwich spread. Myself, personally, love some good D.O.P. extra virgin, cold pressed olive oil, salt, pepper and some fragrant oregano. The variations, endless. I remember when my parents went shopping at the Italian store and we would be anxiously waiting to get home so we could open up the lunch meat packages and cheese with the fresh bread and devour one, two, sometimes three panini. The aromas of the meats and bread, a pagnotta, one slicer folded over with meat, cheese, then pressed a bit to accommodate our mouth size, this was the Italian life, the flavors of the meats, the spread, yum. My brother and I were in panini bliss.

This recipe was also inspired by a Food Network show called “You Gotta Eat Here”. This particular series  had host John Catucci  in Italy trying different Panini in various regions sampling combinations respecting products of the area. I was drooling and ideas popping in my head. I remember seeing the meatballs  in the pre-made section at The Italian Centre shop, and an ah ha moment came, with orchestral music and all. Those  Italian meatballs would be great in a rich thick tomato sauce with some fresh mozzarella, arugula, and some good olive oil and spices, and the birth of the Italian Meatball Hero Sandwich, was complete.

Italian Meatball Hero Sandwich

With any great recipe, are a compilation of great ingredients. This is of utmost importance to me. I don’t usually budge on this one. The meatballs are made at Massimo’s , they do  a vast variety of pre made delicious  meals. They use a local organic meat producer called Messinger Meats for their meatballs. Messinger meats is known for their Piedmontese beef. Cattle  was brought back here from Italy and in Italy it is well known quality meat. These are going to be perfect for this Italian meatball  hero sandwich. For the sauce, some D.O.P. San Marzano tomatoes, garlic, fresh basil, and the base always a good olive oil. I had this thought, why not throw some arugula into the sauce to make it interesting. So what the hell, why not in it goes, I love inspirational moments like these. Now some time to stew this sauce to get it to a luxurious vibrant in flavor, texture, and consistency. For the fresh components, some mozzarella di bufala, which is a fresh hand made mozzarella made with buffalo milk. This is not that hard formed, almost plastic like cheese, it is soft, creamy, a great opposite to the sauce and meatballs. The topper arugula, which has a bite to it, that peppery taste just what is needed to offset the richness and sweetness of that sauce.

Italian Meatball Hero Sandwich

What I usually do is sear the meatballs a bit to seal in their juices. Then I take them out of the pan, add in some olive oil and garlic clove leaving the bits and juices from the meatballs. This will enhance the flavor of the tomato sauce. A few leaves of fresh basil, which I call the anti depressant of ages with that gloriously cheerful smell. Some cracked sea salt and black pepper and in go the meatballs again covering them in the sauce, letting this jubilation of flavor and aroma stew to perfection. At this point I want some of that rustic bread and I want to scoop that pulp into the bread and eat it, but I restrain myself and think of the outcome of this panino and that holds me in good form. The arugula I toss in some extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, not too much pepper as it has that bite. The mozzarella cut into nice disks ensuring the moisture stays in and it will be an even layer to add to the meatballs. The bread toasted in a panino oven with some olive oil brushed on.

Italian Meatball Hero Sandwich

Assembly is the easiest part. A good generous scoop of the sauce and meatballs making sure every bite will have a piece. I sprinkled some Parmigiano Reggiano onto the meatballs for some added acidity. The mozzarella layered on oozing those milky juices. The arugula finishing the show glistening with that great quality olive oil. The part I love best, the closure, top and press, I call it. I place the top part of the panino on, and gently push down  with my hand so all those juices drip into the bread and the ingredients mold into the bread  and will ensure a good hold on everything.

I am in heaven, my teeth go through that crust and you hear that crunch, then you feel the soft moistened tomato saucy tender meatballs, rich in herbs and garlic and rich in acidity and sweetness, the soft textured arugula nicely steamed by the sauce, accompanied by that pungent Parmigiano. A good reminder that this is truly Italian. The mozzarella smoothing out the edges of acidity, with its milky velvety cream and soft texture, and I have to say the buffalo mozzarella is so much creamier and sweeter than the cow milk one. The only thing is you have to drain it because it has so much milk, it will soak your panino and make a soppy mess. Just when you think it’s all over, the arugula comes in and hits your tongue with that peppery spice.

This sandwich, or panino as we call it, is a perfect thing to feed your hungry teens. It is substantial, has some good nutrients, and best of all they will be asking you when you are making it again. The Grey Cup is coming soon and this Italian Meatball Hero Sandwich, would be great for “The Boys” and those extra calories can be burned off in their primal display of excitement and disappointment.

Next time you are in The Italian Centre Shop go to the pre-made area and pick up some of these amazing Massimo’s Italian meatballs, and get that sauce going. Beware though, your teens could be lurking around the corner with wooden spoon in hand and a piece of bread, waiting to pillage the saucy meatballs. Your only defense, a bigger wooden spoon, lol.

From our Italian kitchen at SugarLoveSpices to yours,

Buon Appetito!

Song of the day: “Hero”,  by the Foo Fighters.

Italian Meatball Hero Sandwich

Italian Meatball Hero Sandwich

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 55 minutes



  • 1 package of premade piedmontese raw beef meatballs
  • 1 can of La pavoncella tomatoes
  • 3 Table spoons olive oil
  • Pinch of peperoncino
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • 4 fresh crusty panino buns
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil for brushing


  • 1 package of buffalo mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 1/4 cup Frantoio extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and crushed black pepper to taste



  1. Mince garlic.
  2. Heat up one tablespoon of olive oil in a cast iron skillet.
  3. Place meatballs into cast iron skillet and brown on all sides, take out and set aside.
  4. Drizzle in 2 tablespoons of olive oil into same cast iron pan, leaving the juices and bits from the meatballs.
  5. Toss in minced garlic.
  6. Put a pinch of peperoncino in.
  7. Take canned tomatoes and crush with hand into cast pan.
  8. Add in all the juices of the tomatoes.
  9. Simmer a bit till sauce begins to thicken.
  10. Place in meatballs and coat with the sauce.
  11. Break in by hand the fresh basil, and toss into sauce and meatballs.
  12. Bring sauce to a simmer and let cook for about 25 minutes.
  13. Pre heat oven to 350° F.
  14. Toss 1/2 cup of arugula into the sauce and meatball mix, and stir in well.
  15. Take cast iron skillet with meatballs and sauce and place into oven and finish cooking till sauce is nice and thick, about 15 minutes.
  16. Bread:
  17. Heat up a grilling pan.
  18. While pan is heating up cut panino buns in half and brush olive oil on the insides.Place on hot grilling pan and cook till nice char marks appear.
  19. Finish buns in warm oven for about 5 minutes.
  20. Take buns out of oven.


  1. Toss arugula in some olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt and crusher black pepper.
  2. Take warm meatballs and sauce, spread on bottom half of panino bun.
  3. Spread some of the dressed arugula onto the meatballs.
  4. Drain the buffalo mozzarella and cut into slices and place on arugula.
  5. A quick drizzle of olive oil and pepper.
  6. Close up panino.
  7. Wrap it up and ready to serve.
  8. Enjoy!


  • Serving Size: 4 Panini
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Italian Meatball Hero Sandwich

[This post is sponsored by The Italian Centre Shop, we’ve been compensated but all opinions are our own.]

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  • Avatar
    Reply Matt @ RoughEats November 13, 2016 at 6:05 am

    You just cannot go wrong with San Marzano tomatoes with Italian food. Love the sarnies, they look ready to be devoured!

    • Loreto
      Reply Loreto November 14, 2016 at 5:51 am

      Hi Matt, thanks, yes I love using San Marzano tomatoes, we have found a brand that has the best flavor thus far, it is called Mutti. If you ever come across it buy it, you definitely will not be disappointed.
      Have a great day!
      Cheers Loreto

  • Avatar
    Reply Kathy @ Beyond the Chicken Coop November 13, 2016 at 7:36 am

    Oh my goodness! These look amazing! And totally messy to eat! I think you’ve given great advice….many napkins will be needed! That Italian shop sounds like a place you could get lost in! Lucky you 🙂

    • Loreto
      Reply Loreto November 14, 2016 at 5:48 am

      Hi Kathy, thank you. Sometimes these messy, hearty meals are just whats needed to encourage, fun eats and delicious times. The sandwich was so good we have been craving it all the time. Even Nicoletta who is vegetarian was craving it. Nothing like anything cooked in a rich tomato sauce to get your mouth watering.
      Have a great week!

  • Avatar
    Reply Dawn - Girl Heart Food November 14, 2016 at 6:35 am

    I really enjoy that show -‘You Gotta Eat Here’. Every time I watch it, I want something good to eat, lol 😀 I love a good sandwich and this one looks perfect! There’s so many good things going on…so hearty and arugula is one of my favourite things to put on a sandwich. Wish I could grab this right from my computer screen!! Big YUM!!

    • Loreto
      Reply Loreto November 14, 2016 at 7:31 am

      Thank you Dawn, it is always a pleasure hearing how much people enjoy a recipe, even if it is only virtual. Nicoletta is a wiz at capturing the essence of these moments on camera.I wish grabbing through a camera was possible, but maybe not would have to increase my exercise regiment.
      Have a wonderful week.
      Happy cooking!

  • Avatar
    Reply karrie @ Tasty Ever After November 17, 2016 at 9:23 pm

    Loreto, You are my hero for making this recipe! Hahahaha! I do love me a good meatball sandwich, especially one that looks like yours. Need it for breakfast/lunch tomorrow 😉 Wonderful recipe my friend and please tell Nicoletta “hello” for me 🙂

    • Loreto
      Reply Loreto November 18, 2016 at 10:10 am

      Hi Karrie, you are always too kind. But I have to admit this sandwich was the bomb of all sandwiches and the flavor, especially because Nicoletta made the sauce and she is the queen in that department. By the way she says i back.
      Have a most wonderful weekend

  • Avatar
    Reply kravingsfoodadventures February 10, 2017 at 10:41 am

    Absolutely stunning post!

    • Loreto
      Reply Loreto February 10, 2017 at 4:45 pm

      Thank you so much! Loved making it for everyone! Good ingredients, a passionate positive attitude, and lots of love. It is the only way I know how to cook!Happy Friday to you!

  • Avatar
    Reply Paula Potts February 10, 2017 at 11:34 am

    Drool! Italian sandwiches, meatballs, panini – I love it all! I love the passion you have for this sandwich, makes me want one, right, now!

    • Loreto
      Reply Loreto February 10, 2017 at 4:42 pm

      Thank you Paula, then my work is done, lol. I loved this panino, so packed with rich Italian flavors and my passion to make it. I think that is a recipe for good eats. I am so happy you enjoyed it visually.
      Have a wonderful weekend.

  • Avatar
    Reply diversivore February 10, 2017 at 9:25 pm

    There’s nothing like a meatball sub done right, and you’re clearly doing it very right here. I don’t use canned tomatoes enough, but I really do think I should find a good brand of San Marzano and try out more recipes like this. Love your tips on getting the meatballs right, and the buffalo mozzarella sounds like a perfect way to bring everything together. Now I’m hungry. Cheers. 🙂

    • sugarlovespices
      Reply sugarlovespices February 11, 2017 at 2:35 pm

      Thank you Sean. We found this brand of canned tomatoes at the Italian Center Shop, called Mutti. They are the most amazing tomatoes Nicoletta and I have tasted here thus far compared to Italy. Just looking at these pictures is making me want another one of these real soon. There is nothing like moist cooked meatballs in a rich sauce, a crusty bun, some fresh arugula, and fresh mozzarella. You bite in sauce running and flavors just bursting in your mouth, I am Hungry now!
      Have a great weekend Sean

  • Avatar
    Reply Marisa's Italian Kitchen February 13, 2017 at 8:02 am

    This is definitely my kind of panino! Some crusty bread and delicious melt in your mouth meatballs simmered in a delicious tomato sauce….Italian picnic food😊

    • sugarlovespices
      Reply sugarlovespices February 15, 2017 at 7:18 am

      Hi Marisa, thank you. So right Italian picnic food, you are at the park and every where you smell hot dogs and hamburgers. There in the corner where all the noise and yelling is coming from, the Italian family with, these Panini, sausages, peppers roasting with onions, bread toasting on the fire, and a big plate of pasta al forno being disbursed, lol. Now that’s Italian! Thank you for reminding me where I come from.
      Buona Giornata!

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