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 Italian fresh mozzarella, all held together in a crusty Italian panino bun.
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.
[This post is sponsored by The Italian Centre Shop, we've been compensated but all opinions are our own.]
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 the 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.
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 were 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 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.
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 antidepressant 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.
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 a 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 to yours,
- 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
- ½ cup fresh basil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 4 fresh crusty panino buns
- 1 tablespoon olive oil for brushing
- 1 package of buffalo mozzarella
- ¼ cup grated parmigiano reggiano
- 2 cups arugula
- ¼ cup Frantoio extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and crushed black pepper to taste
- Mince garlic.
- Heat up one tablespoon of olive oil in a cast iron skillet.
- Place meatballs into cast iron skillet and brown on all sides, take out and set aside.
- Drizzle in 2 tablespoons of olive oil into same cast iron pan, leaving the juices and bits from the meatballs.
- Toss in minced garlic.
- Put a pinch of peperoncino in.
- Take canned tomatoes and crush with hand into cast pan.
- Add in all the juices of the tomatoes.
- Simmer a bit till sauce begins to thicken.
- Place in meatballs and coat with the sauce.
- Break in by hand the fresh basil, and toss into sauce and meatballs.
- Bring sauce to a simmer and let cook for about 25 minutes.
- Pre heat oven to 350° F.
- Toss ½ cup of arugula into the sauce and meatball mix, and stir in well.
- Take cast iron skillet with meatballs and sauce and place into oven and finish cooking till sauce is nice and thick, about 15 minutes.
- Heat up a grilling pan.
- 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.
- Finish buns in warm oven for about 5 minutes.
- Take buns out of oven.
- Toss arugula in some olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt and crusher black pepper.
- Take warm meatballs and sauce, spread on bottom half of panino bun.
- Spread some of the dressed arugula onto the meatballs.
- Drain the buffalo mozzarella and cut into slices and place on arugula.
- A quick drizzle of olive oil and pepper.
- Close up panino.
- Wrap it up and ready to serve.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Serving Size: 4 Panini
When I am not cooking, I enjoy playing musical instruments, singing, writing. I have learned over the years to live in gratitude and enjoy the moment.