Smoked meatball subs

Smoked meatball subs with a tangy and rich tomato sauce are hard to beat!

All photos for this recipe are from Erin Hungsberg (IG: erin_hungsberg)

You’ve probably had a meatball sub before, but have you ever tried smoking the meatballs first? The meatballs are tender and flavorful, the tomato sauce rich and tangy, and the bread soft and chewy. Not to mention mozzarella cheese nestled between each and every bite. You’ll want to make these asap.

What is a meatball sub?

The Meatball sub, also known as a meatball hoagie or grinder, is a delicious and filling sandwich that is popular in many parts of the world. It consists of a long roll or hoagie bun that is sliced lengthwise, stuffed with meatballs, and topped with marinara sauce and cheese. It was likely inspired by Italian meatball recipes, which were brought to America by Italian immigrants. The sandwich quickly became popular and spread throughout the country, with different regions and cities putting their own spin on the recipe.

Why smoke meatballs?

Making homemade meatballs and smoking them takes some extra effort, but the result is a dish that is truly next level. The smoky flavor adds depth and complexity to the dish, while the homemade meatballs are juicier and more flavorful than their store-bought counterparts. It’s my go to technique every single time when making them.

Making meatballs from scratch

Ground beef is the most common choice of meat, but you can also use a combination of beef and pork, which is what I do for a more complex flavor. In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground meat with Italian breadcrumbs, eggs, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder.

Mix everything together well, using your hands to knead the mixture until it is evenly combined.

Shaping the meatballs

Next, you’ll want to form the meatballs. Depending on how big you like them, you can use a large ice cream scooper or your hands to scoop out portions of the mixture and roll them into balls. Make sure they are all roughly the same size so that they cook evenly. I shape mine into golf-sized balls.

Tray of meatballs

Smoking the meatballs

Once you have your meatballs made, you’ll need to cook them. I like to smoke the meatballs at 250 °F until they reach an internal temperature of 150 °F. Its important to use a good instant read thermometer so you don’t over cook them.

If you don’t have a smoker you can shallow fry them in a skillet with a bit of oil. You can also bake them in the oven at 350° F for about 20-25 minutes. I place my meatballs in a skillet or greased muffin tin and place them on the grates of my smoker to let them do their thing. My preferred wood of choice is pecan. Hickory would also be a great option.

Making the marinara sauce (Optional)

While the meatballs are cooking, you can start on the tomato sauce. You can use a pre-made marinara sauce as I often do to save time, or you can make your own from scratch.

If making from scratch, here is a quick recipe for you. In a saucepan, sauté diced onions and garlic in olive oil until they are softened. Then, add in canned tomatoes (crushed or diced), tomato paste, salt, sugar, and dried herbs such as basil, oregano, and thyme. Let the sauce simmer for at least 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally until it has thickened and the flavors have melded together.

Assembling the smoked meatball subs

Once the meatballs and sauce are ready, it’s time to assemble the subs.

Ingredients laid out that go into a meatball sub

First, slice open your sub rolls and place them on a baking sheet. Next, place slices of mozzarella cheese on the bottom half of each roll. Then, place a few meatballs on top of the cheese, and add a bit of marinara sauce on top of the meatballs. Finally, top everything off with a generous amount of shredded mozzarella cheese. 

Broil the subs in the oven until the cheese is melted and bubbly, and the bread is lightly toasted. Keep a close eye on them to make sure they don’t burn! Once they’re done, remove them from the oven and let them cool for a minute or two before serving.

A meatball sub cut in half

Some variations to consider

Use different cheeses: Try using provolone, cheddar, or even blue cheese for a twist.

Mix up the meat: Use a mixture of ground beef, pork, and veal for a more complex flavor. You could also try using ground turkey or chicken for a lighter option.

Add some veggies: While not traditional, you could add bell peppers, mushrooms, or even spinach to the sauce.

Try different bread: Other great options include a baguette, ciabatta, or even a wrap.

One of the great things about the smoked meatball sub sandwich is that it’s filling and satisfying, making it the perfect meal for a busy day or a long night. The sandwich is often served with a side of fries or chips, and it pairs well with a cold beer or soda. It’s a classic comfort food that everyone will enjoy. Give these smoked meatball subs a try and tell me they aren’t delicious!

If you want another tasty meatball recipe try my smoked bbq meatballs!

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Smoked meatball subs

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You’ve probably had a meatball sub before, but have you ever tried a smoked meatball sub? The smoky flavor adds depth and complexity to the dish, while the homemade meatballs are juicier and more flavorful than their store-bought counterparts. 

  • Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Yield: 6 1x



For the meatballs 

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 lb ground pork sausage 
  • 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder 
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper 
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper 

Marinara sauce (Can also used store bought) 

  • 1 medium yellow onion diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 14 oz cans of crushed tomatoes 
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 teaspoon sugar 
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme 

For the subs 

  • 6 sub rolls
  • 18 mozzarella cheese slices 
  • 1 cup of mozzarella cheese 
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley 


  1. Combine all the ingredients for the meatballs into a mixing bowl and shape them into golf ball sized meatballs. 
  2. Smoke the meatballs at 250°F until they reach an internal temperature of 150°F. 
  3. Place three slices of mozzarella cheese on the bottom of a sub roll and add meatballs, tomato sauce, and some shredded mozzarella cheese on top. Top with a little  fresh chopped parsley. 
  4. Broil for 2-3 minutes to toast the bread and melt the cheese. You can also place the subs back into your smoker. 
  5. Let them cool for a couple of minutes and enjoy! 
  • Author: Jordan Hanger
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Category: Main
  • Method: Smoking
  • Cuisine: Italian

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