Vegetarian Meatball Parm Sub Recipe From ‘A Thought for Food’

Every week, we’re spotlighting a different food blogger who’s shaking up the blogosphere with tempting recipes and knockout photography. Here, Brian Samuels of A Thought for Food gives the meatball Parm sub a healthy, veggie-forward makeover.


Photo: Brian Samuels

Vegetarian Meatball Parm Subs
Makes 2

If you’re wondering what a sub (or “submarine,” though I’ve never heard it referred to as such) is, it’s essentially a sandwich on steroids, packed with as many toppings as you can think of. You can’t just get a turkey sub… it has to have cheese and tomatoes and coleslaw and Russian dressing and some slices of salami. You get the idea.

That’s what they have in New Jersey. Subs. It’s not a “hoagie” or a “hero.” It’s a sub. Can you tell that I’m pretty passionate about these things?

I’ve had this idea for a while: to make a meatball sub out of the TVP—which stands for “textured vegetable protein”—that’s at the grocery store next to the seitan and tofu. I used to cook with it frequently, especially when I first stopped eating meat. After a while, I found that I was relying on it too much and cut back. There’s nothing worse than getting bored with an ingredient.

But when this concept for a vegetarian meatball sub popped into my head, I knew that TVP was the only product that would give it the consistency I remembered from my childhood. The result was exactly what I had hoped for: Something that everyone, vegetarians and carnivores alike, will find fun and satisfying.

Like most dishes that I prepare here, there is a lot that you can do with these sandwiches. I used fresh parsley and sautéed mushrooms, but there’s no doubt that a little mayo (don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it) on the bread and some caramelized onions would hit the spot, too.

14 oz. of ground TVP (I used 1 package of Gimme Lean “Ground Sausage Style”)
1/2 small yellow onion, minced
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 sub rolls
12-16 thin slices Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup marinara sauce
1 cup crimini mushrooms, sliced
Fresh parsley, chopped, to garnish

In a bowl, mix the ground TVP and yellow onion with your hands, until combined. Roll out into 1 1/2–inch meatballs.

Add the oil to a large pan and set over a medium-high flame. Once heated, add meatballs to the pan and cook until each is browned on one side. Using a spatula, flip over the meatballs and let the other side brown. Once this happens, gently toss the meatballs around in the pan until they get a little color on all sides. Turn off the burner and transfer the meatballs to a plate.

Add the mushrooms to the same pan you used to cook the meatballs, and set the burner to medium-high heat. Do not crowd the mushrooms. Cook them until they have gotten crispy on the outside, but not burnt. Transfer to a bowl.

Preheat the broiler. Meanwhile, assemble subs: Cut the rolls almost but not completely in half, lengthwise. Line each side of the bread with 3 or 4 slices of cheddar cheese. Fill each sub with 5 or 6 meatballs and top with the marinara sauce. Add another 2 or 3 slices of cheese on top of the meatballs.

Place the sandwiches on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and place the pan under the broiler until the cheese has melted, being careful not to burn the sandwich.

Take the pan out of the oven and top each sub with mushrooms and a sprinkle of chopped parsley. Serve immediately.

Need more sandwiches? Here you go:

Joy the Baker’s breakfast grilled cheese, because why the heck not

A Fluffernutter sandwich, for your inner child

A new, irresistible take on the Philly cheesesteak

What’s your favorite sandwich of all time? Tell us below!