A meatball sub is a classic sandwich that is loved by many. It typically consists of meatballs smothered in tomato sauce and cheese nestled into a long, soft roll. While the meatballs and sauce are obviously key components, the bread plays an equally important role in constructing the perfect meatball sub.
The bread serves as more than just a vehicle to hold the other ingredients. Its texture and flavor should perfectly complement the seasoned meat, tangy tomato sauce, and gooey melted cheese. The right bread can take your meatball sub from ordinary to extraordinary.
When selecting bread for a meatball sub, you want to look for a few key characteristics. First, the bread needs to be sturdy enough to contain the hefty meatballs and soak up sauce without becoming a soggy mess. A soft, chewy interior helps achieve the ideal meatball sub bread texture.
Flavor is also paramount. A mild, slightly sweet taste allows the bread to soak up flavors from the other ingredients without overpowering them. The ideal meatball sub bread should also be easy to slice open to create a pocket for the fillings.
With these criteria in mind, here are 10 of the best bread options to create the perfect meatball sub experience:
1. Italian Bread
With its origins in Italian cuisine, it’s no surprise that Italian bread makes an exceptional choice for meatball subs. Italian bread has a crunchy crust and fluffy, airy interior perfect for holding sauce. It has a mild flavor and slightly sweet taste that pairs beautifully with savory meatballs and tomato sauce. Italian bread can typically be found at most grocery stores and delis.
2. French Bread
The hallmark of French bread is its crusty exterior and chewy interior. With a more substantial crumb than Italian, French bread can stand up well to moist meatballs and sauce. The mild, yeasty flavor won’t compete with the other meatball sub fillings. Choose a demi-baguette and slice it horizontally to create the ideal vessel for your meatball sub.
3. Sourdough Bread
Sourdough’s sturdy yet pillowy texture makes it an excellent meatball sub base. The lactic acid produced by the sourdough fermentation process gives it a characteristic tangy flavor that contrasts perfectly with the rich, savory meatballs. Sourdough holds its structure well, even when wet ingredients are piled on. For meatball subs, look for a lighter sourdough loaf sliced horizontally.
4. Ciabatta Bread
With a crisp crust and extremely porous, soft crumb, ciabatta is built to take on lots of sauce and flavor. The large air pockets allow the bread to absorb liquid and sauce without getting soggy. Ciabatta has a mild wheaty taste that pairs well with heartier meatballs. Pick a loaf that’s not too wide or thick, and slice it in half lengthwise.
5. Hoagie Rolls
A hoagie roll is a classic choice perfectly suited for loaded sandwiches like meatball subs. These cylindrical rolls boast a thick crust that provides structure. The interior strikes the ideal chewy yet pillowy balance. Hoagie rolls by nature are designed to hold hefty ingredients between their halves. Pick hoagie rolls that are soft but not too spongy.
The long, narrow shape of a baguette makes it a natural choice for a meatball sub. A baguette has a thin crust and a dense, chewy interior enriched by fermentation. This allows it to stand up to moist fillings while still being soft enough to bite through. Baguettes work best sliced horizontally, creating a long trough for the meatballs and sauce.
Focaccia is a flatbread style of bread with a thick, pillowy interior perfect for a meatball sub. Traditional olive oil-based focaccia has a mild, slightly sweet flavor. Some varieties are topped with savory herbs that complement meatballs beautifully. Focaccia’s sturdy base soaks up sauce while still retaining some chew. Slice it horizontally for the ideal meatball sub vessel.
8. Multigrain Bread
For a heartier, healthier meatball sub base, consider multigrain bread. The mixture of whole grains like oats, wheat, and rye gives it great texture and nuanced flavor. TheDense structure and hearty taste stands up well to boldly flavored meatballs and sauce. Multigrain breads tend to be smaller, so size up accordingly.
9. Rye Bread
Rye bread makes a flavorfully bold yet structurally sound base for a meatball sub. The combination of rye and wheat flours gives it a dense, chewy crumb. The tangy, earthy flavor of the rye complements especially well if you use spicy or aggressively seasoned meatballs. The potent taste provides wonderful contrast.
10. Pita Bread
For a fun, handheld take on the meatball sub, use pita. When you gently pull the two sides apart, you’re left with a ready-made pocket perfect for filling. The soft, airy interior soaks up sauce and fills with meatballs. Sturdy yet pliable pita holds all the components together. Just be sure your pita pocket is big enough to contain the ample ingredients.
Key Considerations When Selecting Bread
While the options above all make excellent vessels for meatball subs, you’ll want to keep a few factors in mind when deciding on the ideal bread. Consider the following criteria:
The texture directly impacts how well the bread contains and complements the other ingredients. Aim for a soft, chewy interior with a sturdy, intact crust. This prevents sogginess while still being pliable and easy to bite through.
Since the meatballs and sauce are the star of the show, pick a bread with a mild, relatively neutral taste. It should provide a subtle background note rather than take center stage. Options like Italian and French bread fit the bill.
Tailor the bread choice to the style of meatball. Heartier, denser breads pair better with more aggressively spiced meatballs. Sweeter, softer breads complement veal or pork-based meatballs.
Similarly, make sure the flavor of the bread doesn’t clash with the sauce or cheese. Sweeter sauces work best with neutral or slightly sweet bread. Savory, herby sauces need a bread that can stand up to big flavor.
Make sure the dimensions of the bread can comfortably contain the meatballs without everything falling out. Long, narrow loaves, rolls, or flatbreads tend to work better than smaller round loaves.
Other Great Options
While the 10 breads mentioned above are prime choices, they’re not the only good options. Here are a few other excellent breads to consider for your meatball subs:
- Pretzel rolls – The pretzel exterior provides fantastic texture contrast and the shiny top looks beautiful out of the oven.
- Brioche buns – Their high butter content gives them rich flavor and moisture to balance the meaty fillings.
- English muffins – Sturdy, compact, and ready to split – the perfect handheld vehicle for meatballs and sauce.
- Croissants – Flaky, buttery layers offer a tasty, unique twist on traditional meatball sub bread.
- Naan bread – Soft, chewy naan is great for wrapping around meatballs and sauce for an Indian fusion-style meatball sub.
Here are some frequently asked questions about breads for meatball subs:
1. What is the best bread for a meatball sub?
Some of the most popular and well-suited breads for meatball subs are Italian bread, French bread, hoagie rolls, ciabatta, and sourdough. You want a bread that is sturdy enough to hold the meatballs and sauce without getting soggy, but still soft and chewy.
2. Why does the bread choice matter for a meatball sub?
The bread serves as more than just a vehicle to hold the meatballs and sauce. Its texture and flavor should perfectly complement the other ingredients. The right bread can take a meatball sub from ordinary to extraordinary.
3. What type of texture should the bread have?
A soft, chewy interior and sturdy crust is ideal. This allows the bread to soak up sauce while still holding its structure. Avoid bread that is too dense or too airy and insubstantial.
4. What flavor profile should the bread have?
For meatball subs, you want a mild, slightly sweet bread that won’t compete with the flavor of the meatballs and sauce. Italian, French, and soft sourdough breads fit this criteria well.
5. Should I choose bread with seeds or whole grains?
Breads with lots of add-ins like seeds, whole grains, and heavy seasoning tend to overpower meatball subs rather than complement them. They also often have a denser crumb. Save those for a sandwich without so many bold flavors competing.
6. What shape of bread works best?
Long, narrow loaves like baguettes and football-shaped rolls are ideal because you can slice them horizontally and fill them easily. Round loaves don’t contain the ingredients as neatly.
7. Should I use fresh or day-old bread?
For the sturdiest results, day-old bread is best. The stale bread absorbs more sauce without getting as soggy. Fresh bread also tends to compress more under the weight of the ingredients.
8. Any tips for sliced bread?
If using presliced sandwich bread, choose sturdy options like Italian bread and toast the slices first for added structure. Also avoid flimsy sliced white bread, which disintegrates too easily under wet, heavy ingredients.
The beauty of meatball subs is that you can enjoy endless combinations of breads, meatballs, sauces and cheeses. Don’t be afraid to get creative and customize to your preferences. The options are virtually limitless.
While the bread selections mentioned above make excellent traditional choices, there are so many more you could experiment with. Try a marbled rye for fantastic visual appeal and flavor contrast. Braided bread can add beautiful presentation and textural intricacy.
You can also think outside the box with gluten-free or low-carb options like lettuce wraps, Portobello mushroom caps, or hollowed-out zucchini boats for exciting new takes on classic meatball subs.
The meatballs themselves also offer unlimited possibilities to mix and match flavors. Bison meatballs, turkey meatballs, salmon cakes – the ideas are endless. Not in the mood for red sauce? Try cheese sauce, pesto, chimichurri, or barbecue sauce for an untraditional spin.
With the guidelines provided above to choose a bread that complements the other flavors and supports the ingredients properly, you have all the tools to start crafting your own signature meatball sub creation.
Don’t settle for boring subs when a world of possibilities awaits. Take your meatball sub to the next level by finding that perfect bread to serve as the sturdy yet luscious foundation. Then pile it high with your favorite meatballs and sauce for the ultimate sandwich experience. A sensational meatball sub is only limited by your imagination.
Best Breads for Meatball Subs
- Italian Bread
- French Bread
- Sourdough Bread
- Ciabatta Bread
- Hoagie Rolls
- Multigrain Bread
- Rye Bread
- Pita Bread
- Form your favorite meatball mixture into balls and bake at 400°F for 20-25 minutes until cooked through.
- Slice a soft Italian or French bread loaf lengthwise without cutting all the way through.
- Scoop out some bread from the center to create room for fillings.
- Brush the insides with olive oil or butter and toast under a broiler for 2-3 minutes.
- Add your cooked meatballs to the toasted bread.
- Top with mozzarella cheese slices then broil for 1 more minute to melt the cheese.
- Add any other desired toppings like sauce, onions, peppers, etc.
- Slice the loaded meatball sub into individual portions.