Meatball Subs with Almond Basil Pesto

This time last year, my daughter, who was six months old or so, loved to be snuggled to sleep.  Well, she still does, but a year ago she really did.  I would lay her across my lap on her blue and green fish-printed nursing pillow and nurse her until her eyes closed and she relaxed into the fluttery, light sleep of babies.

I learned the hard way, many, many times that ever-so-carefully transferring her to her co-sleeper at this point would inevitably wake her up, and necessitate that I start the entire process over again.

Meatball Subs |

So I would wait the half hour, or hour, or two hours until she finally seemed to have entered a deep sleep before sliding her onto the bed beside me.

Every night last summer, I put on my pyjamas at 8p.m. or so and snuggled my girl to sleep while scrolling through Pinterest on my iPad or writing down recipe ideas.  The sun still shone through the bedroom window and I could hear kids playing outside, and imagined a day when I’d be able to sneak back downstairs and have a glass of wine on the front porch with my hubby.

I’m not sure what was so alluring about that glass of wine on the porch, but some nights, despite the love and awe I felt for the little blonde baby on my lap, my desire to be not there, doing something that reminded me of the days before motherhood, was so strong it brought tears to my eyes.

Meatball subs |

A wise woman (also my doula) told me that it takes two to three years to transition to parenthood.  So even though sometimes my longing for the days before was so strong it ached, I knew that I was okay, that this was a part of it.  I knew that there would come a day when I could have that glass of wine.  Or watch multiple episodes of Girls while eating peanut butter cookies.  Or what have you.

Readers, those days are here at last.  A summer full of late-night porch-sitting to the sound of peepers and the “shhhhh” of the baby monitor stretch in front of me.  Time to put my feet up on my hubby’s lap and have a conversation.

Meatball subs |

I am inspired by another food blogger that I have recently started following – Ashley Rodriguez of Not Without Salt.  I await her posts with baited breath, and I aspire to create such beautiful food, to write such compelling and relatable prose.  Most weeks, she writes “dates with my husband,” a description of the one evening a week that she and her partner protect to share a beautiful meal, their thoughts, and their dreams (and sometimes episodes of their favourite television show).  She recently signed a book deal for a cookbook themed around these dates – I cannot wait until I can buy it.   One of my favourite date night recipes she has shared was for these meatball subs, and I couldn’t resist making them.

Meatball subs |

These sandwiches were pungently garlicky, and the nutty basil pesto played off the tomato sauce – a match made in heaven.  They would be perfect, peeled of their aluminum foil wrappers and paired with a glass of wine on the porch some warm summer night while the baby’s asleep.

Meatball subs |

Here’s what you need AND what you do:

for the pesto –

  • 2 tbsp. garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup arugula (I didn’t have any so I used spinach…still tasty!)
  • 1/4 cup toasted almonds
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. grated fresh Parmesan
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4-1/2 cup mayonnaise

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor until they form a paste.  Stir in the mayo, and season to taste.

For the meatballs –

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced finely
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper

Saute the onions in 1 tbsp. of the olive oil until they’re soft.  Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and use your hands or a spoon to work them together.  Place the second tbsp. of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat.  As the pan heats, begin to form meatballs (about 2″ in diameter) and sear them until just browned in the oil.  Once seared, set the meatballs aside.

for the tomato sauce –

  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar

Use some of the pan juices from the meatballs to saute the garlic until soft.  Add the tomatoes and then add the meatballs back in.  Allow them to simmer over medium heat for approximately 20 minutes.

for the sandwiches –

  • Melty cheese of your choice – I used goat cheddar
  • Sub buns

Preheat your oven to 350F.  Cut a sub bun in half and load in your meatballs and big dollops of the pesto and top with cheese.  Wrap the whole thing in aluminum foil and place in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese melts.

Meatball subs |


Recipe slightly adapted from Not Without Salt.

2 comments on “Meatball Subs with Almond Basil Pesto

  1. I’ve never heard of using mayo in the pesto… but it helped make it creamy which was neat. Your photos inspired me to try the recipe and…
    It’s a Keeper : ) Thank You

    • Awesome, good to hear! Yeah, I guess it’s not a true pesto but for the fact that it has basil, but it is pretty addictive and delicious!

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