Show me a non-vegetarian who claims not to like meatball subs, and I’ll show you a liar.
Meatballs, marinara sauce, cheese. All on a sub roll. To those not averse to eating animals and animal products, heaven on a bun.
If I had to bet on it, I’d say more than one conscious diet has been ruined when a drunken vegetarian or vegan stumbled by a late-night Italian sub shop, only to be drawn by the irresistible call of the meatball sub which rivals that of Homer’s mythical Sirens.
But now, my vegetarian friends, heaven on a bun is no longer forbidden to us.
Meet the Wheatball
This one comes from Robin Robertson’s Vegan on the Cheap, and cheap it is. According to Robin, these “wheatball” sandwiches come in at less than $1.50 per serving.
Of course, that’s if you make your marinara sauce from scratch and use Robin’s recipe for Cheezee sauce instead of paying for vegan mozzarella cheese. When Erin and Christine tag-teamed this recipe last night, they did all of that. (Our splurge was on the Ezekiel sprouted buns.)
But Robin recommends getting ready-made marinara and vegan cheese if you’re strapped for time (and your budget can handle an extravagant two dollars per serving). At the end of this post, I’ve provided her recipe for Cheezee sauce, but figured I’d let you insert your favorite marinara sauce, storebought or homemade.
These are called “wheatball” sandwiches, but don’t let that name turn you off. The base of the wheatballs is mainly chickpeas and mushrooms, with some breadcrumbs and wheat gluten included to provide the right texture.
And you know what? These subs are really good. You can’t go into it expecting a meatball sub, because it’s not that. But it’s a great sandwich that seems like a meatball sub, and I’m very happy with that. We’ll be making this recipe again.
My biggest gripe is one that applies to nearly every veggie burger or veggie meatball—they’re not firm the way real burgers or meatballs are. But I’m used to that by now, and you probably are too.
So make these and enjoy a little bit of animal-free heaven. Then head to Robin’s blog to tell her thanks.
From Vegan on the Cheap, by Robin Robertson, Wiley, 2010
- 12 to 16 Wheatballs (recipe below)
- 2 cups Marinara Sauce
- 1/3 cup Cheezee Sauce (recipe below)
- 4 small sub rolls or other sandwich rolls
1. In a large saucepan, combine the wheatballs and marinara sauce, and heat over medium heat. Use a potato ricer to smash and flatten the balls, retaining some shape and texture. Cook stirring, until heated through, about 5 minutes. Keep warm. Preheat the broiler.
2. Heat the cheezee sauce in a small saucepan and keep warm.
3. Split the sub rolls and place them, cut side up, on a baking sheet. Toast the rolls, then arrange them on plates.
4. Divide the wheatball mixture and drizzle each with some of the cheezee sauce. Serve hot.
Makes about 28 wheatballs
- 1 1/2 cups cooked or 1 (15.5-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup chopped white mushrooms
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for cooking
- 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup wheat gluten flour (vital wheat gluten)
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1. In a food processor, combine the chickpeas, mushrooms, garlic, and parsley and pulse until coarsely ground, but not pureed. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse to combine.
2. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the mixture into a large bowl and knead the mixture until well blended, about 2 minutes.
3. Pinch off a small piece of the mixture, press it together in your hand, then roll into a 1 1/2-inch ball. Repeat with the remaining mixture.
4. In a large skillet, heat a thin layer of oil over medium heat. Add the wheatballs, in batches if necessary, and cook until browned all over, moving them in the pan as needed for even browning, about 5 minutes.
5. Repeat until all the wheatballs are cooked. They are now ready to use in recipes. If not using right away, cool completely, then cover and refrigerate or freeze until needed. Properly stored, they will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days or in the freezer for 3 to 4 weeks.
Makes about 2 1/2 cups
- 2/3 cup nutritional yeast
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 cups plain unsweetened soy milk or water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
1. In a medium saucepan, combine the yeast, cornstarch, salt, and garlic powder. Turn the heat on medium and whisk in the soy milk. Cook, stirring, until the sauce thickens, about 1 minute.
2. Remove from the heat and stir in the oil, lemon juice, vinegar, and mustard. The sauce is now ready to use. If not using right away, refrigerate the sauce in a container with a tight-fitting lid, where it will keep for several days.