For our episode dedicated to taking what's good and making it great, Kelsey Nixon shares two back-pocket recipes. She starts with super-simple five-ingredient meatballs, which she pairs with a homemade tomato sauce (jarred works, too). They are delish on their own, but also "leveled up" into hero sandwiches with melty mozzarella, Parm and basil! 

Pro Tip from Kelsey: For another serving option, toss the meatballs in tomato sauce with your favorite pasta. 


For the 5-Ingredient Meatballs:
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • ½ white onion, grated
  • ½ cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 large egg
For the Tomato Sauce:
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • One 28-ounce can San Marzano whole plum tomatoes
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
  • Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • 5-Ingredient Meatballs (above)
  • Chopped parsley, to top
  • Grated Parm, to top
For the Heroes:
  • 6 hero rolls, split
  • A few tablespoons butter, melted
  • 12 slices mozzarella cheese
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves, torn


Serves: 6


For the meatballs, preheat the broiler to low. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place a rack inside the baking sheet. 

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the meatball ingredients. Mix to combine, but avoid overmixing. Once combined, portion into golf ball-size meatballs and place onto rack over the lined baking sheet. (I like to use a cookie scoop for this step so that they're all evenly sized.) Transfer to oven and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they begin to turn golden brown. 

For the sauce, in a large saucepan set over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and starting to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juices, breaking them up with the back of a wooden spoon, and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer until the sauce has thickened, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the basil and season with salt and pepper. At this point, the tomato sauce will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1 week, and up to 6 months in the freezer. 

Put the meatballs in the simmering sauce. Gently toss to coat and cook for 5 minutes. Top with chopped parsley and grated Parm. You can serve the meatballs like this with your favorite pasta or in the heroes below. 

For the heroes, put the rolls on a baking sheet, cut-side up. Brush with melted butter and layer 2 slices of cheese on each roll. Toast in the oven until the tops are golden and the cheese is melted. Put 3 to 4 meatballs on each roll, spoon some of the sauce over them and top with the Parmesan and basil.