Mushroom Meatball Subs: For the love of family holidays

Mushroom meatball sub recipe

By Renate Engelbrecht

Monday, Dec 06

Isn’t it amazing how food is so intricately interwoven with our daily lives? Somehow, it is always linked to a memory – whether it is good or bad, happy or sad. Food – like these subs – has a way of bringing people together through storytelling – sharing memories and happenings sparked by the smell of an ingredient or the taste of a dish.

The moment I smell the zest of citrus, I am transported to a hot day in the Kruger National Park where my family and I sat under Akasia trees, indulging in fresh oranges from the area.

Sugar reminds me of the day a mischievous monkey stole a sachet of sugar right out of my hand while I was having a cup of coffee, and of the time I was on a media trip at Sun City and a baboon opened my bedroom window while I was sitting on the bed, walked straight to the in-room coffee station and grabbed the sugar and Mantelli’s biscuits. He didn’t appreciate me attempting to chase him away, which resulted in me locking myself in the bathroom while he happily enjoyed my Mantelli’s biscuits, on my bed!

READ: Little Fields – Precious family moments in the Midlands

Like these stories, subs remind me of family holidays in the bush. When we moved to Joburg from the Free State (yes, I am a small-town girl), my parents knew that we would want a place to escape to. A place that’s close enough that one could go there over weekends and over holidays, where we could feel free. My parents bought timeshare in a small game reserve close to Vaalwater and we’ve been going there for five weeks of the year since 2005. Subs were included in the meal plan almost every time – an easy meal and something my mother knew everyone loved. It soon became a family tradition, and everyone jumped in and helped in the kitchen, which made it quite a fun family event.

But, change is often as good as a holiday and that is why I think this recipe from the South African Mushroom Farmers’ Association is a healthy and trendy twist to the subs we as a family have come to love so much.

Mushroom meatball subs
Mushroom meatball subs. Image: SAMFA

Mushroom Meatball Subs

Serves 6


For the mushroom meatballs:

500g Portabellini mushrooms, finely diced

1 onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 cup quinoa, cooked

1 x 400g tin red kidney beans, drained, rinsed and lightly mashed

1 large egg, lightly beaten

¼ cup breadcrumbs

½ cup flour

¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

½ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

1 Tbsp dried oregano

1 tsp salt

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce:

1 x 400g tin crushed tomatoes

1 Tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup fresh basil leaves

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp chilli flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

For the buns:

6 brioche style hotdog buns

2 Tbsp butter, melted

For garnish:

1 bunch fresh basil leaves

Parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 180˚C

For the meatballs:

Drizzle olive oil into a large frying pan, sauté the onions and garlic until fragrant.

Add the finely chopped mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms have released all their liquid and begin to brown. Set aside and allow to cool.

In a large bowl combine the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

Once the mushrooms have cooled add them to the bowl and mix.

Roll the mixture into golf ball sized balls.

Spread out evenly onto a metal baking tray and bake for 20 min at 180˚C.

For the sauce:

In a small saucepan sauté the garlic in olive oil until fragrant. Add the tinned tomatoes, basil leaves and oregano. Simmer until thick, stirring occasionally. Once the sauce has thickened remove the basil leaves and season with salt, pepper and chili flakes.

For the buns:

Cut each bun in half and brush the insides with melted butter. Toast the buns, cut side down, in a dry pan over medium heat until golden brown.

To assemble the subs:

Begin by spreading the sauce over the bottoms of each bun. Add the meatballs on top and liberally grate Parmesan cheese over them (best to do this while the meatballs are still hot so the cheese will slightly melt and stick to the meatballs).

Top with fresh basil leaves, add the top bun and enjoy!


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