Clever Pizzaiola Meatball Subs are a quick and easy kid-friendly meal, adapted from the 1993 cookbook Cooking with Regis & Kathie Lee. The “clever” in the title refers not to the ingenuity of the recipe – this one is actually pretty straightforward – but to the recipe’s original authors: the Clever Cleaver Brothers. I have vague recollections of these guys on daytime TV in the mid-90s and, somewhat remarkably, they’re still together two and a half decades later. They aren’t actually brothers: Lee N. Gerovitz and Steve Cassarino are professional chefs with a vaudeville-style act. Their schtick is a mix of screwball comedy and silly costumes with subtle homoerotic undertones. They’re an awful lot of fun.
The Clever Cleaver Brothers were frequent guests on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, and nine of their recipes made their way into Cooking with Regis & Kathie Lee. Each recipe is accompanied by a rundown of their appearances, which usually featured ridiculous costumes and absurd songs. On the episode which featured Pizzaiola Meatballs they came dressed in full Halloween regalia. (What do meatballs have to do with Halloween? Who knows and who cares?) The recipe itself is one of several recipes on this site that address my hankering for pizza when I can’t be bothered to make pizza. These are traditional seasoned meatballs stuffed with pepperoni and mozzarella. They are more meatball than pizza, but they still scratch the itch.
Pizzaiola Meatballs will work just fine in any spaghetti and meatballs recipe, but when my family sees meatballs this size we think meatball subs. And these make for some great meatball subs. I’ve never lived out East and haven’t experienced a “real” meatball sub, but I used a good quality jarred Arrabiata sauce and they turned out great. Feel free to substitute your favorite marinara sauce. Add a Caesar salad or a green vegetable and you’ve got a quick(ish) weeknight dinner that’s frankly better than ordering out for pizza. Enjoy!
- Preheat the oven to 350º F
- Mix ground beef with egg whites and seasonings, then add bread crumbs as needed to reduce the moisture and make it pliable.
- Divide the meat mixture into 8 equal parts. Roll them into balls and then flatten.
- Slice pepperoni into thin ribbons. Add pepperoni bits and mozzarella cheese to each ball. Fold the edges up to fully encase the cheese and pepperoni in the meatball. Roll gently back into a ball shape, taking care to cover any seams that might let the cheese leak out.
- Place the meatballs into a large baking dish and bake uncovered for 25 minutes.
- While the meatballs are cooking bring spaghetti sauce to a simmer in a large pot on the stovetop.
- When the meatballs are finished drain any excess fat and add them to the spaghetti sauce. Stir gently and simmer for 3-5 minutes.
- Serve in a sliced sandwich roll and top with any remaining pepperoni and mozzarella cheese.