Ever since trying the ham and cheese sliders last year, I’ve been pretty much smitten with the whole concept of sliders in general.  It’s an awesome sandwich, but small!  This is particularly useful for me right now as I can only eat a few bites of most meals before being too full to continue.  Meatball subs rank pretty high up there on my list of favorite sandwiches, so when I saw this version of meatball sliders with pesto recently on Georgia’s blog, I was very excited about them.  I normally add some chopped fresh basil to my subs, but the use of pesto here is brilliant and I wish I had thought of it sooner.  A wonderful thing about this meal is its flexibility – have spaghetti and meatballs one night, and meatball sliders later in the week.

I went ahead and made a double batch of meatballs so I could freeze half for baby time.  (Stay tuned for a post on how I have stocked my freezer very soon.)  We of course only made enough sandwiches to feed ourselves for one dinner, but I have no doubt that these would be a huge hit at a party.  You could make the meatballs, sauce, and pesto well in advance so that only assembly would be needed right before party time.  I am sure these will make an appearance at a party in my future, and like all the other times I have served sliders, I am sure they will disappear in no time.


For the sauce:
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28 oz.) can tomato puree
1 (28 oz.) can tomato sauce
2 tsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. sugar
Water (optional)

For the meatballs:
½ cup breadcrumbs, divided (I like panko)
¼ cup milk
1 lb. ground beef
1 egg
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. dried parsley
½ tsp. dried basil

For the pesto:
1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
2 small cloves garlic
2 tbsp. pine nuts
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the sliders:
About 2 dozen white dinner rolls
Spray olive oil
Sliced provolone cheese (about 12 slices, depending on size)


  • 01

    To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the onion to the pot and sauté until tender, 5-8 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, stirring, about 1 minute.  Add the tomato puree, tomato sauce, parsley, basil, oregano, salt and sugar.  Add water to thin the sauce out to your desired consistency.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer.  Let simmer for at least 2 hours.

  • 02

    To make the meatballs, combine ¼ cup of the breadcrumbs with the milk in a medium mixing bowl.  Let stand 10 minutes.  Add the remaining breadcrumbs, ground beef, egg, garlic, salt, pepper, parsley and basil to the bowl.  Mix well until thoroughly combined.  Form into meatballs, about 1¼ inches in diameter.  Add the meatballs to the simmering sauce about 45 minutes before the sauce is finished.  Cover and let simmer until the meatballs are cooked through, 35-45 minutes.

  • 03

    To make the pesto, combine the basil, garlic and pine nuts in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse until finely chopped.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  With the processor running, add the olive oil in a steady stream through the feed tube until well incorporated.  Transfer the mixture to a small bowl and stir in the grated Parmesan.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

  • 04

    To assemble the sliders, preheat the oven to 400˚ F.  Slice the dinner rolls in half and lay open on a baking sheet.  Spray the rolls lightly with olive oil.  Bake for 5 minutes, just until lightly toasted.  Slice a cooked meatball in half and place both halves on the bottom portion of a roll, flat side down.  Spoon a small amount of sauce over the meatball.  Top with sliced provolone.  Repeat with the remaining rolls.  Bake again, 5 minutes more, just until the cheese is melted.  Spoon a small amount of additional sauce over the provolone, and finish small spoonful of the pesto on top.  Serve immediately.


  • I make the ham & cheese and turkey w/ pesto sliders for a baby shower last week. (I used your perfect bun recipe adapted small for the sliders) Everyone loved them. I was surprised to see the leftovers get eaten for lunch the next day…sandwich leftovers actually getting eaten? I’ve never seen such a thing! Thanks for all your recipes, if it were not for your pictures and availability through post explanations, I wouldn’t be trying new things.

  • Those look so scrumptious! What droolworthy sliders.



  • Brilliant! I simply adore pesto and I like anything mini. I cannot WAIT to make these! :)

  • Adding pesto to a meatball slider is such a good idea! Your sliders look so delicious.

  • You even made your own pesto?? I’m impressed.

  • Kim

    These look ABSOLUTELY delicious. Sliders are pretty rare here in the UK, but they’re such a cute little food. Lovely!

  • You’re the reason I’m smitten with sliders as well! This sounds like a great flavor combo!

  • The basil pesto looks so awesome. Great idea!

  • I bookmarked these sliders as well – I loved the addition of pesto. Now that they have Annie-approval, I really can’t wait to make them!

  • Tim

    Quick question: How long is the homeade pesto good for?

  • i *just* saw slider buns at my grocery store for the first time last night! it’s the little things that get me excited – haha. can’t find basil anywhere right now though – pesto will have to wait a little while longer!

  • These are too cute. I love all things mini and this combination of flavors sounds right up my alley. :)

  • Annie

    Please see the FAQ page.

  • This are so cute! I love them. I need to host a party so I can made them!

  • Those look delicious! Your photos are amazing! (Just found your blog through Babble).

  • Could that be any more enticing looking? Beautifully photographed and written. I’ve just started blogging about cancer nutrition and healthy recipes and your gorgeous blog is an inspiration. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  • Those look wonderful!

  • jamie

    i’m another one that fell in love with your ham & cheese sliders. so these are definitely going on my list. i’m also REALLY looking forward to your stocked freezer post! i’m due in about a month and have nothing but life-after-baby prep on my brain.

  • Mmm, those heartily delicious. You’re right that they’re the perfect size too; sometimes an entire normal-sized sub can be too big when you have something as heavy as meatballs in it. Great party idea! ^_^

  • I love the addition of pesto to these sliders!

  • Oh-la-la! How good do these look? I took love meatball subs, but I’m never able to eat them before they begin to completely fall apart. I love the idea of meatball sliders… will definitely be making these soon!

  • Oh my goodness, these mini sliders are just adorable! I love the basil pesto on top, yum!

  • These are adorable and look really tasty too!

  • I wish you could have seen my eyes when I scrolled down and saw this picture! They got huge! Yummmmm!

  • Thanks for sharing You are an inspiration. I wish I had more time to bake, but after baking 4 kiddos – I spend most of my time fulfilling their needs. Luckily one of their needs is to eat & thanks to you, I have many new ideas :)

  • I love the combination of flavors here! I’m drooling! These are a must have for my next friend gathering :)

  • Our household would go gaga for these! We LOVE meatball subs and in slider form? Awesome! The addition of pesto puts it over the top!

  • Ann

    I love meatballs. I’m going to have to make meatball sliders really soon!

  • They would definitely disappear if I were around them…yum!

  • These little sliders look amazing! Haven’t had a meatball sub in forever. Definitely need to make this for my hubby. Yum!

  • Oh wow, Annie, I’m sorry I didn’t see this post sooner! How exciting that you made and enjoyed these so much. Thanks for crediting me and sharing your own beautiful photos! :)

  • bergamot

    These sliders look really delicious.

  • These looks amazingly delicious!!! Congrats on top 9!!:)

  • These are picture perfect and dream-a-licious.

  • WOW! Those look delicious! Thanks for the inspiring recipe. My bf told me I have to make these asap!

  • Mary Ruth

    Made these tonight and the family already wants to know when we can have them again! I am definitely making the pull apart bread and mac and cheese in the near future! Thanks Annie.

  • I’m not a huge fan of tomato based sauces, but am thinking of turning these into “meatball burgers” with the pesto sauce which is a fan favorite. Think the burgers could do ok on the grill??

  • I made these last night and they were amazing! I can’t believe how well the pesto complements the other flavors in these sliders. I like how the recipe makes enough for leftovers- we had spaghetti and meatballs the first night and sliders the second, but the sliders were so good I think we’ll have those twice next time. Thanks for another great recipe!

  • I made these tonight and they were awesome! So cute and so delicious! I simmered the sauce for just over an hour and it was still great. Thanks!

  • Allison B

    Hi Annie,

    I’m thinking about making this recipe because I’m growing a ton of herbs in my garden and therefore need something to do with them (hence lots of dinners with pesto). I know you said to make the sauce in a large stockpot, but could I use a crock pot instead?


  • Annie

    Hi Allison,
    I’ve never used a crock pot so I’m not familiar with cooking in them. The only way to know if it works is to try it and see. Good luck!

  • Sherlly

    Hi there! I made this for a superbowl party i threw and they were a hit! Super delicious and easy to make. Great recipe! A keeper!

  • Jenh52384

    Made these tonight, AMAZING!!!!

  • Noorah119

    I made these for lunch and they were sooo good. My husband said.. “Wow.. I’m so lucky to be married to you”.. :D

  • Gottkathy

    This is not my recipe but IMO I bet they would be yummy on the grill.

  • Emma

    I’ve got to try these at our next party, and I agree that the use of pesto is brilliant. By the way, if you’re ever looking for ideas for recipes to post, I’d love to see a full-sized version of meatball subs! Maybe with homemade sandwich rolls?