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.

  • Yield about 20 sliders


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.