45 mins



fresh white bread

whole milk

500g beef mince

500g pork mince

1 brown onion

4 garlic cloves

fresh parsley

ground fennel seeds

3 eggs

500g passata

1 large ciabatta loaf

mozzarella cheese

vegetable oil

salt and pepper


Preheat the oven to 180°C fan (200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6).


First up, make your meatballs. Start by placing 120g of crustless white bread in a bowl. Pour enough milk over the bread so it is covered, and then leave to soak and absorb.


Add the beef mince, pork mince, a finely diced brown onion, 2 grated garlic cloves, half a bunch of chopped parsley, 2 teaspoons of ground fennel seeds, 3 egg yolks, a good sprinkle of salt and pepper and your milk-soaked bread. Mix everything together with your hands and divide into 12 balls.


Place a frying pan over a medium–high heat with a good glug of vegetable oil. When the oil it hot, place the balls in the pan. Turn them after 3–4 minutes, and keep turning until brown on all sides. Place in the hot oven for 15–20 minutes until cooked through. Remove the balls and place on a plate.


Wipe out the pan, and then place back on the heat. Fry 2 finely chopped garlic cloves for 1 minute, then add the passata and 250 ml of water. Season with salt and pepper, and then add another half bunch of chopped parsley. Mix everything together, and simmer until thickened.


At this point, reintroduce the meatballs to the pan. Turn the balls around in the sauce, and leave to cook over a medium heat for 7 more minutes, bathing the balls regularly.


Assembly time. Cut a large ciabatta loaf in half lengthways, and spoon over some of your marinara sauce onto the bottom half. Then add the meatballs, and cover them with the remaining sauce. Lay a thin slice of mozzarella over each ball, sprinkle over a few more ground fennel seeds, and place the sub under a grill for 7 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Place the top half under as well so it can toast.


When the cheese has melted, remove the sub and place on a board. Scatter some fennel seeds over the cheese to bring real freshness. Take the top half of the loaf and give it a good drizzle of olive oil. Place it back on top of the meatballs, carve it up and enjoy!


© MOB Kitchen: Big Flavors on a Small Budget by Ben Lebus, Pavilion, 2019. Photographs © Liz and Max Haarala Hamilton.