Meatball Sub Cupcakes are a bite sized version of meatball subs perfect for get togethers and entertaining. A cute 2 bite appetizer your guests will devour.
Meatball Sub Cupcakes Recipe
Every family gathering, get together, movie night, game day I immediately start thinking – what fun appetizer could I serve?! My mind is always running with new recipes. Appetizers and finger foods are often my favorite recipes to create. The reason being, they are the foods served while entertaining and having fun.
If I’m having a board game night with a group of family or friends I would love to serve meatballs subs but it’s not really ideal to be eating a messy sub while playing games. That is why appetizers and finger foods are so fun. No matter what kind of entertaining it is, there is always room for a cute and tidy two bite appetizer (ok… I’m lying to you when I say these are two bite. I eat them in one bite with no shame they are just that good!).
For me, sitting around a table talking with friends, playing games and snacking on delicious appetizers is the perfect night! Or having a movie night and setting up a snack bar loaded with appetizers and desserts. Then, filling a plate and sitting back relaxing, snacking and watching movies is amazing. Not to mention, my guests always get so excited to see what appetizers will be served. They can’t wait to dig in!
2 Bite Appetizer Recipe
These meatball sub upcakes are perfect for lunch, dinner or a snack! Not to mention, everyone loves a meatball sub for game time, but they do get a bit messy! With these meatball sub cupcakes you get all the great flavors of a messy meatball sub, in a cute and tidy 2 bite form. They’re the perfect little two bite party food.
Meatball subs are simply amazing! There’s something special and heart warming about meatballs, marinara sauce and melted cheese! These appetizer bites take all your favorite flavors from meatball subs and packs them into a super easy, bite sized delight!
Not only are they delicious, they are ready to eat in under 30 minutes! You can even freeze leftovers for a quick meal or snack or make them ahead of time and keep them frozen until ready to bake.
I almost forgot to mention the fun part of making this recipe… it’s made in a mini muffin tin! These are so easy to make, you just slice up the dough into squares and press the pieces into a mini muffin tin to form the cups for these meatball sub cups. No need to worry about shaping dough perfectly, they simply get formed in a mini muffin tin.
I love the hack of using a mini muffin tin to easily make appetizers in large volumes, check out my Spinach Artichoke Dip Wonton Cups or my Sweet Chili Chicken Wonton Tacos to see two more unique ways to use a mini muffin tin!
Ok now the important part, how to make these meatball sub cupcakes. Let’s get cooking!
What is in Meatball Sub Cupcakes?
- Cooked Meatballs – I love using homemade meatballs for this recipe (especially my healthy Turkey Meatballs) but you can also use store bought meatballs. You can buy fresh meatballs and bake them first, or use frozen cooked meatballs and thaw them.
- Crescent Rolls – if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I’m always on the lookout for ways to transform store bought dough into something special! When you take a bite of these meatball sub cupcakes you won’t believe how the crescent dough transforms into the perfect crispy, soft, bread cup with a hint of sweetness!
- Marinara Sauce – when planning a get together and planning what to serve, I try to have a few ‘shortcuts’ on hand so that I don’t get overworked the day of. Using store bought marinara is one of those shortcuts. A fair compromise is making the meatballs homemade and using store bought marinara , or vice versa. Or use both store bought, honestly no one will know!
- Mozzarella – the classic flavor or mozzarella cheese is delicious in this recipe but you can use any cheese you like. I’ve made these with provolone, Swiss cheese, marble, Havarti and even spicy Havarti for a kick of spice! This recipe is great because you can use up any leftover cheese you have on hand in your fridge.
- Parmesan Cheese and Fresh Basil – two optional garnishes but highly recommended. A sprinkle of fresh grated parmesan cheese and chopped basil goes a long way in this recipe! Right before serving garnish and the heat of the meatballs will bring out the aroma of the parmesan and basil. Your kitchen will instantly be filled will scents of Italy.
How to Make Meatball Sub Cupcakes
Full Printable Recipe at Bottom of Page
Shape the Cupcakes
1 Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 24 cup mini muffin tin, or two 12 cup mini muffin tins with cooking spray.
2 Unroll the Pillsbury Crescent roll sheet onto cutting board. Firmly pinch and press perforations to seal completely. Cut dough into 24 equal squares (6 by 4 grid cuts).
Assemble and Bake
1 In medium sized bowl, stir together the meatballs into the marinara sauce until the meatballs are evenly coated in sauce.
2 Place 1 dough square into each mini muffin tin cup and gently press down to form the cups.
3 Evenly divide half of the mozzarella cheese into the bottoms of the cups (half of the cheese is saved for topping the meatballs).
4 Place 1 meatball into each cup and top with an additional teaspoon of marinara sauce.
5 Evenly divide the remaining shredded cheese on top of the meatballs.
6 Bake the meatballs cupcakes on the middle rack of the oven for 12-15 minutes, until cheese begins to melt and the crescent dough is golden brown. Note: ensure to bake on the middle rack of your oven for the dough to evenly bake. If baked too high the tops may burn, if baked too low the bottoms may burn. Alternatively, these can also be Air Fried in a mini muffin tin.
7 Remove from the oven and place the muffin tin a cooling rack.
Garnish and Serve
Garish with fresh basil and grated Parmesan.
Serve and enjoy! Optional: serve with your favorite dipping sauce, more marinara, alfredo sauce, pesto, garlic dipping sauce, ranch dressing, etc.!
Make Ahead Tips and Tricks
- Meatballs – there is no judgement here, homemade or store bought meatballs are 100% perfect for this recipe! I always keep a bag of frozen meatballs in the freezer for an easy last minute appetizer, quick lunch or dinner. The meatballs get completely transformed in this recipe that your guests will never guess you used store bought meatballs.
- Frozen store bought meatballs are also perfect for my easy Sweet and Sour Meatballs Recipe (linked here)!
- Marinara – again there is no judgment here, nor will there be when you serve these appetizer bites if you use store bought marinara. There are so many high quality marinara sauces that can be bought at your local grocery store, or check out your local Italian bakery. Often they are bottling up their families secret recipe for classic Italian marinara.
- Pre-Cook – the large difference between these meatball sub cupcakes and meatball subs is that they can be made in advance! I would not recommend making a meatball sub in advance as the sauce turns the bread into a soggy mess. However, these meatball sub cupcakes are the perfect made a head appetizer as they reheat perfectly and do not get soggy. Simply follow the recipe as usual. Pre-cook the cupcakes and 10 minutes before serving pop them back into the oven at 350°F for 5 – 10 minutes, or until warmed through.
Meatball Sub Cupcakes Flavor Variations
- Sauce – instead of classic marinara sauce try Garlic Alfredo (my recipe is a family favorite!) sauce or pesto! This recipe makes 24 cupcakes, you could make a combination of different flavors – alfredo, pesto, marinara – 8 of each flavor.
- Cheese – get creative with the cheese. If you like a bit of spice swap out the mozzarella cheese for a jalapeno Monterrey jack or a pimento cheese!
- Meatballs – for a quick recipe you can use store bought Italian style beef meatballs but you can also use any kind of meatball, turkey, vegetarian, chicken, the possibilities are endless.
To freeze, transfer cooled baked meatball cups to an air tight freezer safe container or freezer Ziploc bag. If using an air tight container, freeze in a single layer or place a piece of parchment paper between layers if stacking. If you have garnished with basil I recommend removing the basil leaves from the leftover cups as basil does not freeze or reheat well.
To reheat from frozen, preheat oven to 350°F. Place frozen cupcakes on a sheet sheet pan or baking tray and loosely cover with tin foil that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Bake covered 15-20 minutes or until heated through. Or thaw the cupcakes in the fridge over night and reheat for 5-10 minutes in the oven on sheet pan or baking tray covered with foil.
Alternatively, you can use an Air Fryer. I suggest reheating after allowing the cupcakes to thaw in the fridge overnight. Once thawed, place in the Air Fryer at 400°F for 5 minutes, or until warmed through.
Looking for More Simple Appetizers?
These are some of my most popular simple appetizers!
- Jalapeno Popper Wonton Cups – a crispy and creamy finger food perfect for game day! The filling is loaded with cheese, bacon, jalapenos and garlic. Baked in crispy wonton cups for a grab and go snack.
- Mexican Street Corn Dip – features all the classic flavors of elotes. The dip is packed with flavor from green chilies, cotija cheese, green onions and lime juice!
- Avocado Egg Rolls – whether it’s for a party or for your own private dinner, these Avocado Egg Rolls made in an air fryer are the appetizer to make. Crispy and golden on the outside, creamy and decadent on the inside you have to try these!
Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, may earn me a small commission.
Meatball Sub Cupcakes
- or Oven
- 1 tube Pillsbury Crescent Rolls, (8 oz) refrigerated, or 1 tube or Crescent Sheets, or 1 tube of Pizza Dough
- 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 24 cooked meatballs, or cooked frozen meatballs that have been thawed
- 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce, or tomato pasta sauce
- Fresh basil, for garnish, optional
- Grated parmesan, for garnish, optional
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 24 cup mini muffin tin, or two 12 cup mini muffin tins with cooking spray.
- Unroll the Pillsbury Crescent roll sheet onto cutting board. Firmly pinch and press perforations to seal completely. Cut dough into 24 equal squares (6 by 4 grid cuts).
- In medium sized bowl, stir together the meatballs into the marinara sauce until the meatballs are evenly coated in sauce.
- Place 1 dough square into each mini muffin tin cup and gently press down to form the cups.
- Evenly divide half of the mozzarella cheese into the bottoms of the cups (half of the cheese is saved for topping the meatballs).
- Place 1 meatball into each cup and top with an additional teaspoon of marinara sauce.
- Evenly divide the remaining shredded cheese on top of the meatballs.
- Bake the meatballs cupcakes on the middle rack of the oven for 12-15 minutes, until cheese begins to melt and the crescent dough is golden brown. Note: ensure to bake on the middle rack of your oven for the dough to evenly bake. If baked too high the tops may burn, if baked too low the bottoms may burn.
- Remove from the oven and place the muffin tin a cooling rack.
- Optional: Garish with fresh basil and grated Parmesan.
- Serve and enjoy! Optional: serve with your favorite dipping sauce, more marinara, alfredo sauce, pesto, garlic dipping sauce, ranch dressing, etc.!
- AIR FRYER COOKING METHODPreheat Air Fryer to 350°F. Depending on the size of your air fryer, spray a 24 cup mini muffin tin, or two 12 cup mini muffin tins with cooking spray. Basket style air fryer will require 2 tins cooked one at a time.Air Fryer for 10 – 12 minutes or until the crescent dough is golden brown and the cheese is melted.