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When it comes to cooking for sports fans, chef Josh Capon—the former chef and partner of Bash Burger at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets—knows his stuff. His meatball hero bar, featuring roasted peppers, sauteed mushrooms and onions, three types of cheese and chili paste, is perfect for tailgating at your favorite sporting event or watching a game at home with friends at home. You do all the work in advance and then can just sit back and relax, says Josh, who pivoted during Covid and co-founded the VCR hospitality group in 2021. And who doesn't love meatballs?! 

Pro Tip from Josh: The panade helps hold the meatballs together and also makes them nice and moist. 

For more recipes from our "Game Day" episode, check out Rach's Beef and Chorizo Burgers, Rashad Jennings' Sliders With Bacon & Sesame Slaw and Emily Hutchinson's Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake.


  • Olive oil for greasing the pans and cooking the mushrooms
For the Panade:
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 slices Italian bread, cut off crust, then cut into cubes
  • 1/3 cup breadcrumbs
For the Meatballs:
  • 2 ½ pounds ground beef
  • 4 cloves garlic, grated
  • ½ cup fresh basil, chopped
  • ½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan, plus extra for garnish
  • Dried Sicilian oregano, for garnish
For the Sauce:
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 3 yellow onions, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Three 1-pound cans crushed San Marzano tomatoes
  • Salt and black pepper
For the Toppings:
  • 3 bell peppers, any color(s)
  • EVOO
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • Smoked mozzarella, sliced
  • Buffalo mozzarella, sliced
  • Burrata, sliced
  • Calabrian chili paste
  • Hot cherry peppers
  • Basil leaves
  • 8 sub rolls, sliced


Serves: 8


Preheat oven to 450°F. Grease a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil. 

For the panade, mix together the cream, egg, salt, pepper, bread and breadcrumbs by hand in a medium bowl. 

For the meatballs, place the beef in a large bowl and add the garlic, basil, parsley, chili flakes, salt, pepper, ricotta, Parmesan and panade. Mix with your hands until just combined; do not overmix. 

Form the mixture into about 24 meatballs and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a large stock pot over medium heat, add the olive oil, onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Add the chili flakes and bay leaf and stir for a few seconds. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.

Carefully add the meatballs (so they don't break) and any juices on the baking sheet to the simmering sauce, cover and simmer over low heat for 1 hour. 

Meanwhile, prepare the toppings. Char the skin of the peppers on burners directly over the gas flame, turning them every few minutes so they char evenly. If you don't have a gas range, you can broil them instead. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let sit for several minutes. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel off the skin, discard the seeds and slice the flesh into strips. Toss in a serving bowl with some EVOO and the smashed garlic cloves and season with salt and pepper. 

Heat about ¼ cup of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and saute, stirring occasionally, until they start to caramelize. Raise the heat to high, add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are golden brown, adding more oil, if needed. Transfer to a serving bowl. 

Arrange the cheeses, chili paste, cherry peppers and basil in bowls and set the rolls on a platter. Transfer the meatballs and sauce to a serving dish and garnish with extra grated Parm, dried oregano and a drizzle of EVOO. Let guests build their own meatball heroes.