This spicy Italian burger, oozing creamy mozzarella from every bite with bursts of sweet roasted red peppers and tangy pesto sauce… is an all-time crowd pleaser. I served all 3 of the international burgers (from recipes shown on this site) on 4th of July this year… and this was voted the favorite of the night. This burger is probably the most time intensive of all the ones I do… but completely worth the effort.
1 lb ground turkey – dark meat if possible (does not dry out as bad)
1 lb sweet Italian turkey sausage (usually found in links)
1 tbsp fresh garlic
1 tbsp finely chopped dry oregano
1 cup finely chopped fresh basil (divided – use 1 tbsp for meat mixture)
1 tbsp finely chopped dry thyme
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
8oz fresh mozzarella
1 sliced red bell pepper
1 cup spinach leaves (remove stems)
4 sourdough baker’s roll
finely chopped fresh basil (remaining cup)
3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp pine nuts – toasted
1 tbsp mayonnaise
1/4 tsp salt
a pinch of black pepper
Mix first 8 ingredients together thoroughly… then add salt & pepper and olive oil. Turkey meat has a tendency to dry out quickly on the grill, so the olive oil will help maintain a tender, moist burger.
Form 8 thin patties with the meat mixture. Cut mozzarella cheese into 1/4 inch pieces. On top of one patty, scatter 4-5 mozzarella pieces throughout the center of the meat… leaving a little space between each cube. Be careful not to put cheese too close to the edges or it will leak out during grilling. Place another patty on top and seal edges together until cheese is completely buried.
Cut off the top of the red bell pepper and remove seeds and core. Then slice into 1/4″ rings and brush lightly with olive oil.
In a dry frying pan, quickly toast the pine nuts. Should take less than 3 minutes. In a food processor, pulse basil leaves, toasted pine nuts and salt & pepper…. simultaneously adding olive oil through the feed tube. Once good puree is achieved, add the mayo and pulse 2-3 more times, scraping sides to make sure it’s thoroughly mixed. Don’t leave the processor on or the mixture will be too fine. You want some texture in order to taste each ingredient.
Ready To Cook?
Cook burgers meat over medium heat. Be sure to coat grill with non-stick spray. Cook about 8-10 minutes on each side (varies based on your grill – mine is slow). Keep in mind that turkey burger and turkey sausage will look different than beef or pork… and the sausage lends a reddish color, which can be mistaken for rare meat. Cook on the high end of 12 minutes if you want to be safe… though be careful not to cook too long or your burger will dry out. Try not to flip the burger too often as it tends to crumble. If the mozzarella starts to ooze out, don’t worry… that’s a sign that your burger is almost done.
Please red pepper rings on the upper or outer edges of grill. Cook 3-4 minutes on each side. Brush olive oil on the insides of both halves of the sourdough buns and also place on the upper or outer edges of grill. Remove when lightly toasted.
Spread pesto sauce on top & bottom bun. place spinach leaves on bottom bun and place meat on top of spinach leaves. Garnish top of meat with grilled red bell pepper, fold the halves together and you have La Bella Burger!
The Perfect Bite
I think the perfect bite here… is the first bite. The unexpected burst of hidden mozzarella cheese and spicy sausage leaves most people exclaiming, “Oh my gosh – what’s in this?!”. But it’s a burger… so every bite will be perfect. Reserve extra Pesto sauce for dipping your burger… and anything else you can find – dip away!
The Perfect Pairing
A pasta side might seem an obvious choice for an Italian burger, but that’s probably going to be too heavy. A green salad with Italian dressing would set this off perfect… try this salad. And you probably think I’m going to suggest a red wine… well, you’re right! I just got a bottle of a California Cabernet from Napa Valley called Avalon. But be sure to get the 2006 vintage – 2005 has gotten horrible reviews. A bad year for the folks at Avalon, I suppose. A bottle normally runs in the $12-$14 range… but on sale now 3 for $21.99 at Main Street Liquor in East Nashville! See it pays to live here on the Eastside…
Did You Know?
What is Extra Virgin Olive Oil and how can something be Extra Virgin? Someone had to ask, right?
Extra virgin – considered the best, least processed, comprising the oil from the first pressing of the olives.
Virgin – from the second pressing.
Pure – undergoes some processing, such as filtering and refining.
Extra light – undergoes considerable processing and only retains a very mild olive flavor.
Why cook with olive oil versus Canola oil? Canola oil is a relatively recent development and the original crops were unfit for human consumption due to their high content of a dangerous fatty acid called euric acid. Canola marketers advertise that their oil has less fat content… however, they fail to mention that when heated (which is what happens when you cook.. hello) the oil tends to transition into dangerous trans fatty acids. Ahem. We don’t want that. Read here for more details.