Burgers Italian Style With Tomato Pesto

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Buon giorno!

Burgers are definitely an American standard when it comes to summer grilling. BUT – at our house, the burgers were Italian Style all the way. When I was growing up, we enjoyed grilled burgers frequently, but they were much different from the burgers of the other neighborhood cookouts. My mother, Loretta, never made anything “just plain”, and that included our burgers. The burgers of my youth were spicy and chock full of Italian herbs, grated Italian cheese, chopped garlic etc. – In other words, they tasted much like my mother’s meatballs. They were really tasty and never “just plain meat”. My BURGERS ITALIAN STYLE WITH TOMATO PESTO are not Loretta’s version, but like hers – there is nothing plain about them. In fact, the Burger Snoots around my house like them so much, it’s hard to get anyone to eat a plain burger any more.

When you think about it, a pile of ground meat squashed into a patty isn’t very interesting on its own. But – dress it up a little  – maybe show a little cleavage without going beyond the bounds of good taste – give it some spice without “tarting” it up too much? Stay classy, babe, and you’ve got yourself a very competitive little number on a bun that no one can turn down. The cool thing is that you don’t really have to work very hard to achieve this. Take good ground chuck that contains about 20% fat, add a few select ingredients, and your “just plain” burgers will transform. You will own your family and guests with these flavor packed “burger bombs”.

Hey – you can even make them ahead and freeze them if you like. I MUST ALWAYS have some hanging around my freezer for that special moment when I’m having a burger craving. We’re thinking Italian here, with the ingredients, for sure, but I am also suggesting an amazing topping of TOMATO PESTO. Now, you didn’t think I was going to let you put ketchup on these power bundles – did you?

Fire up the grill – here we go!


Makes: about 4-5 burgers

Prep: 10 minutes


1 lb. Ground Beef Chuck – preferably with about 20% fat

Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste

3 oz. Feta or Goat Cheese broken into pieces – not too small

1/4 C. Fresh Basil Leaves – chopped

1/2 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

4 oz. (about 1/2 c.) Sundried Tomatoes, packed in oil – cut into small strips or julienne

1 beaten egg 


Mix all of the above ingredients together.

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Form patties of your desired size.

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Freeze or take them straight to the hot grill.

Tip: Try grilling your buns – They are so much better that way.

Top with Tomato Pesto!


Makes: about 1- 1 1/4 c.

Prep: 10 minutes


3 Ripe Medium Plum Tomatoes – (approx. 9 oz.)

1 Fresh Garlic clove

3/4 c. Fresh Basil Leaves

1 Tbsp. Mayonnaise

1/4 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

1/2 Tsp. Kosher Salt

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

1/4 c. Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Coarsely chop tomatoes and garlic and add to blender.

Add the basil, mayonnaise, red pepper, salt, black pepper, and Parmigiano to the blender.

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Blend and, at the same time, slowly drizzle in olive oil.

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Make up some BURGERS ITALIAN STYLE WITH TOMATO PESTO  for this weekend. You’re gonna love ‘em!


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Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography

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  1. Can u freeze tomato pesto?

  2. This is on the menu tonight and I cannot wait..!!