Bold Italian Burger with spicy Red Pepper and Garlic Spread

Pairs well with:


Bright and full-bodied, this Zinfandel wine is a curious contradiction in tastes.

I make my own Italian Sausage and wanted to incorporate that flavor into a burger. Anybody can mix sausage in, but then you have to thoroghly cook it, not my preference for a burger. So I took the spices of the sausage, added the juiciness of the pancetta and created something completely unique.


Spicy Red Pepper Garlic Spread
1/2 cup Mayonnaise
2 Tbl Roasted Garlic (one medium bulb)
1/4tsp Colivita Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/8 tsp Kosher Salt
1/8 tsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper
1/2 Roasted Red Bell Pepper
1/8 tsp Cayenne

2 1/4 lb fresh Ground 85% Chuck
1/4 cup Sutter Home Zinfandel
2 Tbsp Fennel Seed
1 tsp Black Pepper
1 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
2 tsp Fresh Oregano
1/2 lb Pancetta

2 Tbsp Olive Oil for grill grates
6 Fresh Onion Rolls
2 Tbsp sweet cream butter
6 Thick slices Provolone
1 large Beefsteak tomato
1 Red Onion
6 leaves fresh Romain Lettuce
3/8 tsp (1/16 tsp or a dash per tomato slice) Kosher Salt
3/8 tsp (1/16 tsp or a dash per tomato slice) Ground Black Pepper


Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill with cover, or preheat your gas grill to medium high.
To make the Spicy Red Pepper Garlic Spread – Take a fresh bulb of garlic and slice the top off, drizzle Olive Oil over the top and add a dash (1/16 tsp.) of salt and a dash (1/16 tsp.) black pepper, place on grill to roast. Also add to grill the Red Bell Pepper to roast. The garlic will be ready in @ 10 minutes, the top and sides will be a golden brown and start to bubble out the top. When ready remove from grill and set aside to cool. The red bell pepper will need to be blackened on all sides, ¼ turn every 3-4 minutes, when complete set aside in a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
In a small mixing bowl add the Mayonnaise, remainder of Salt & Black Pepper, then the Cayenne. Once the Garlic has cooled, “pop” or squeeze each clove onto a cutting board. Finely mince and add to the bowl. After letting the Red Pepper sit for @ 10 minutes, remove from bowl (be careful of steam when taking off the plastic wrap), peel off the skin and pull out the stem, seeds and membrane. Using only half, finely chop and place into bowl. Mix contents together and set in refrigerator.

To make the Patties – In a large mixing bowl, place Fresh Ground Chuck. In order to mix spices thoroughly and evenly throughout the meat, I like to make a “Slurry” by mixing the spices into the wine. In a separate small mixing bowl, add the Zinfandel. Grind Fennel Seed & Black Pepper (I use a coffee grinder, you can also use a mortar & pestle but it must be a fine powder) add to the Zinfandel. Add Salt to Zinfandel. Finally, mince Oregano and add to Zinfandel. Use a small whisk and mix slurry completely, pour evenly over Ground Chuck. Gently, by hand, mix meat and slurry together. Form into 6 equal patties, DO NOT overwork the patties, place on a platter.
Using a stand mixer with a grinder attachment or a food processor, perform a medium grind on the pancetta (NOTE: The colder the pancetta, the easier this will be). Place the ground pancetta on a cutting board. One at a time, take each pattie and place on the pile of ground pancetta and lightly press. The idea is to imbed the ground pancetta into one side of the pattie. Place each pattie, pancetta side up, back to the platter. Any remaining pancetta can now be placed, by hand and lightly pressed into, each pattie to ensure an even covering. The patties are ready to grill, cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator until ready.
About 10 minutes before you want to grill, remove platter from the refrigerator, remove plastic wrap. With the grill being preheated to med-high, wipe down the grates with Olive Oil (I roll up a washcloth and use grill tongs). Take each roll, slice in half and spread equal amounts of butter to top and bottom, have ready to go on grill.
Place each pattie onto the grill, Pancetta side up and close lid. Wait two minutes and ¼ turn each pattie and close lid. After another two minutes, flip and close lid. ***Please Note: Pancetta is “Italian Bacon”, bacon being very high in fat, easily flares up. After another two minutes and ¼ turn each pattie and close lid. After the final two minutes, flip the patties and add a slice of provolone to each. Now you can place the rolls, face down, to the upper rack of the grill and close lid. When Provolone melts, remove patties to platter to rest. Once rolls toast, remove from grill and place on platter.

While Patties are resting remove Mayonnaise spread from refrigerator. Slice the Tomato into ¼” slices and Red Onion into 1/8″ slices. Rinse the Romaine leaves and tear in half. Now apply @ 1 ½ Tbsp of mayonnaise spread per roll.
Once the patties have had a solid 7-8 minutes to rest, place one pattie on each bottom half on roll. Add a slice of red onion. Add a slice of tomato, then salt and black pepper. Add ½ a leaf of Romaine to each burger and cover with top of roll.