Italian Burgers with Tomato Boats and Bacon Jam

Pairs well with:

White Zinfandel

With strawberry and melon essences, this American original is perfectly at home with however you like to unwind.

My husband’s Italian heritage inspired me to use the freshest Italian herbs and cheeses to give these burgers a burst offlavor. The tomato boats reminded me of taking gondolas down the canals in Venice.



2 pounds ground beef (prefer Black Angus)

¼ cup Sutter Home Sweet Red Wine

¼ cup chopped white onions

1 tablespoon white sugar

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

2 tablespoons chopped mixed herbs (basil, oregano, parsley)

¼ teaspoon ground tricolor peppercorns

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil for brushing burgers

6 sesame seed hamburger buns

½ stick melted butter to brush on inside of buns for toasting

2 cups arugula leaves


1 package thin sliced bacon (prefer Oscar Mayer)

½ cup chopped white onions

1 tablespoon Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce

1 tablespoon Colavita Balsamic Glaze Original

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons honey (prefer Golden Blossom)


6 small Roma or plum tomatoes

4 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese (finely diced)

4 oz. extra sharp Provolone cheese (finely diced)

3 tablespoons Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 teaspoon fresh grated lemon peel

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon chopped mixed herbs (basil, oregano, parsley)

¼ teaspoon fennel seeds

1 teaspoon finely minced garlic

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/8 teaspoon crushed tricolor peppercorns


Prepare bacon jam

1. Preheat outdoor grill to medium high heat. Cut bacon into ½ inch dice and cook in medium size fireproof nonstick skillet until crisp 8-12 minutes. Remove bacon with slotted spoon and drain almost all the bacon drippings leaving 1-2 tablespoons.

2. Return the skillet to the grill and add ½ cup chopped onions, Chipotle Tabasco Pepper Sauce, Colavita Balsamic Glaze, dark brown sugar, honey and crisp bacon. Heat until bacon jam is syrupy about 1-2 minutes and remove from heat into a small bowl.

Prepare tomato boats

1. Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out insides and discard. In a bowl, combine the rest of tomato boat ingredients: diced fresh mozzarella cheese, extra sharp provolone cheese, 3 tablespoons Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil, fresh grated lemon peel, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon mixed fresh herbs (basil, oregano, parsley), ¼ teaspoon fennel seeds, 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic, 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes and 1/8 teaspoon crushed tricolor peppercorns and let marinate 15-30 minutes.

2. Spoon marinated cheese into each tomato boat to fill 3/4. Do not overfill; otherwise cheese will melt over the boat. On a pre-heated grill on medium heat, use a fireproof BBQ basket or place filled tomato boats on the grill. Cover loosely with foil or use grill cover and grill about 7-10 minutes until cheese is melted and tomatoes are slighted roasted. Set aside on a plate and reheat just before serving.

Cook and assemble burgers

1. To make the burgers, combine beef, Sutter Home Sweet Red Wine, chopped onions, white sugar, chopped garlic, 2 tablespoons chopped mixed herbs (basil, oregano, parsley), salt and ground tricolor peppercorns. Handling the meat as little as possible to avoid compacting it, mix well. Form the mixture into 6 equal patties to fit the buns and make a small indentation in the middle of each patty to cook evenly.

2. Preheat an outdoor grill on medium high heat. To cook the patties and toast buns, brush the grill with olive oil. Place the patties on the grill, cover and cook, turning once, until done 5-7 minutes on each side for medium. While patties are cooking, brush inside of each sesame seed bun with melted butter, place on grill, cut sides down and toast lightly on the edges of the grill and set aside.

To assemble the burgers, place arugula leaves on inside bottom of bun, top with the patty and two tomato boats. Then spoon 1 heaping teaspoon of bacon jam on each tomato boat, add bun tops and secure with decorative bamboo picks and serve. Makes six burgers.