Tuscan Focaccia Burger With Spinach Pesto di Noci

Pairs well with:

Pinot Grigio

You won’t need a bouquet of flowers when you share our Pinot Grigio. This crisp wine with floral aromas is a wonderful way to make an entrance.

I love the taste of homemade pesto with cheese and marinara in an oven grinder. I wanted to create a burger that could deliver the same great flavor.


1/3 cup chopped walnuts
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves
2 fresh sage leaves
1½ cup packed spinach leaves stems removed
½ cup packed basil leaves
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup grated Romano cheese
¼ teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Chunky Marinara
One 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with Italian seasonings
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 clove garlic crushed
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¾ teaspoon chopped fennel seed
5 fresh basil leaves minced
½ teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

2 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ cup yellow onion chopped
3 garlic cloves minced
Pinch of kosher or coarse sea salt
1 pound cold ground sirloin
1 pound cold ground chuck 75-80% lean
¼ cup minced shallots
¼ cup cold Sutter Home Zinfandel
2 teaspoons kosher or coarse sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced cilantro
Vegetable oil to brush grill rack
6 oz. crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
6 slices of Provolone cheese
6 four inch squares of focaccia bread
6 leaves mild curly endive
6 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese


For the pesto, place a small fireproof skillet on a grill prepared for medium high heat. Add walnuts and toast just until they begin to brown. Transfer them to a plate to cool for 10 minutes. While walnuts are cooling, remove hot skillet from grill and pour in olive oil, garlic, and sage leaves. Cover skillet and allow contents to steep while walnuts are cooling. Place spinach, basil, and walnuts in a food processor and pulse 4 times. Add the garlic cloves and pulse 4 times. Remove sage leaves from pan of olive oil and discard them. While the processor is running, pour in the olive oil in a thin stream and stop occasionally to scrape down the walls with a rubber spatula. Add the grated cheeses with salt and pepper and pulse a few more times until well blended. Set aside until needed.

For the marinara, rinse out small skillet and return to grill. Drain tomatoes and add to skillet along with olive oil, tomato paste, garlic, oregano, fennel seed, basil, sugar, salt, and pepper. Stir together and move to cooler part of grill to lightly simmer until ready for use.

For the patties, place a large fireproof skillet on the grill and heat the oil until it begins to shimmer. Sauté the ½ cup yellow onions, garlic, and pinch of salt stirring frequently to prevent scorching them. Place sautéed veggies on a plate and refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Remove sautéed veggies, ground sirloin, ground chuck and shallots from refrigerator and add both to a large cold mixing bowl. Combine Zinfandel, salt, pepper, and cilantro in a small bowl and pour over ground meat. Use a large sturdy metal spoon instead of your hands to mix ingredients together just until combined. Do not over mix or compact!

Tip: Using a spoon to mix the meat allows the fat to melt during grilling instead of melting by your warm hands. This keeps burgers juicier and prevents them from becoming dense.

Use a metal dough scraper or spatula to divide meat mixture evenly into six portions. Wet your hands to keep them from sticking to the meat and quickly form each portion into a loose ball. Place a saucer sized square of wax paper on a small plate and place one meat ball in the middle. Cover it with another square of wax paper and use a small plate to gently flatten it into a patty. Repeat with the other portions until you have six patties.

Brush grill rack with oil to prevent sticking. Place patties on hot grill and close grill lid. Grill for 5 minutes and don’t mash the burgers with spatula or you will squeeze out the natural juices. Gently flip the burgers, close lid, and grill for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the Gorgonzola cheese evenly over the burgers and top each with a slice of Provolone cheese. Close lid for 30 seconds or until cheese begins to melt. Burgers should reach an internal temperature of 160F if using an instant read thermometer. Remove burgers from grill and set them in a large dish tented with foil to rest 2 minutes. While burgers are resting, split the focaccia squares horizontally and lightly toast them cut side down on the grill.

For assembly, spread a dollop of pesto on toasted side of focaccia bottoms and top with a leaf of curly endive. Top each leaf with a hot burger and top each burger with a dollop of the hot chunky marinara. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan over the marina and place focaccia tops on burgers toasted side down. Serve immediately.