Viva Italia Farmhouse Sliders (Beef and Pancetta Sliders with Caramelized Roma Tomato, Pine Nut Gremolata, and Fontina-Olive Pimento Cheese)

Pairs well with:

Cabernet Sauvignon

This rich red easily complements your homemade chicken dishes, red meats, game, and mildly seasoned pastas.

I experimented with slow-roasting tomatoes one day and loved the flavor. I thought it would make a great addition to a burger.



2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest

4 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley

2/3 cup pine nuts


6 large Roma tomatoes

2 tablespoons Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

2 teaspoons brown sugar


4 cups (lightly packed) coarsely grated Italian Fontina cheese, without rind (Danish or Swedish Fontina may be substituted)

4 tablespoons mayonnaise

4 heaping tablespoons finely chopped, marinated and pitted mixed olives

2 heaping tablespoons jarred, diced pimentos


2/3 cup diced pancetta

1 teaspoon pancetta fat drippings

2 tablespoons Sutter Home Cabernet Sauvignon

4 large cloves garlic, crushed through a garlic press

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 teaspoon fennel seed, crushed with mortar and pestle

2 teaspoons finely minced fresh oregano

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper

2 pounds ground chuck (80% lean)

vegetable oil (for brushing grill rack)

12 mini Kaiser rolls, split (should be about 3.5″ to 4″ diameter)


Preheat a gas grill to medium-low.


Combine lemon zest and minced parsley in small bowl. Set aside.

In a 9×12 or larger, ungreased foil pan, layer pine nuts in a single layer. Place pan on grill rack and close lid. After one minute, lift lid and flip pine nuts with spatula. Grill another minute and check. Nuts should be very lightly toasted and fragrant, but not burned. Grill more if needed, checking every thirty seconds. When done, remove pan from grill with an oven mitt. Allow to cool for 5 minutes. When cool, pour pine nuts into small food processor, and pulse until nuts are minced (but not powdery or pasty). Add ground pine nuts to bowl of lemon and parsley mixture and lightly stir until blended thoroughly. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside until ready to assemble burgers.


Slice Roma tomatoes lengthwise. Cut out core. With fingers, remove and discard seeds and juice. Massage olive oil evenly over all sides of tomato halves. Place tomatoes, cut-side up, in a foil pan (you can use the same one used to toast the pine nuts). Drizzle the balsamic vinegar evenly over tomato halves. Sprinkle sea salt evenly over tomato halves. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over tomato halves. Place pan on grill rack.

Grill tomatoes on medium-low for 15 minutes. Lift grill lid, and flip tomatoes so they are cut-side down. Close lid, and grill for an additional 15 minutes. When done, remove pan of tomatoes with an oven mitt. Gently remove tomatoes from pan with a spatula, and place on a plate. Set aside until ready to assemble burgers.


While tomatoes are grilling, prepare Fontina-Olive Pimento Cheese by combining grated Fontina with mayonnaise, olives and pimentos in a medium bowl. Stir together gently with a fork until mixed thoroughly. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside until ready to assemble burgers.


Raise heat on gas grill to medium-high.

Heat a large fireproof non-stick skillet on the grill. Add diced pancetta and cook over medium-high heat until crispy (stirring occasionally); about 4 minutes. When done, remove skillet with oven mitt. Remove pancetta with slotted spatula and set aside. Reserve 1 teaspoon of pancetta drippings and put in small bowl. Add wine, garlic, red pepper, fennel seed, oregano, salt and pepper to pancetta drippings, and stir briskly until thoroughly combined.

Place ground chuck in a large, chilled bowl. Add pancetta to beef, and combine lightly, with a spoon. Add wine and spice marinade mixture to beef; mix ingredients evenly, but lightly. Rinse hands under cold water, and divide beef mixture into 12 equal portions, formed to fit the size of the roll. Handle meat as little as possible to avoid compacting.

Brush the grill rack with vegetable oil. Place the patties on the hottest portion of the grill rack, cover, and cook, turning once, about 2-3 minutes on each side for medium-rare. Remove patties from grill, place in foil pan, and lightly tent with foil for 1-2 minutes.

While burgers are resting, place cut sides of mini Kaiser rolls on outer edges of grill grate, and toast lightly.


As soon as rolls come off the grill, spread a generous portion of the Fontina-Olive Pimento Cheese on all the cut sides of the rolls, dividing evenly. Place a slider patty on top of cheese on each roll bottom. Place one half of a Caramelized Roma tomato on each patty. Sprinkle Pine Nut Gremolata mixture on top of tomatoes, dividing evenly. Top with roll tops and serve. Makes 12 sliders and serves 6.