Alternatively these could be called “Flavor-Punch Burgers” or “All Other Burgers Pale in Comparison Burgers.”
I don’t use those terms lightly because ever since my days of Meat Class in college I’ve been hyper aware of how delicious a perfectly salt-seasoned, well-seared piece of beef can be. Bonus points if it’s in burger form with all the fixings and sandwiched between two pieces of perfectly grilled bread.
What’s that you say? Back up and talk about Meat Class?
I always mention my Meat Class because man, what a conversation starter. My degree is in Restaurant, Hotel and Institutional Management from Texas Tech University, a fabulous school with a world-class ag program to boot. My professor in that class was one of my top 3 funniest, quirkiest teachers in college. He was incredibly smart, but he was a cowboy at heart and he certainly looked and sounded the part. (Bet you didn’t know I was going to write a poem about him, did you?) Dressed in jeans that looked perpetually dusty, cowboy boots, a button-up shirt complete with bolo tie, and a cowboy hat placed ever so slightly to the left of the podium, he was one that would always call out the stragglers to class for making him late.
I both loved and hated this because the class I had before his was over a mile away, and I knew that walking was the fastest way to get there. I would rush in red and sweating, doing everything in my power to make it before class started to avoid drawing attention myself. After attendance was taken, we would learn about meat in every way, shape and form, and I loved how he talked about flavor profiles as well. He was the first person who ever described how good beef should taste, and even though I went into class not enjoying beef I certainly left with a new appreciation for it.
The second best part of meat class was the lab in which we had to watch a pig go from alive to, well, bacon. I cried when the pig died, but more than anything it really made me appreciate so much more the food in our food system. It showed me that taking care of these animals is to admired, and that if we choose to consume animal products we need to do so with reverence for the life that was led.
So that’s my meat class. Not nearly as hilarious sounding as when I first mention it, but definitely a big reason why I love and appreciate food like I do! Now, when I signed up to create a grill-tastic recipe for July I knew I wanted to do something burger-centric…I just didn’t know what. Then the other day it hit me – creating something as flavorful as a beloved antipasto platter in burger form sounded mighty fine, and could be done with just a few ingredients. Sausage, pepperoni, and giardiera or Muffaletta mix would add a TON of flavor, and then a hearty topping of spinach would make the whole mix feel a little healthier. It seemed like a genius idea!
A few notes about the recipe that I want to clarify:
- I use a little glaze of marinara and balsamic vinegar to add a little sweetness and acidity to an otherwise fairly heavy burger. The tomatoes in the marinara caramelize and sweeten, and the balsamic adds just the right amount of vinegary bite.
- I specify Muffaletta or giardiniera mix because I know not every store will have both, or maybe you have a personal preference between the two. Muffaletta mix is very olive heavy, which I love, but giardiniera seems to be found more frequently in more stores. If your store has a salad bar with one or the other (or both) I would recommend that!
- You could certainly use hot Italian sausage as well; goodness knows I’ve never been one to shy away from some heat. I just felt like the sweet Italian would still be packed with flavor, but perhaps a little more palatable for those who don’t enjoy spice as much.
Grilled Italian Antipasto Burgers
- 1 pound sweet Italian sausage
- ½ cup marinara sauce of choice
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (I recommend De Nigris)
- 3 ounces sliced pepperoni
- 8 ounces Muffaletta salad mix OR giardiniera mix
- 3 crusty Italian rolls (ciabatta works great!)
- 1-½ cups baby spinach, washed and dried
- Preheat grill to 400 degrees.
- While the grill is preheating, create 3 equal patties out of the Italian sausage, about ¾-inch thick.
- Stir together the marinara and balsamic vinegar. Set aside.
- Place the patties on the preheated grill.
- Grill for 6 minutes per side.
- Brush each side with the marinara-balsamic mixture and grill for an additional 2 minutes per side until done.
- Remove the patties from the grill.
- Place the pepperoni slices in an even layer across the top rack.
- Close the lid an grill the pepperoni for about 3-4 minutes until grill marks have formed and they are starting to crisp.
- Gently scrape the pepperoni off the top rack; it works best to use a metal spatula and scrape them onto a plate below.
- Set aside.
- Grill the buns if desired.
- To assemble the burgers spread the Muffaletta mix on the bottom bun.
- Top with the sausage patty.
- Top the sausage with 1/3 of the grilled pepperoni.
- Top the pepperoni with ½ cup each of the baby spinach.
- Brush the top bun with whatever remains of the marinara-balsamic mixture.
- Place the top bun on top.
- Enjoy hot!