We Americans like our comfort food. We are always trying to turn the unfamiliar into the familiar. You have to agree, this is a better than the old tradition of shunning the unfamiliar altogether! American fusion food is a great example of this new-found fascination. Dishes such as Mexican pizza and Asian-style hot dogs are just the beginning of our efforts to bring world flavors into the main stream. You can hardly go out-to-eat without seeing menus with ingredients from all over the globe. What an exciting time in culinary history!
Italian food has made its way, full-force, into the heart of America. Very few people here would ever think of it as an exotic style of cooking. Americans eat pizza, pasta, cured meats, and cheese in enormous amounts, probably only comparable to the eating habits of, let's say...Italians!? So I thought it would be fun to take the comforting flavors of Italy and layer them, like a warm fuzzy blanket, over the only thing that might be even MORE comforting. A hamburger.
Introducing the Little Italy Burger. All my favorite Italian flavors in one meaty sandwich! Fresh smoked mozzarella cheese, pesto, pancetta, red onions, ripe tomato slices, arugula and tomato-butter on a ciabatta bun. It's a glorious dripping tower of international bliss--American style!
Little Italy Burger
1 ½ lbs. ground beef
8 slices pancetta
1 jar of good pesto
1 large ball smoked mozzarella
1 red onion, cut into thin rounds
3 Tb. butter
2 tsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. anchovy paste
Ripe tomato slices
4 ciabatta buns
Heat the grill to high. Divide the ground beef into 4 portions. Salt and pepper and press into patties. Layer each patty with a slice of pancetta on top and bottom. Press the pancetta into the patty.
Cut the onion and mozzarella into rounds.
Melt the butter and mix it with the tomato paste and anchovy paste.
Cut the ciabatta buns and brush the insides with tomato-butter.
CAREFULLY brush the grill with oil or use non-stick grill spray. Grill the patties and onions at the same time. Grill the patties for 3-5 minutes per side and the onions for 1-2 minutes per side.
Once you flip the burgers, lay the onion rounds over the top of each patty, followed by the mozzarella slices. The cheese will melt while the burgers finish cooking.
Place the buns on the open grill and toast for 1 minute.
Once the buns are toasted, slather them with pesto. Layer arugula leaves, tomato slices and a patty on each bun. Top and serve! Serves 4.
*I used a jar of good-quality pesto a friend gave me. Feel free to make your own!
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese
Combine the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add 1/2 cup of the oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
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