Spicy Southern Italian-Inspired Burgers with Fontina Cheese Recipe

How did you celebrate National Hamburger Day? Oh no—you didn’t miss it, did you?! It seems like May 28 comes up faster each year. Well, since all summer is burger holiday season, there is plenty of opportunity to celebrate in your own good time.

And if you’d like to spice things up Italian-style, this recipe, inspired by the Calabria region of Italy, which is located at the toe of the boot, can help you out. The cooking of Calabria can be quite spicy, relying on fresh and dried chilies for flavor and heat, notes meat expert Bruce Aidells, who contributed this recipe to Real Food. These burgers are moderately hot, so if you like more chile flavor and heat, increase the red pepper flakes up to 2 teaspoons. Fontina cheese comes from the north of Italy in the Val D’osta region. It melts well and has a flavor that complements the spiciness of the burger. A Lemon-Caper Mayonnaise jazzes it up even more. Buon appetito!

Spicy Southern Italian-Inspired Burgers with Fontina Cheese

Makes 4 servings

112 lbs. ground beef, 80% to 85% lean
1 anchovy fillet, finely chopped (optional)
1 tsp. minced garlic
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp. fresh basil, chopped
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
12 tsp. red pepper flakes, or more to taste

Lemon-Caper Mayonnaise
1 small clove garlic
2 tsp. capers
12 c. mayonnaise
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
2 tsp. lemon juice
a few drops Tabasco (optional)

4 14-inch-thick slices Fontina cheese
4 ciabatta rolls or large French or Italian rolls
16 large basil leaves
1 large tomato, cut into four 14-inch slices
freshly ground black pepper
4 14-inch slices sweet onion, red or yellow (optional)

For the burgers: Drop meat in a mixing bowl and add remaining ingredients. Using a fork, mix until well blended without overworking. Shape into 4 patties about 34 to 1 inch thick and to match roll. Using your thumb, create a shallow depression in center of each patty. Refrigerate until ready to grill.

For the Lemon-Caper Mayonnaise: To chop garlic and capers, drop through feed tube of a food processor fitted with a small bowl while motor is running. Scrape down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula. Add remaining ingredients and pulse several times to blend. Set aside.

Grill over medium-hot coals or a medium-hot gas fire about 3 minutes per side, until patties are just firm to the touch. Top with cheese, cover grill, and cook 1 to 2 minutes, until cheese melts. This will yield medium-rare to medium burgers.

To assemble, slather both sides of roll with Lemon-Caper Mayonnaise and place burger on a half. Top each with 4 basil leaves and a tomato slice. Season tomato with salt and pepper. Add onion.

Nutrition info (Per Serving): Calories 869 (525 From Fat); Fat 59g (Sat. 18g); Chol 153mg; Sodium 1507mg; Carb 38g; Fiber 2g; Protein 47g

Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine, and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her son, who used to eat beets and Indian food as a preschooler, will one day again think of real food as more than something you need to eat before dessert and be inspired by his younger brother, who is now into trying new foods.