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Bacon, Sundried Tomato and Arugula Pesto Burgers with Buffalo Mozzarella Caprese

An unusual and delicious pesto made from bacon, sundried tomatoes and arugula that I originally created for pasta was the inspiration for this recipe - after one taste I thought it would be a fabulous flavoring for a burger patty. Because I served the pasta with a simple buffalo mozzarella caprese salad and they tasted great together I decided to incorporate it into the burger as well. The additional fresh arugula is dressed with a bit of lemon juice for a slightly tart, peppery kick. When my husband, a burger purist, loved the combination it seemed I was on to something!


12 strips applewood-smoked bacon
4 cups baby arugula leaves
8 drained sundried tomatoes packed in oil
2 tablespoons oil from sundried tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 pound ground chuck
1 pound ground sirloin
6 tablespoons finely chopped sweet onion
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

grapeseed or other neutral oil with high smoke point, for brushing grill rack
6 slices well-drained buffalo mozzarella cheese, patted dry with paper towels
6 bun-sized ciabatta bread sections or ciabatta rolls, sliced in half horizontally
1-1/2 cups baby arugula leaves
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
pinch fine sea salt
pinch freshly ground black pepper
12 large fresh basil leaves
12 large slices ripe tomato (preferably Heirloom beefsteak tomato)


Preheat a gas grill to medium-high.

Prepare patties: Place a large flame-proof skillet on grill rack; add bacon. Cook, turning as needed, until just crisp. Remove skillet from heat; transfer bacon to paper towels to drain.

Break up into bacon into pieces and place in a food processor. Add arugula, tomatoes, oil from tomatoes and garlic; process until a thick paste is formed. Scrape paste out into a large bowl; add chuck, sirloin, onion, cheese and pepper. Stir until well mixed, taking care not to overwork. Gently form mixture into 6 equal-sized patties, approximately the same size as the ciabatta sections.

Brush grill rack lightly with grapeseed oil; add patties. Cook about 4 minutes on each side or until done to preference. Place one mozzarella slice on each patty during the last minute of cooking time. Also place ciabatta slices, cut side down, on outer edges of the grill rack during the last minute of cooking time, or until lightly toasted.

Meanwhile, place arugula in a medium bowl; sprinkle with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Toss gently to coat.

To assemble burgers, place one bottom slice of ciabatta, cut-side up, on each of 6 plates; top each with 1/4 cup arugula mixture and 1 patty. Add 2 basil leaves, 1 tomato slice and 1 ciabatta top, cut-side down, to each patty; serve immediately. Yield: 6 servings.


Because of the salty bacon and cheese in these patties, no additional salt is needed. They are juicy patties, and once placed over the arugula their juices will create a kind of "vinaigrette" effect with the lemon juice. Be aware that their juiciness can cause flare-ups on the grill. Don‘t leave the grill unattended or press on the patties while they are cooking. Move them to another part of the grill if flare-ups become a problem.