Homemade meatballs are a favorite in our house. There is something special about spending a lazy Sunday afternoon rolling them and letting them finish baking in a giant pot of homemade red sauce. Served with fresh pasta and garlic bread it definitely tops the comfort food all time favorite list. What about simplified version of this meal though? Same comforting flavors and three types of delicious cheese all served on a hearty bun. The meatball burger is born.
We begin with the cheese. This cheese spread is heaven slathered on a bun. Creamy and smooth ricotta forms the base for nutty, salty Parmigiano Reggiano to round out the party. Fresh chopped sweet basil is mixed with black pepper to make this little cheese explosion even more flavorful.
Next, we make meatballs. Rather, we are going to make one giant meatball. The best meatballs are a mix of pork, beef and veal. If you cannot find a mix of these then ask your butcher to make it for you. Don’t have a butcher? Yes you do, they are at your grocery store. All you have to do is ask if they can make a blend for you. Worst case you come home with a package of beef and pork and do it yourself.
I made these burgers the exact same way I make meatballs, minus rolling them. Add an egg, breadcrumbs, grated onion and garlic, dried oregano, fresh basil, red pepper, salt and pepper. Grate the onion and garlic so it mixes well and you do not end up with raw hunks. Have you ever wondered why breadcrumbs are called for in many burger recipes? Mixing them with a little milk allows the patties to stay soft and tender. You also want to mix the ingredients gently so you do not end up with hockey pucks. After forming the patties dent them with your thumb before cooking. It will help them not to shrink too much and result in a more even burger.
To cook, place patties in a skillet over medium heat. Cook for 3-4 minutes and flip. Resist every temptation to them smash them down with your spatula. You worked so hard for them to be tender and juicy. Top each with red sauce and left finish cooking, about 3 minutes. Top with a slice of our third and final cheese, provolone. To serve, spread a generous amount of the cheese heaven on the top half of a toasted bun and your favorite red sauce on the bottom.
Top the burger with peppery arugula and dig in.
For the Cheese Spread:
1½ cup ricotta cheese
½ cup Parmigiano Reggiano
3 Tbsp fresh chopped sweet basil
Pepper to taste
For the Burgers:
1 pound ground meat
½ cup breadcrumbs
3 Tbsp milk
2 cloves garlic, grated
½ cup onion, grated and squeezed of excess juice
3 Tbsp fresh basil
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
Hearty hamburger buns
Your favorite red sauce
Thinly sliced provolone cheese
- Combine all ingredients for the cheese spread and mix well. Set aside.
- Combine breadcrumbs with milk and egg and mix well
- Add remaining burger ingredients and gently combine thoroughly
- Form four patties and indent the center with thumb
- Heat skillet over medium heat and cook burgers 3-4 minutes
- Flip burgers (do not push down on them!) and spoon red sauce on top of each
- Top each with a slice of provolone
- Let cook an additional 3-5 minutes
- While the burgers are cooking toast buns in an oven, toaster or in a separate skillet
- Smear each bun top with a generous amount of the cheese spread
- Smear each bun bottom with about 2 tablespoons of red sauce
- Place burgers onto bun bottoms, top with arugula and serve