Turkey Burgers Italian Style: Summer Supper on the Grill

The grill is Mama D’s summer kitchen. This is not news to anyone who spends any time here. Grilling recipes have filled many a summer post. My summer kitchen is now quite small, some might call it tiny; almost as tiny as my regular kitchen. I am proving to myself that at least in this, size does not matter. Our little grill has turned out some amazing meals and its location on the balcony offers a room with a view.

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This is a sandwich that was made in burger heaven or at least the heaven inside my mind. It features veggies from our community garden paired with turkey Italian sausage and fresh mozzarella. This turkey burger was moist and juicy thanks to a very hearty dose of grated zucchini. The flavor was elevated by onion, garlic and Pecorino Romano cheese. A dash of Italian bread crumbs and an egg ensured that it retained its shape while it cooked to golden perfection.

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This sounds very much like a meatball and the inspiration came from Turkey Italian Sausage Meatballs that I made not long ago. Those were broiled in the oven and graced a sandwich that was also quite delicious.

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This time, it was a beautiful summer evening and the grill beckoned so I decided to make the leap to burgers and I’m so glad that I did. This recipe is the same for both the meatballs and the burgers and if you wanted to turn it into a meatloaf, I’m sure you will be happy with the results as well.

I started with a package of Turkey Italian Sausage links. It weighed in at around 20 ounces. I removed the casings by squeezing each link in the middle until the filling fell out. A childish method I admit, but I find it cathartic. I grated two heaping cups of zucchini which would be 4 – 5 small squash or about half of a baseball bat sized one. While the grater was out, I used it to grate a small onion and several cloves of garlic.

The sausage that I used was sorely missing fennel and red pepper flakes so I added some of each along with half a cup of each bread crumbs and pecorino romano cheese. The resulting mixture was quite wet so I added an egg. Yes, it initially makes it wetter, but it will help hold it together in the cooking process.

I chilled the bulk mixture for an hour or so (and you could even let it sit in the fridge over night) before I even tried to form the patties. Once I had four thick beautiful patties, I laid them on wax paper and put them back in the refrigerator and let them set up for several hours. If you are strapped for time, 30 minutes or so in the freezer works well. I strongly advise taking these steps. To ignore my directions could result in a mess on the grill and yes, I am speaking from experience.

I used a grill tray to cook the burgers. Once again, experience has taught me that you can never be too careful with turkey burgers. After somewhere near 6 minutes the burgers let me know they were ready to be flipped…they din’t stick to the grill when I went in for the single turn. Soon, thick slices of fresh mozzarella went on top so they could melt slowly as the second side cooked.

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Tomatoes fresh from the garden grilled alongside the burgers in a makeshift foil pan that took advantage of a skinny space.

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I even managed to toast the ciabatta rolls by propping them up against the burgers. If I do say so myself, my use of a small space was nothing short of brilliant. Once the burgers were done, my final flourish was some garden greens tossed lightly in olive oil and mounded on the bun to create a savory bed. The sandwich was a monster of deliciousness. We didn’t even need or want a side dish.

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Italian Turkey and Zucchini Burgers
Print Recipe
Servings
4
Servings
4
Italian Turkey and Zucchini Burgers
Print Recipe
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Place the sausage meat and the zucchini in a large bowl. Toss lightly. Grate the onion and garlic directly into the bowl. Add the pepper flakes and fennel seeds and mix lightly again.
  2. Add the bread crumbs and cheese, tossing once again. Add the beaten egg and stir one last time until everything is completely incorporated. Cover the mixture and chill in the refrigerator for 2 - 3 hours or as long as overnight.
  3. Remove the mixture from the refrigerator and form into 4 large patties. Place each patty on a piece of wax paper, cover and chill for 2 hours. You can also put them in the freezer for about 30 minutes.
  4. Heat the grill to high. Spray a grill pan with cooking spray and allow it to heat up on the grill. Place the burgers on the grill and reduce the heat to medium. Cover and allow to cook for 6 minutes or so.
  5. Turn the burgers. If they stick let them cook another minute or two until they flip easily and are golden brown. Top each burger with two thick slices of fresh mozzarella cheese. Put the lid on the grill and cook for another 6 - 7 minutes.
  6. While the burgers continue to cook, place the tomatoes and onions in a foil pan. Season with some Italian herb blend and a drizzle of olive oil. Place the pan on any vacant space on the grill.
  7. Spray the cut sides of the rolls with cooking spray and add them to the grill the last 3 minutes of cooking. In the meantime, toss the lettuce with the remaining olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Assemble the sandwiches: Divide the lettuce mixture between the bottoms of the rolls. Top each with half of the tomatoes. Place the burgers on top of the vegetables. Top with the remaining tomatoes. Add the top part of the roll and serve.
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Summer is here for at least another month, maybe more if the weather continues in its hot and sunny Midwestern pattern. The grill will be taking center stage for many weeks to come. It’s a pretty safe bet that you haven’t heard the last of Mama D’s grill adventures.

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