Italian-Sausage Burgers with Garlicky Spinach

Take a walk on the wild side and rev up your standard grilled cheeseburger with this riff on toppings. Instead of the same-old lettuce and tomato on a ground beef patty, start with sweet Italian sausage, then top with melted provolone, tomato pesto and garlicky spinach all nestled in a toasted ciabatta roll.

The grocery store was only offering rectangular ciabatta rolls, so after toasting them, they were cut in half which became the perfect size vehicles with enough heft to support the rest of the ingredients. Yes, anchovy paste is optional and it’s not for everyone, but believe me, the small amount of salty funkiness adds a welcome layer of umami complexity when dissolved into the garlicky spinach.

The Mr. just couldn’t help himself and had to have a second one! See below for a bonus Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto recipe. You only need 1/4 cup of the tomato pesto for the burgers, so you have plenty leftover for another use such as in a pasta dish or an appetizer.

Italian-Sausage Burgers with Garlicky Spinach

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 10 oz. baby spinach
  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced 
  • 1 tsp. anchovy paste (optional)
  • Salt 
  • 1 lb. sweet or hot Italian sausages (or a combination of both), casings removed
  • 4 slices of provolone cheese
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried-tomato pesto, store bought or homemade (see recipe below)
  • 4 round ciabatta rolls, split and toasted


  1. In a large skillet, bring 1/4 inch of water to a boil. Add the spinach and cook, stirring, until just wilted, about 1 minute; drain and press out as much water as possible. Wipe out the skillet.
  2. In the same skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil until shimmering. Add the garlic and anchovy paste and cook over high heat, stirring, until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the spinach, season with salt and stir just until coated, about 10 seconds.
  3. Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Using slightly moistened hands, form the sausage meat into four 4-inch patties, about 3/4 inch thick. Brush the burgers with oil and grill over moderate heat until browned and crusty on the bottom, about 5 minutes.
  4. Carefully flip the burgers and grill until the burgers are cooked through about 5 minutes longer, adding the cheese one minute before taking off the grill. Spread the pesto on the rolls. Top with the burgers and spinach and serve.

Recipe from Food & Wine

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

This herby Italian sauce is not only great on the sausage burgers, but works with shellfish and pasta too. Make a day or two ahead to save time and effort on dinner night. Leftovers make a great condiment on baguette toasts topped with shredded mozzarella and a chiffonade of fresh basil… YUM!

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

  • Servings: Yields about 2 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 8 oz. sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, undrained
  • 1 roasted red pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, well-packed
  • 1/4 parsley leaves, well-packed
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil as needed
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Blend the sun-dried tomatoes, along with their oil, roasted red pepper, garlic, basil, parsley, and Parmesan cheese in a food processor until it forms a thick paste, adding extra oil until smooth.
  2. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.

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