Chianti Burgers with Caramelized Onions – Food and Wine, April 2014

Chianti Burger

“Just take the picture so we can eat, please.”


You guys, if you don’t subscribe to Food and Wine, do yourselves a solid and pick up the April issue next time you’re in the check out line. Sometimes I flip through the magazine and go Oh, wouldn’t that be nice! Homemade cultured butter!  or Those sub sandwiches REALLY looked like tacos in the picture and now I’m sad they’re not! but never actually make anything. April’s issue, though, has so many accessible but delicious sounding recipes, from burgers to cookies to steak, that you can’t help but be inspired to make something.

Okay, unpaid advertisement over. The first thing I chose to make from this issue is the Chianti Burger with Caramelized Onions. The recipe originated from a winery in Italy that made this burger specifically to pair with their Chianti wine. There is no Chianti in the burger recipe, which was a little disappointing, but I managed to carry on.

This method for burgers was the best way I’ve ever cooked a hamburger, ever. You sear them on the stove for one minute on each side, then finish them off in a 475 degree oven, similar to how you cook steak. The recipe called for a skillet and a baking sheet, but I just used my cast iron skillet for the whole process. I cooked them for 6 minutes and got a perfect, juicy, medium. I will never do burgers on the range only again. No babysitting, no poking to see if it’s done, no sadness as your meat dries out, just juicy perfection.

You’ll be making your own ketchup for this recipe with red peppers and diced tomatoes. Although it takes a little bit of time, it’s fairly simple aside from the “Does this look THICK THICK or just Thick?” questions you will have as you find yourself more concerned with the texture of ketchup than you thought possible. Mine was more Thick than THICK THICK but it didn’t seem to make a difference. Do not skip adding the fresh grated ginger, as the ketchup is very sweet and needs the bite of the ginger to balance it out.

I was expecting a fairly decent burger but didn’t expect to be blown away. I was! Christopher, a man who orders solely bacon cheeseburgers at every fancy burger restaurant, no matter my judgey glances and attempts to shame him into branching out, said that this was not only the best burger he’d ever had, but if you offered him a bacon cheeseburger from his favorite burger place or this burger, he’d choose this burger.

Photo by Christina Holmes, Food and Wine

Chianti Burgers with Caramelized Onions

(Food and Wine, April 2014) – Recipe by Matteo Gambi

Serves 4

My Notes: 

  • I found the foccacia rolls at Trader Joes, but I imagine you could just as easily cut a large loaf into squares.
  • I used dried sage in place of fresh in the caramelized onions and it was fine.
  • It looks like way too many onions when you start caramelizing them and you will question everything. Do not do this. You will want to eat all of them on your burger at once.
  • I didn’t use young Pecorino cheese, just the Locatelli Pecorino Romano I already had. It melted well and added a nice sharpness.
  • The hour and a half time limit is very generous – that’s exactly how long it took me. If you caramelize the onions while making the ketchup and just keep them warm, you could shave some time off.
  • My vinegar and sugar did not have a medium amber caramel color, but a light caramel color and so many bubbles I was worried it would evaporate and leave me with nothing. I added the tomatoes at this point, and I don’t think an extra shade of amber would have made that much of a difference.
  • Next time I think I will add a little Chianti to the ketchup, just to see what happens. YOLO, guys.


  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • One 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 2 medium onions (1 pound), thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon minced sage
  • Four 4-inch focaccia squares, split horizontally
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef chuck
  • 4 slices of young Pecorino cheese (4 ounces)


  1. In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar and sugar and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until a medium amber caramel forms, 8 to 10 minutes. Carefully add the tomatoes and red pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is very thick, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a blender and puree. Strain the ketchup through a sieve. Stir in the ginger and season with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onions and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until golden, 15 minutes. Stir in the sage and keep warm.
  3. Preheat the oven to 475°. Heat a griddle. Lightly brush the griddle with oil and toast the focaccia on it until lightly golden, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer the focaccia to plates.
  4. Gently shape the ground beef into four 1/2-inch-thick patties and season with salt and pepper. Griddle the burgers over high heat until browned, 1 minute per side. Transfer to a baking sheet and top each one with a slice of cheese. Bake for 5 minutes for medium-rare. Set the burgers on the focaccia and top with the onions and a dollop of the ketchup. Close the burgers and serve. 

3 thoughts on “Chianti Burgers with Caramelized Onions – Food and Wine, April 2014

  1. Oh my gosh, you have a blog! And I didn’t even know! This is torture, because all the food you make looks delicious and makes me not want to be a vegetarian. I think I’ll have to make the burgers for Mike’s birthday (not ’til September, but still).

    Do you have any big food plans for Easter? I picked up Martha Stewart’s most recent Living magazine (which was easter-themed) and am now totally inspired. I’ll let you know how it goes! See you tomorrow night!

    ❤ Ashley

  2. We’re going to see Christopher’s parents for Easter so my food plans are small, but I am DYING to make the Ricotta Cheesecake from the April Martha! It’s a tradition in my family but no one actually really likes it better than real cheesecake, hahaha. I’m curious if the one in this magazine is better? It has a double crust which should keep it from being dry.

    The April Martha also had some GREAT vegetarian recipes!

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