One of my new favorite things to order at a sub shop is a meatball sub. But not just a regular old meatball sub. I've been ordering it with pepperoni! This provides a really unique flavor to the classic meatball, marinara and cheese of a normal meatball sub. I thought it would be a good idea to recreate this sub, but change it up a bit and make it into a burger. This worked out great because the size of the sandwich pepperoni allows every bite of the meatball burger to have pepperoni!
The burger patty is based off a standard meatball recipe. It's nothing too fancy but it provides a nice flavor with fresh onion, garlic and Italian herbs, all within the mix. I use about 1.5 lbs of standard ground beef (about 85% lean), 1/4 of a diced onion, 5 cloves of diced garlic, 1/4 cup of diced fresh basil, 1/4 cup of diced fresh Italian parsley, 3/4 cup parmesan or Romano cheese (shredded), 4 whole eggs, and 1 cup of bread crumbs. Mix it all up and carefully form it into burger patties. If you use about 1.5 lbs of ground beef you'll end up with about 6-8 burgers.
I like to use a food processor for this. I put 1/4 of a whole sweet onion into the food processor along with the peeled garlic cloves. Pulse just a few times until it looks like the above picture. Do not pulse too much or it will become too watery. Watery is bad for making burgers! I remove the onion and garlic and then add the fresh Italian herbs. Pulse until nicely chopped and add to the bowl with the other ingredients.
Mix everything into the bowl and very carefully form the desired burger patty size.
Those are some very pretty meatball burger patties!
Preheat your grill to medium / medium low heat. I don't like to use a medium high / high heat for this meatball burger recipe because this is a very tender burger. Clean your grates well, and if you want to, brush some olive oil on the grates to help reduce the chance of sticking. Depending on how wet your onion is and whether you use a bit less bread crumbs than instructed, the burger might stick a little. A little oil will help with this. While the grill is warming get out the sandwich pepperoni and slices of mozzarella cheese. Try to resist rolling the pepperoni and cheese together for a quick snack. Trust me, that's hard to resist.
Place the burgers directly over the medium / medium low heat and let them grill for about 4-5 minutes before flipping. Carefully slide the spatula under the burgers and flip. Let the burgers cook for another 4-5 minutes. After both sides of the burger look done, move them to indirect heat. Indirect heat would be an area of the grill with no charcoal. On a gas grill, this would be an area where a burner is turned off or on one of those elevated grates hinged into the lid of the grill. Lay down a slice of cheese and then place 4 slices of sandwich pepperoni on top. Yes, you read that correctly: 4 slices. 1 slice isn't enough, 2 slices is getting close, 3 is decent, but 4 is just right. You want to taste that pepperoni!
On top of the fourth pepperoni slice place about 2 tablespoons of your favorite pizza sauce or marinara sauce. Since the burgers are still on the grill, but away from the harsh direct heat, you'll only be melting the cheese and warming the pepperoni and sauce. This is critical. Poke a Thermapen into the side of the burger and you can safely remove it from the grill once it has registered 165 degrees F (remember, there are raw eggs in the meatball mix; not just ground beef).
During the last few minutes of grilling, put your rolls right on the grill for toasting and then assemble this beauty. There you have it! My take on my new favorite way to eat a meatball sub. This grilled meatball burger with pepperoni is fantastic! I hope you give it a try to change up your next cookout or tailgate.
Fantastic Grilled Meatball Burgers for the tailgate.