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For acclaimed Chef Massimo Bottura, the hamburger is an ideal candidate for culinary experimentation: all of its elements—meat, cheese, bread, condiments—can be easily amended based on what’s locally available.

In his home region of Emilia-Romagna, he makes the patty out of Italian beef mixed with gelatin from cotechino (a local pork sausage) and Parmigiano-Reggiano. For condiments, he puts an Italian spin on American standards, making a mayonnaise flavored with balsamic vinegar and an herb sauce based on Italian salsa verde.

This recipe is far more involved than your typical diner-style burger, but it’s well worth the effort.

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Massimo Bottura Teaches Modern Italian CookingMassimo Bottura Teaches Modern Italian Cooking

Massimo Bottura teaches you his take on traditional Italian cooking—from risotto to tortellini—and shares techniques for reimagining your own recipes.

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Tips on Using Ingredients From Your Own Terroir

You can apply Chef Massimo’s principles to your own burger no matter where you live—the possibilities are endless if you use the ingredients that are hyper-local or highly representative of your corner of the world.

  • If you live in the Pacific Northwest, you might make a salmon burger topped with red wine sauce and local mushrooms.
  • In the American South, you might make a venison burger topped with local okra relish and sorghum-sweetened mustard.
  • In Japan, you might dress a Kobe beef patty with miso and soy sauce.
  • Or in China, the patty could simply be pork seasoned with a blend of local spices. Whether it’s a burger or another dish, chances are the food you make will turn out differently each time because the quality of the ingredients is in constant flux.

Be sure to taste often throughout the cooking process so you know where to go. No matter what quantity you are making, keep your flavorings proportional, so you don’t end up with a result that’s overseasoned or bland.

Massimo Bottura's burger up close

Massimo Bottura’s Emilia Burger Recipe

Makes
16

Ingredients

INGREDIENTS FOR THE COTECHINO GELATIN:

  • Lambrusco wine (or other acidic local wine)*
  • 1 cotechino sausage (about 1 pound and 2 ounces, or 500 grams, or other
  • high-gelatin pork sausage)**

*If there is no Lambrusco available in which to steam it, use a local wine, beer, or cider that pairs well with the flavor of the sausage.
**If you can’t find cotechino, buy the best local sausage you can find (ask your butcher for one with high gelatin content).

INGREDIENTS FOR THE BURGERS:

  • pounds (1 kilogram) dry-aged ground beef
  • ounces (300 grams) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, preferably
  • aged 24 months
  • 1 ounce (30 grams) cotechino gelatin
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Balsamic mayonnaise (recipe here)
  • Salsa verde (recipe here)
  • 16 mini brioche buns, split in half

Find recipe for Massimo Bottura's Baslamic mayonniase here and his Salsa Verde here.

  1. Extract the gelatin. Pour the wine into the bottom of a large steamer pot (enough to come 1 inch up the side), then put the sausage in the steaming tray. (You can also use a regular saucepan and steamer basket.) Cover the pot with the lid, and bring the wine to a simmer over medium-low heat. Steam the sausage in the wine until all of its fat and gelatin have separated and melted into the wine, about 30 minutes. Remove the steamer basket and sausage, and pour the liquid into a tall storage container (like a glass jar). Let the liquid cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until well-chilled, at least four hours. During refrigeration, the liquid will separate into three sections: the fat on the top, the gelatin in the middle, and the liquid (wine) on the bottom. Once chilled, spoon the fat from the top and save it for another use (you can use it like you would chicken fat or duck fat: sauté potatoes, enrich stewed greens, or toss with fresh pasta and lots of Parmigiano-Reggiano). Similarly, spoon off the gelatin and place it in another bowl. Discard the remaining liquid. Refrigerate or freeze the gelatin for up to three months.
  2. Make the burger patties. Place the ground beef in a large bowl, pour in the gelatin, and mix the two with your hands until evenly combined. Add the Parmigiano, and continue mixing until evenly combined again. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let the meat rest in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
  3. Cook the burgers. Uncover the burger mixture, and form it into ¾-inch–thick (2 centimeter–thick) patties that are the same diameter as your brioche buns. Place the patties on a plate as you make them. Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Pour a little olive oil on a folded piece of paper towel and use it to lightly grease the bottom of the hot skillet. Add two to four patties, and cook on one side until seared and well-browned. Flip the patties over, and cook until well-browned on the opposite side. Then stack the patties together, and using your fingers to keep them together, turn the patty cylinder on its side and sear the patties, turning them every 20 to 30 seconds, so they brown all around their edges. Transfer the patties to a plate and let rest for at least five minutes or while you cook the remaining patties.
  4. Toast and build. Once all the patties are cooked (or working as you cook each patty), place the cut sides of the buns in the skillet and cook, undisturbed, until golden brown and toasted on the bottoms. Place a bottom bun, cut side up, on a plate, and top with a dollop of the salsa verde. Place a cooked patty over the salsa, then top the patty with a dollop of the balsamic mayonnaise. Cover with the top bun, and serve immediately. Repeat with the remaining patties, buns, and condiments.

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