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8 & $20 Recipe: Burgers with Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce and Zinfandel

A California red sings alongside a topping made from pantry staples

Jennifer Fiedler
Posted: February 12, 2013

Eight ingredients. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a weeknight feast for family or friends. That's the philosophy behind our "8 & $20" feature. We hope it adds pleasure to your table.

Burgers are great fast dinner options year-round, but during the zenith of winter, consider swapping out the All-American classic crisp lettuce and tomatoes of summer’s high burger season. Instead, try a satisfying sauce that can be made from pantry staples, such as this recipe for sun-dried tomato sauce.

Given this sauce's Mediterranean roots, the easy route to a wine pairing would be to go like-for-like, finding a tart, juicy Italian red to match the acidity in the tomatoes. But lighter California Zinfandels can offer similar qualities.

Take this bottling from Bonterra, for example. Reading the tasting note, two descriptors jumped out, “pomegranate” and “juicy fruit,” both of which seemed like good partners for the tart-sweet and acidic character of tomatoes. But how to best fine-tune the sauce to this particular wine?

In the first version I made, I followed the bone structure of a pesto recipe: sun-dried tomatoes, walnuts, Parmegiano Reggiano and basil, plus a touch of balsamic vinegar. But against this, the wine ended up tasting shrill and tinny, with amped-up herbal notes, which sent me back to the drawing board.

I felt that the sauce needed a bit more lift and dimensionality, meaning more acidity to match the tart flavors of the wine. I dropped the basil, upped the amount of balsamic for bass notes and swapped the cheese for marinated red peppers for treble. On its own, the sauce already tasted much better with the wine, but with the burger, the match was perfect. The sauce highlighted the wine's appealing warm spice notes and, together, they made a bright counterpoint to the rich meat—a welcome dish for cold nights.

Pan-Seared Burgers with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto


Pair with a lighter California Zinfandel, such as Bonterra Zinfandel Mendocino-Amador-Lake Counties 2009 (86 points, $16)


Total time: 20 minutes

Approximate food cost: $35

  • 1 1/3 pound ground beef
  • 8 1/2 ounces sundried tomatoes packed in oil
  • 1/2 cup marinated red peppers
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 ciabatta buns

1. Divide the ground beef in four and form into patties. Season with salt and reserve.

2. Combine the next five ingredients in a blender and pulse until coarse. Reserve.

3. In a heavy-bottomed sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil over medium high heat, add the patties and cook until done, around 4 minutes a side for medium-rare. Serve on the ciabatta buns with 2 tablespoons of sun-dried tomato sauce. Serves 4

Dundarave Wine Cellar
Vancouver —  February 13, 2013 10:05pm ET
Brilliant and tasty!

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