Italian Caprese Sliders

People who occasionally go out to eat know that sliders have been the rage the past couple of years.

One of the things that makes sliders so appealing to diners is that they take just a couple of bites to finish, and if you want more, they are there for the taking.

Here is a recipe for sliders, Italian-Style, that was judged among the best submitted to the Los Angeles Times Test Kitchen’s first Battle of the Burgers contest. Among its ingredients are ground beef and hot Italian sausage.

Each of the sliders also is topped with a slice of mozzarella cheese and one of Roma tomato. A balsamic vinegar vinaigrette adds to the dining experience.

Italian Caprese Sliders
1½ pounds ground beef
1 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1 onion, finely chopped
1 bell pepper, finely chopped
3 cloves minced garlic, divided
½ pound fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into ¼-inch slices
18 white dinner rolls
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 large Roma tomatoes, cut into ¼-inch slices
36 medium-large basil leaves, stemmed
Make the patties: In a large bowl, gently but thoroughly mix together the ground beef, Italian sausage, Italian seasoning, onion, bell pepper and 2 cloves minced garlic. Press the mixture into a jelly roll pan, using a rolling pin to make a flat, even layer. (Cover the meat with plastic wrap, if necessary, to keep it from sticking as it’s rolled.) Cut the meat into roughly 2-inch squares.
Heat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat until hot. Grill the burgers until cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. When the burgers are done, place a slice of mozzarella on each burger and tent with foil while preparing the buns.
Warm the rolls: Wrap the rolls in foil and place on the top rack of the grill, or place in a warm oven until warmed through.
In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and remaining minced clove garlic. This makes a scant ½-cup vinaigrette.
Assemble the sliders: Place a cheese-topped patty on the base of the bun, add a slice of tomato and 2 basil leaves. Drizzle each burger with 1 teaspoon of the vinaigrette. Serve immediately.
Yield: 18 sliders.
Approximate nutritional analysis per slider: 267 calories, 16 grams protein, 16 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 15 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 49 milligrams cholesterol, 3 grams sugar, 313 milligrams sodium.