Last week I was *super* excited to find fresh artichokes at the grocery store--I never find the things when I actually have time to do something with them. Anyway, I bought several. The first few met the grill--and were delicious. Then I decided I should make spinach-artichoke dip--since I just *happened* to have everything for it. So I did. And it was delicious. So delicious, in fact, that it was gone in a matter of hours.

Imagine my surprise, then, when for the second week in a row I found fresh artichokes! Really! Dozens of them! Of course, I bought more. (I really, really, like artichokes. heh.) So, for a scrumptious replay of last week's dip, I thought I'd invite a few friends over and grill some burgers and stuff--and then it hit me.

Put the dip IN the burgers! So in addition to my regular seasonings--garlic, Worcestershire sauce, sea salt, and black pepper, I added a fresh batch of spinach-artichoke dip to the center of the burgers. Incredible, I tell you.

If you've never made stuffed burgers before, you should definitely try it--even if all you stuff them with is cheddar cheese. It's super simple. All you have to do is divide your meat as you normally would, then divide each portion in half. Make thin patties, then top half of them with your filling, then the second patty. Seal well--you don't want your filling leaking out on the grill! Once they're sealed and stuffed, all you have to do is cook 'em...and eat 'em.

For these dip-stuffed burgers, I cooked up some bacon and mixed up some garlic mayonnaise--not that they necessarily needed mayonnaise, but, hey, they're *my* burgers!

 
 

This one requires a lot of 'stuff'...but I promise, it's worth it. I would suggest making the meatballs the day before (or even the week before and defrosting in the fridge overnight) to speed things along—unless you really don't have anything to do the day you make this.

Okay, the stuff:

One pound of bulk Italian sausage—that's the one NOT wrapped in casing. We're making meatballs here. C'mon. Hot or Mild...your choice (pick hot!)

You'll also need about a half cup of dried breadcrumbs—I recommend the pre-seasoned variety, unless you're watching your salt. Of course, you can always make your own. Whatever floats your boat. You'll also need a quarter cup of grated Parmesan, an egg, half a teaspoon of dried (or fresh chopped) basil, black pepper, and a quarter teaspoon of garlic salt. Combine all of this 'stuff'...and, you guessed it, make little meatballs. Think bite sized.

Now, whether you pre-made your meatballs or not, put them in the crockpot along with: four cups of chicken stock (you can cut down cooking time by heating it either on the stove or in the microwave), two tablespoons of tomato paste, and two cloves of minced garlic. In the last thirty minutes of cooking, add in a cup of mini pasta shells and about ten ounces of washed baby spinach leaves. You could also throw in some crushed red pepper flake at this point...if you're feeling brave.

Serve with grated parmesan and toasted garlic bread. (And a spoon. Don't forget the spoon.)