Feel like a steak but it’s just too hot to go outside and grill?  Here’s a great recipe for pan-seared beef tenderloin steaks.  It is a quick and easy preparation that is also impressive and great to use if you are having a small dinner party.  I confess I’m not a big fan of filet mignon which, especially when grilled, I find bland.  I’d rather have a well-marbled rib-eye steak grilled to rare perfection any day.  This is one time that tenderloin really works for me, though. It’s the sauce that makes it.  Fresh tomatoes cooked briefly in the pan the steaks were seared in, fragrant with thyme and enriched with thin slices of pancetta, make a perfect accompaniment to these delicate melt-in-your-mouth steaks.

The keys to success with this dish are simple:

  • To keep the steaks juicy and get a good crust, season with salt only after searing, to avoid drawing moisture out of the meat.
  • Pat the steaks dry and put them into very hot oil, then do not move them for about 4 minutes, if using 1 ½-inch thick steaks.  Although the meat will stick to the pan at first, once a good crust is formed the steaks can be loosened easily from the bottom of the pan.
  • Do not overcook them!  Following the directions in the recipe will result in tender, moist steaks with a warm red center.

Beef Tenderloin with Fresh Tomatoes and Pancetta

(From How to Cook Italian by Giuliano Hazan)

Serves 4 people

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 (6 to 8 ounce) beef tenderloin steaks


Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 small yellow onion

3/4 pound ripe tomato

1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme

8 thin slices pancetta

1. Put the olive oil in a skillet large enough to accommodate the steaks comfortably and place over medium high heat.  When the oil is hot, put the steaks in and cook without moving them for about 4 minutes, until well browned.  Turn them over and cook for another 3-4 minutes for medium rare.  Remove them from the pan and set aside on a platter.  Season with salt and pepper.

2.  While the steaks are cooking, peel and finely chop the onion.  Peel the tomato and coarsely chop it.

3.  After removing the steaks, lower the heat to medium and add the remaining tablespoon olive oil.  Put in the onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until it softens and turns a rich golden color, 3-5 minutes.

4.  While the onion is sautéing, chop the thyme.  When the onions are done, add the thyme and tomato and season lightly with salt.  Add the pancetta, raise the heat to medium high and cook until the tomato has reduced and is no longer watery, 10-15 minutes.

5. Return the steaks to the pan and turn them in the sauce.  Cover the pan for about a minute to allow the meat to heat through.  Serve at once, topping each steak with 2 slices pancetta on top of each steak and some sauce