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3 recipes for pork tenderloin with pancetta and sage

by Alex Mugan on July 31, 2021

I do love a pork fillet, or pork tenderloin as some know it. There are three reasons why. First, for a cut of meat that can be a sophisticated centrepiece of the heart of a Sunday lunch, it’s relatively cheap. Second, you can roast it in about 15 minutes, so whether there’s a lot on or you forgot to cook, a pork fillet can save the day. In fact, as well as being quick to cook, it can also be slow and super easy to cook, so you can leave and forget it. For that, setting the oven to 80℃ and using a digital probe to monitor the temperature of the centre of the (seared on all sides) pork fillet until it hits 65-70℃. Third, a pork fillet is extremely versatile. It’s excellent roasted whole, sliced and stir fried, or butterflied and treated like an escalope.

To celebrate the versatility of the marvellous pork fillet, we’ll pair it with flavours it absolutely adores, to create pork tenderloin with pancetta and sage, and we’ll do it three ways.

Doing the pork fillet with pancetta and sage three ways also lets us vary the way we use the pancetta and sage, so whether your pancetta is cubed, rolled or rashered, there’s something here for you. To business.


Pork tenderloin with pancetta and sage


Route 1: Slow and low temperature roasted pork fillet with pancetta and sage

This one works with cubed pancetta and leaves you with a beautifully tender pork fillet. You’ll be able to hold the cooked tenderloin for as long as you need to, so it can be a good way to get the meat going, then forget about it while you sort everything else out.

Route 2: Saltimbocca of pork tenderloin with pancetta and sage

This one is quick and extremely enjoyable to eat. Saltimbocca is usually made with veal, but pork works really well and is more widely available. If you want to swap the pork out for veal using this recipe, you certainly can. Saltimbocca also generally uses prosciutto, rather than pancetta, but to be honest, I find cooked prosciutto loses something, becoming a bit sweaty, or if it doesn’t, then dry. Meanwhile pancetta crisps perfectly, and works here when very finely sliced - I equally wouldn’t use a slab of a bacon rasher for this dish.

Route 3: Roast pork tenderloin with pancetta and sage

This sort of sits between routes 1 and 2. It’s pretty quick, though less so than saltimbocca, but the result is a whole well-roasted joint. It’s a classic, and works with rashers of thinly sliced pancetta.

Have you decided which way to go? No? Best try them all, then.

Route 1: Slow and low temperature roasted pork fillet with pancetta and sage

Serves 3

Ingredients

  • 1 x pork fillet (a smaller one will feed 2.5 people, a larger one 3.5 people)
  • 250g pancetta (cubed, rashers or rounds)
  • 10 x sage leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 x pack of cooked chestnuts, chopped into halves or quarters
  • 1 x Onion, finely chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • A digital food thermometer with a probe


Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 80℃.
  2. Season the pork fillet all over with salt. In a pan over a high heat, sear the pork fillet until each side is nicely coloured. Probably a minute and a half each side. Remove from the pan and place on an unheated baking tray.
  3. Insert the probe of the digital thermometer into the thickest part of the pork fillet and place in the oven.
  4. Set the thermometer to 70℃, or 65℃ if you have good pork and want it slightly juicier. This will take an hour or two, so start early. If it’s ready sooner than you’d like, once the meat reaches target temperature, reduce the oven temperature to the target temperature and it will wait there for you.
  5. While that is sorting itself out, return to your pan. Chop your pancetta and fry in the pork pan for a couple of minutes with the onion. Add olive oil if you need to, but there should be enough fat on the pancetta.
  6. Add in the chestnuts and sage and cook over a medium heat until it smells beautiful and the chestnuts are softened. Keep warm until serving.
  7. Serve the chestnut, sage and pancetta mix alongside the perfectly cooked pork fillet, with the sides of your choice.


Route 2: Saltimbocca of pork tenderloin with pancetta and sage

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1 x pork fillet
  • 4 x rashers or 2 x rounds of pancetta
  • 4 x large sage leaves, whole
  • 125ml dry white wine, marsala is classic
  • 80g butter
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Some cocktail sticks or short skewers


Method

  1. Time to open out the pork fillet, which we need flat for frying. With the pork fillet laid flat on the board, find the shortest edge. I.e. the fillet will be wider in one or other dimension, and you are looking for the narrowest edge.
  2. Slice down the narrowest edge horizontally, not quite all the way through, leaving a ‘hinge’ along the length of the fillet, so that you can open it out like a book.
  3. With the pork fillet opened out, cut it in half vertically, so that you have two flattened pork steaks.
  4. Place a sheet of greaseproof paper over the top of your opened out escalopes, and bang them flatter with a rolling pin. Get them as thin as you can before they start to break up.
  5. Lay two pancetta rashers or one round atop each piece of pork, and a sage leaf or two on top of the pancetta, then put a skewer through pork, pancetta and sage to hold it in place. That’s your saltimboccas assembled.
  6. Get a pan going over a high heat, add a glug of oil and fry the saltimboccas pancetta and sage side down until browned. It will take 3-5 minutes.
  7. When the tops are nicely browned, flip over the saltimbocca and fry for a couple of minutes until the pork is cooked through.
  8. Remove the saltimboccas from the pan, season them with black pepper and set aside somewhere they will keep warm.
  9. Turn the pan down to a medium heat, add the wine and butter, scrape the bottom of the pan with a spatula to get up all the flavour from the saltimboccas. Simmer the wine and butter mixture until the alcohol is evaporated and the sauce has reduced to about 40% of its original volume.
  10. Pour the sauce over the saltimbocca, more black pepper everywhere, manger.


Route 3: Roast pork tenderloin with pancetta and sage

Serves 3

Ingredients

  • 1 x pork fillet (a smaller one will feed 2.5 people, a larger one 3.5 people)
  • 250g pancetta (rashers)
  • 10 x sage leaves, whole
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • A digital food thermometer with a probe (optional)


Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180℃.
  2. Season the pork fillet all over with salt. In a pan over a high heat, sear the pork fillet until each side is nicely browned.
  3. Lay the panetta rashers side by side on a chopping board, with the edges very slightly overlapping.
  4. Remove the pork from the pan and lay horizontally across the pancetta.
  5. Wrap the pancetta around the pork fillet to envelop it. The pancetta may well stick to the pork, but if it keeps falling off, tie the pancetta in place with string.
  6. Put the pancetta wrapped pork fillet in the oven on a baking tray. If you want, use a meat thermometer set to 70℃ to check for doneness, otherwise, give it 15-20 minutes in the oven.
  7. While that cooks, heat some olive oil in a frying pan and throw in the sage leaves to crisp up - don’t let them get too brown, it doesn’t taste good.
  8. Remove the pork fillet from the oven, place on a clean board with the crispy sage leaves scattered around it, and slice at the table with salt and black pepper on hand for personal seasoning.
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