Lost Italian: Healthy and delicious, Sicilian Pork Tenderloin is a one-pan delight

Sicilian pork medallions served on a bed of wilted spinach is an easy and healthy weeknight meal. David Samson / The Forum
Sicilian pork medallions served on a bed of wilted spinach is an easy and healthy weeknight meal. David Samson / The ForumDavid Samson / The Forum

This month’s series on lighter fare continues with an easy, delicious and healthy weeknight alternative featuring Sicilian Pork Tenderloin.

This dish can be made in about 30 to 45 minutes, using just one pan and a few Sicilian staples to create a main course that has become a weeknight favorite in our home.

Pork tenderloin is an excellent addition to a healthy menu plan and is one of my go-to choices whenever I’m looking for a low-calorie protein that is both satisfying and nutritious. A 3-ounce serving of pork tenderloin has just 93 calories and boasts a bounty of energy-boosting nutrients like protein and vitamin B-6, as well as minerals like phosphorus and selenium to promote good bone health and regulate your metabolism.

For this dish, I cut a whole, plain pork tenderloin crosswise into one-inch medallions, which are seasoned with salt, pepper and fresh rosemary. Flavor is especially important when it comes to eating light and shouldn’t be compromised just because a dish is deemed healthy. If a dish doesn’t taste good, you may find yourself succumbing to the temptation of other, less-healthy alternatives.

Saute peppers in the pork drippings with thinly sliced garlic, shallots, capers and anchovies. David Samson / The Forum
Saute peppers in the pork drippings with thinly sliced garlic, shallots, capers and anchovies. David Samson / The ForumDavid Samson / The Forum


This pork dish packs a punch of flavor by incorporating classic Sicilian ingredients like anchovies, capers and bell peppers to ensure that there is plenty of satisfying, savory goodness. Anchovies may seem like a surprising choice, but they are an excellent way to build flavor in a dish. When cooked properly, anchovies will simply melt into the other ingredients, bringing their wonderful, salty flavor without a trace of fishiness.

This recipe calls for four anchovy fillets, which are finely chopped to ensure that they will effortlessly blend with the other components. If you're squeamish about using anchovies, finely chopped Kalamata olives could be used instead.

Bell peppers are commonly used in Sicilian cuisine and they bring color and a touch of sweetness to this dish, as well as extra nutrition. For this dish I like to use a colorful blend of red, yellow or orange peppers, which tend to have a sweeter, more pleasing effect when cooked than green peppers.

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Fresh herbs are another great way to build flavor without adding calories. To maximize its flavor and fragrance, fresh rosemary is added to this dish in three phases: first, when seasoning the pork medallions; next, a teaspoon is cooked in with the bell pepper mixture; and final sprinkling just before serving.

Acid is also important when building flavor in a dish, and a dash of apple cider vinegar, added just at the end of cooking, works to brighten up the overall flavor and make sure that all the ingredients are working together. For a healthy finish, I serve the Sicilian Pork Tenderloin over a bed of Sauteed Spinach, but a healthy starch like brown rice pilaf or a long-noodle whole wheat pasta would also be excellent.

Easy to make, colorful, nutritious and delicious, Sicilian Pork Tenderloin has everything you need for a healthy weeknight dinner.

Wilted spinach cooked with garlic creates a colorful bed for the dish. David Samson / The Forum
Wilted spinach cooked with garlic creates a colorful bed for the dish. David Samson / The ForumDavid Samson / The Forum


Sicilian Pork Tenderloin with Savory Peppers

Serves: 2 to 4

Ingredients:

1 pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into medallions 1-inch thick

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped, divided

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, more as needed

2 to 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (about ¼ cup)

4 anchovy fillets, finely chopped

Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (about 1/8 teaspoon)

1 small shallot, minced (about ¼ cup)

1 tablespoon capers

2 bell peppers, assorted colors, cut lengthwise into ½-inch wide strips

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

Water

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, roughly chopped

Directions:

Trim any extra fat from the tenderloin and cut crosswise into 1-inch medallions. Sprinkle the top and bottom of each pork medallion with salt, pepper and about ½ teaspoon of the chopped rosemary.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Use tongs to place the medallions in the pan and cook on 1 side until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Turn the medallions and continue cooking over medium-high heat until lightly browned and an internal temperature of 135 degrees is achieved. Insert a meat thermometer into the center of the largest medallion to check for accuracy. Turn the heat to low and transfer medallion to a plate. Cover with foil and let rest.

Add the sliced garlic, chopped anchovies and crushed red peppers to the pan and cook over medium-low heat for 1 minute, adding more oil if needed, 1 teaspoon at a time. Stir with a wooden spoon to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

Add the shallots, capers, 1 teaspoon of rosemary and the bell pepper strips and cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes, stirring to incorporate. Return the pork medallions to the pan, moving the peppers around so that the pork is directly on the pan.

Add a tablespoon of water to the pan and cook over medium-low heat for 2 minutes, then turn medallions over and continue cooking 1 to 2 more minutes until the peppers are softened and starting to brown.

Add the cider vinegar, any remaining rosemary and fresh parsley and cook for about 30 seconds, stirring to combine. Transfer contents of the pan to a platter and serve immediately.

Sauteed Spinach

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

5-ounce package of fresh spinach leaves

1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

In a medium saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the sliced garlic. Saute for 1 minute, then add all the spinach, stirring to combine. Cook until spinach begins to wilt, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove pan from heat and transfer spinach to a serving platter. Serve immediately.

Recipe Time Capsule:

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“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com.