Seasoned, Seared, Simmered and Smothered… That is Steak Pizzaiola!! Try your steak the old school Italian way. It’s absolutely delicious, and every bite you will make a nod or two to heavenly skies.
Juicy and tender, your favorite steak cooked a little different. If you think salt and pepper, cooked in flash is only way to treat that piece of meat, try this once and I won’t be surprised if you come back to this rustic dish every now and then.
Trust Italians when it comes to good eating. This steak smothered in tomato, aka pizza, sauce is absolutely brilliant…
When you say Steak Pizzaiola, what comes to your mind? Is it steak pizza? (Though that sounds mighty delicious too). Is it some steak pasta?
Well, it’s steak cooked long and slow in pizza sauce. Some magic happens when steak is tenderized in well seasoned tomato sauce. Simple, rustic, yet finger licking delicious…
What is Steak Pizzaiola
Pizzaiola, or Carne Pizzaiola [peet-tsah-YOH-lah] is a dish from Naples that traditionally features meat cooked with tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, oregano, and white wine.
The name essentially means “meat in pizza style”, cooked with pizza sauce. While Steak Pizzaiola, or Neapolitan Bisteca Alla Pizzaiola (steak with spicy tomato sauce) is the most common, you can also find versions of pizzaiola chicken or even pork chops pizzaiola.
This is the classic example of peasant food that somehow turns out absolutely fabulous. Tomato sauce made with the usual Italian herbs, and sometimes olives and capers, is used to disguise the poor quality of meat, as traditionally some cheap cut of meat was used.
These cheap, tough steak pieces were cooked low and slow, smothered in tomato sauce for a long time until melt in your mouth tender, as slow cooking helps break down the tough proteins in the meat.
Steak Pizzaiola, though it originally came from the low income classes, gained popularity very quickly in all regions and households. Eventually, it made its way into Italian restaurants, thanks to its delicious tastes.
This is the classic dish that a typical Italian grandma would make for the whole family, devoured together with plenty of wine and laughter.
Of course the ingredients in Steak Pizzaiola may vary from region to region, even from one family to other. There would be many variations to tweak that favorite family tomato sauce, or different steak cuts to use.
Veering away from traditional cheap cuts, getting fancier using fattier cuts like rib eye or porter house. The cooking method will also vary depending upon the thickness and type of cut. But the whole basic idea is same, tender steak in beautifully seasoned tomato sauce..
What’s the Best Cut of Steak for Steak Pizzaiola?
Now this one really comes down to individual preferences. Though it originally started with cheaper and thinner cuts that got braised for hours in tomato sauce, you can literally use any cut of steak of your choice. Just remember that cuts like flank steak, round steak and sirloin will take a longer time to yield that melt in your mouth effect… So cook them longer.
If using fattier cuts like ribeye or porter house, it would cook in a considerably shorter time. To keep them juicer and tender, cook them for a shorter time and you end up with the perfect doneness of steak, just the way you like it without overcooking.
We veered towards our favorite ribeye. For this dish, go with a thinner cut, about ½-inch to ¾-inch thick.
You just need to quickly sear both sides to make it brown, and then smother in tomato sauce for short time to make that prefect medium rare doneness we like in our steak.
Ingredients for Steak Pizzaiola
- Ribeye steak
- For tomato sauce – San Marzano tomato sauce, tomato paste, garlic, red chili flakes, fresh basil, fresh oregano
- White wine
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Tips to Make Tomato Sauce
We love using canned San Marzano tomatoes for this dish. They are grown at the foot of Mount Vesuvius in Italy and are canned at the peak of their freshness. Be sure to pick a brand that has the “Certified” label on the can. Many brands will say ‘San Marzano-Style’, which means they came from somewhere else. San Marzano tomatoes can be found in the canned tomato section of most supermarkets.
If you have a garden going, some of your best tomatoes like heirloom tomatoes or even cherry tomatoes will make excellent tomato sauce.
You can easily prepare the sauce 1-2 days in advance and store it in the refrigerator. Just gently reheat it on the stove before simmering with the steaks. This will make your dinner ready in less than 20 minutes.
Similarly, some busy hectic days, you can reach out to your favorite store bought tomato sauce too. Life hack for a quick dinner on busy nights…
How to Cook Steak Pizzaiola
Cooking ribeye steak pizzaiola is quick, as ribeye needs a lot less time to cook to juicy tender perfection than any other cuts.
The real success of this dish is making that amazingly finger licking tomato or pizza sauce that the steak gets smothered in, as all those flavors seep into the steak.
Start the sauce by heating extra virgin olive oil along with garlic and a little red chili flakes for a few minutes. Add in tomato paste and cook it for 4-5 minutes. Add in tomato sauce along with salt and fresh herbs and simmer. We love to simmer the tomato sauce for at least 40-45 minutes, so all the flavors get concentrated. You can use dried herbs in absence of fresh ones.
Season the steak with salt and pepper on both sides and sear for two or three minutes per side (we love a cast iron skillet for this dish). Searing adds flavor and helps keep the steak juicy as it finishes cooking in the sauce. After browning the steak on both sides, transfer it to a plate.
In the same skillet, add in white wine and let it reduce for about 3-4 minutes, scrapping the brown bits from the pan. Add in prepared tomato sauce and cook for 5 minutes.
Time to place the steak in the tomato sauce. Drench the steak with sauce. We cooked it 6 minutes and then flipped and cooked for 3-4 minutes for that medium rare doneness.
Cook for your desired doneness. Make sure you don’t over-cook these steaks. Use an instant -read thermometer to reach either medium-rare (120°F) or medium (140°F), the steaks will continue to cook even after you have removed them from the sauce. Serve steak immediately along with sauce.
Note: If using cuts like sirloin or flank steak, cook in the sauce for 20-40 minutes, until the steak is tender. Some tougher cuts might even take up to 1 hour to cook.
We stuck to very basic tomato sauce for this recipe. Try making the following variations, they sound so good…
- Add olives or capers to your tomato sauce while simmering.
- Many people use different colored bell peppers in the tomato sauce. Adding pepperoncini is great idea too.
- Try making the sauce with fresh tomatoes when in tomato season. Tomato sauce out of cherry tomatoes sounds great.
- Make the same dish with chicken or pork chops.
How and What to Serve with Steak Pizzaiola
It’s a great stand alone dish, but our most preferred side for this is some nice crusty bread to soap up all that yummy sauce.
Many people serve this over a bed of noodles. Yes… steak with pasta.
Some add a cheesy twist by topping the dish with mozzarella or parmigiana. A steak pizzaiola sandwich is a thing too, where the steak is stacked like a meatball sub along with sauce between bread.
How to Store Leftovers
Keep steak pizzaiola in an air-tight container, or on a plate wrapped tightly with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. You can also freeze it in an air-tight freezer-safe container and store in the freezer for as long as 3 months.
To reheat this dish, add it to a skillet with the pizzaiola sauce over low heat, and cook covered for about 8-10 minutes, or until heated through. If reheating from frozen, cook for slightly longer.
Steak Pizzaiola… This is a dish not that well known outside of Italian households, or on some classic menus in Italian restaurants. Make this super rich and stunning beef dish for your friends and family, and let them marvel at a unique new way to cook your steak.
When you cook a little different than you usually do, you discover so many unknown, hidden flavors that are outstanding and stunning. Smother your favorite steak the next time you’re looking for some great meal. Pour that glass of wine full and enjoy this Neapolitan classic… Cheers!
Steak Pizzaiola, on our Gypsy Plate… enjoy!
For Tomato Sauce
- 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 4-5 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/4 tsp red chili flakes
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1 28 oz San Marzano tomato sauce
- 2 Tbsp fresh basil (or 2 tsp dried basil)
- 2 Tbsp fresh oregano (or 2 tsp dried oregano)
- salt, to taste
- 2 steaks, 1/2-3/4 inch thick
- salt and pepper
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup white wine
- Heat 3 Tbsp olive oil in a sauce pan over medium high heat. Add garlic and red chili flakes, cook for a minute or two.
- Stir in tomato paste and cook 4-5 minutes.
- Add tomato sauce, basil and oregano. Simmer over medium low heat for 40-45 minutes.
- Season steaks with salt and pepper.
- Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Sear steaks 2-3 minutes per side. Remove to a plate.
- Pour white wine into the skillet, deglaze the pan and reduce 3-4 minutes. Add tomato sauce to the pan cook 5 minutes.
- Add steaks into the tomato sauce. Cook to your desired doneness (see note 1). We cooked our 3/4 inch ribeyes for 6 minutes, then flipped and cooked an additional 4 minutes for medium rare.
- The steaks will continue cooking after being removed from the heat. For medium rare, cook to 120 degrees, or for medium cook to 140 degrees, as measured by an instant read thermometer.
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