Steak night mingles with pizza night in my sensational Steak Pizzaiola. A chunky tomato sauce, full of robust flavors and aromatics, coats tender slices of strip steak in this authentic Italian dish.
Steaks were practically made for the grill, basting in their own juices over an open flame, crispy, caramelized bits melting in your mouth with each delectable bite. During the warm months, grill-time means back-yard party time. When winter hits, though, it’s a game of drawing straws to see who’ll get stuck outside on grill duty.
If it’s chilly and I want my steak fix without sacrificing my fingers to frostbite, I pull out my recipe for Steak Pizzaiola. It’s a classic Italian dish, straight out of Naples, that brings all the toppings of a good pizza – onions, mushrooms, peppers, and a flavorful tomato sauce – to the top of your favorite cut of beef, pan-seared to perfection. My version is a quick stove-to-table recipe, plus it begs for a side of pasta, so it’s the kind of dish that actually makes me grateful it’s cold outside!
If you’re a fan of the series, you may have heard about this dish on the steak pizzaiola Everybody Loves Raymond episode, pitting mother-in-law against daughter-in-law in an epic Iron-Chef-esque battle. I suspect it’s one of those recipes that’s in the wheelhouse of every Italian chef and home cook, and it’s definitely one my family loves to hear is on the menu for the week.
Steak Pizzaiola is all about the pizzaiola, a pizza-reminiscent sauce that can be used to cover steak or just about any other meat. Instead of steak pizzaiola Mario Batali makes a version with veal chops, and Giada de Laurentiis makes one with hamburgers. There are also recipes that use a firm white fish like haddock or cod.
Steak versions cover the range of beef cuts, from inexpensive, tougher cuts to expensive tenderloins. Steak pizzaiola slow cooker versions use London broil or chuck roasts that need awhile to tenderize (these cuts also work well in a steak pizzaiola recipe oven style). The Rachael Ray steak pizzaiola, on the other hand, uses a porterhouse or ribeye that cooks on the stovetop much more quickly than the other cooking methods.
I’m all about quick-cooking, so my Steak Pizzaiola uses a strip steak that gets seared in the pan and lends all those tasty, beefy bits to the sauce. Strip steak (also called a shell steak if the bone is intact) comes from the loin, so it’s already tender and doesn’t take much time to cook. This whole amazing dish will be ready in about 30 minutes!
Sauce ingredients vary just like the protein choice, often capitalizing on the pizza theme by adding mushrooms, anchovies, and even bite-sized pieces of pepperoni. The common ground, though, is a foundation of garlic, peppers, tomatoes, and Italian herbs.
My pizzaiola has a generous amount of garlic – you’ll definitely be keeping the vampires at bay with this one! Peppers are another required ingredient, and they’re often a key player (the steak pizzaiola Lidia Bastianich makes uses two whole peppers).
While I like the subtle flavor of bell peppers, I decided to shake things up a bit in my recipe by using roasted red peppers. They add a touch of sweetness to the dish, which balances the acidity of the tomatoes since the sauce doesn’t cook long, plus they’re already soft which saves a little cook time (a win win!).
Instead of just using canned tomatoes, I add chewy bits of sundried tomatoes to the mix. They lend additional sweetness and an intense tomato flavor, as well as a little texture and subtle smokiness. The sundried tomatoes also play really well with another unique ingredient in my sauce: balsamic vinegar.
Many recipes use wine here to add some acidity and deglaze the pan after cooking the aromatics and veggies. Balsamic vinegar, which, unlike red wine vinegar, is actually made from red grapes that haven’t been fermented, is a delicious, concentrated elixir that adds such a wonderful depth to this sauce. The acidity is more subtle than vinegar and the complex flavors make the sauce taste like it was simmered all day.
Italian seasoning? It’s one of my favorite multi-purpose blends to use around the kitchen, and it adds all the classic aromas you’d expect in Italian “gravy.” I like to boost the flavors a bit, though, with some fresh basil right before serving. It’s a bright, citrusy/licorice-y flavor that really works in the sauce and as a great complement to the steak. The color’s also a lovely contrast when you plate this dish.
I know some home cooks love to top their steak pizzaiola with cheese, but I usually skip this step since the dish is super flavorful on its own. Feel free to sprinkle a little grated Parmesan or mozzarella on top, though, if you just can’t help yourself. You’ll create an awesome low-carb alternative to pizza!
I like to serve Steak Pizzaiola with pasta, of course, because it’s a great way to keep from wasting those saucy bits on your plate. Polenta or gnocchi are good options too, and you’ll want some crusty bread and a bottle of red handy since no Italian meal is complete without it.
By the way, if you have any leftover sauce, don’t throw it away. It’s a great topping for poached or fried eggs if you’re having a brunch get-together or for repurposing leftover chicken or pork. Try warming the sauce with leftover pot roast shreds, then adding that to some hoagie rolls with sliced pepperoncini’s for some serious Italian sandwiches.
Serious about searing – Make sure you use an oil with a high smoke point in this recipe to ensure a quality sear. I recommend either vegetable oil or canola so your oiled pan gets really hot before actually smoking. Definitely don’t crowd the pan, either, since too much steak will drop the temperature of the skillet significantly and leave you with sad, grey meat. I only add 2 steaks at a time to my 12-inch skillet.
Size matters – It may be tempting to add a few extra ingredients to the sauce here, like more mushrooms or extra tomatoes. The sauce as-is fills up a 12-inch Lodge cast iron skillet almost ¾ of the way with enough room to handle the displacement from the steaks. You’ll need an extra-large pan to keep any extras from making the sauce spill over the sides.
Bruised basil – Basil oxidizes just like apples do, and bruising (which is essentially what you’re doing when you chop it) speeds up that process. For this reason, I usually chop mine right before I’m getting ready to serve this dish. There are a few tips, though, to keep it greener awhile longer.
Make sure your knife is sharp, and try using a technique call “chiffonade.” Stack the leaves on top of each other, roll them tightly into a long tube, then cut thin strips across the short side. You can put these shreds into a bowl and cover them with a damp paper towel for a few hours.
Another trick is to spray or brush your knife with a little oil before chopping. This essentially covers the cut edges of the basil with a little oil to slow down the oxidizing process.
More Steak Recipes!
Easy Tropical Flank Steak – Absolutely delicious with an easy-to-make marinade!
Grilled Flank Steak – Nothing fancy, just a simple and delicious!
Steak Tacos – Great weeknight meal served with shredded cheese, sour cream, lettuce and whatever else suits my mood!
Source: Adapted from
- Yield: Serves 4-6
- Prep Time: 35 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Strip Steaks, About 1 Inch Thick - 4
- Vegetable Oil~Divided - 3 Tablespoons
- Yellow Onion, Finely Chopped - 1 Cup
- Cremini Mushrooms, Trimmed and Sliced - 8 Ounces
- Garlic, Minced - 1 Tablespoon
- Sun Dried Tomatoes, In Oil, Drained and Finely Chopped - 1/4 Cup
- Italian Seasoning - 2 Teaspoon
- Balsamic Vinegar - 1/4 Cup
- Crushed Tomatoes - 1 (28 Ounce) Can
- Sliced Roasted Red Peppers, Drained and Chopped - 12 Ounce Jar
- Water - 3/4 Cup
- Basil Leaves, julienned - 1/4 Cup
- Pat steaks dry with paper towels. Season both sides of steaks generously with salt and pepper.
- In a 12 inch cast iron skillet, heat 2 tablespoon oil, over medium-high heat, just until smoking. Add half the steaks and sear, about 3 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining steaks. Transfer steaks to plate and set aside.
- Carefully wipe out most of the oil from the skillet (I used paper towels, gripped with long handled tongs) leaving the brown bits in the the bottom of the pan. Add 1 Tablespoon oil, onions, mushrooms, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper to the skillet and saute until the onions are soft, 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic, dried Italian seasoning, and the sun dried tomatoes and continue to cook for 1 minute. Stir in balsamic vinegar, scrapping up any brown bits on the bottom of the skillet, and cook until most of the vinegar evaporated. Add crushed tomatoes, roasted red peppers, and water. Bring to a rapid simmer, then nestle the steaks in the sauce and continue to simmer, turning the steaks once, 5-7 minutes. Remove the steaks to a cutting board and allow to rest 5 minutes. Continue to simmer the sauce until it thickens a bit, about 3-5 minutes.
- Place whole steak on plates or thinly slice the steaks against the grain, and divide among plates. Top with the sauce and julienned basil and serve.