This creamy pork tenderloin pasta is a beautiful, elegant pork pasta recipe from Trentino-Alto Adige known as tagliatelle alla Castellana in Italian. The easy pork tenderloin sauce includes mushrooms, cream, brandy and pancetta! A delicious, rich, and filling Italian mountain recipe!
This pasta recipe reminds me a little of a pork stroganoff. It’s got a rich, creamy mushroom flavor that combines so well with the pork and pancetta. It’s also easy to make and doesn’t take long.
None of the sauce ingredients need long cooking. In fact, I actually put it all together in the time it took me to boil the water and cook the pasta. This is definitely a recipe that you will love once you try it!
About this Traditional Italian Pork Tenderloin Pasta
In my opinion, the best cheese, milk, cream and butter in Italy come from the Alpine mountain areas. This is probably because the dairy cows don’t spend their whole lives eating forage in a stall but get to eat real grass in high mountain pastures and meadows! Even today, sheep and cows are still taken up to the pastures in summer and left to graze under the watchful eye of herders or the farmer and his family.
Whilst in the mountains, the cows are milked there. Consequently, there are a number of delicious Italian cheeses made only with the raw milk from meadow grazing cows in summer!!
This movement of livestock from the valleys to the mountain pastures is called Alpine transhumance. This is actually a very old pastoral tradition that dates back to the Bronze Age!
Needless to say, many Alpine recipes, like this creamy pork tenderloin pasta (tagliatelle alla Castellana), have a generous amount of dairy in them. This sauce is cooked with butter not olive oil and enriched with cream. It also includes brandy, although grappa would be more typical!
Pasta in the mountains.
In the past, pasta wasn’t so popular in the Italian Dolomites. Polenta, bread and rice were the main staple ingredients of most dishes. And, they still form the basis for many recipes. However, nowadays, there are many great pasta recipes enjoyed in Italy’s mountain areas.
The pasta I used for this creamy pork tenderloin tagliatelle was a dried tagliatelle from our local pasta maker. Here in Italy, most towns have a small ‘pastificio’ (pasta maker), where you can buy fresh pasta. It’s a bit like going to the bakers! Many of these places also dry some of the pasta they make, so you can purchase dried too!
Pasta: While tagliatelle is the traditional choice for this recipe, other pasta ribbons like fettuccine or pappardelle can also be great substitutes. They all share a similar flat and wide structure, perfect for this creamy pork sauce.
Pork Tenderloin (Pork Fillet): Use a high-quality fresh pork tenderloin; it should be pinkish-red in color and not greyed with minimal fat.
Mushrooms: Use fresh mushrooms that are in season. I used white button mushrooms, which worked great, but you can also use cremini or fresh porcini mushrooms, which are the most traditional. Fresh porcini will add a much stronger and earthier flavor.
Pancetta: This Italian bacon brings a savory and slightly salty flavor to the dish. If unavailable, regular smoked bacon can be used as a substitute.
Garlic and Onion: These aromatics are finely chopped to infuse the dish with flavor without overpowering it.
Heavy Cream: The cornerstone of the sauce, providing a luxurious, creamy consistency. For a lighter version, half-and-half can be used, though the sauce will be less rich.
Brandy: This adds a distinct depth and complexity to the sauce.
Butter: Butter is used for its rich flavor, enhancing the mushrooms and onions while contributing to the creamy sauce.
Cooking Pork Tenderloin: Pork tenderloin (also called pork fillet) cooks quickly, so keep an eye on it to ensure it doesn’t overcook and become tough. It’s best cooked until just slightly pink to maintain tenderness.
Deglazing with Brandy: After adding the brandy, let it cook off for a few minutes to remove the alcohol content. If you have any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan from browning the pork, gently scrape them off with a wooden utensil. These bits are packed with flavor and will enrich the sauce.
Pasta Water: If the sauce thickens too much after reducing the cream, use a bit of the reserved pasta water to thin it to your desired consistency. This helps you achieve a smooth and silky sauce.
Step by Step Instructions
1) Put a pot of water onto to boil for the pasta. Add salt once it starts to boil and bring it to boil again.
2) In a heavy skillet or frying pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and garlic, cooking until the onion softens slightly.
3) Add the sliced mushrooms to the pan and continue cooking until they start to brown slightly. Then add the pancetta and cook until it begins to brown.
4) Next, add the pork tenderloin pieces to the pan. Cook for just a few minutes, ensuring the pork remains slightly pink and is not overcooked.
5) Increase the heat and add a measure of brandy. After the alcohol evaporates, lower the heat and stir in the heavy cream. Let the sauce simmer for about 3 to 4 minutes, allowing it to reduce slightly. Season the sauce with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
6) While the sauce simmers, cook the tagliatelle al dente according to the package instructions. For fresh tagliatelle, this should take about 4-5 minutes, and for dried, around 10 minutes.
7) Before draining the pasta, save a cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta and then add it to the sauce in the skillet. Stir well to ensure the pasta is evenly coated with the creamy sauce. If the sauce appears dry, add some reserved pasta water to adjust the consistency.
8) Serve the dish immediately, optionally garnished with grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano.
Storage and Leftovers
If you have any leftover creamy pork tenderloin pasta, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It’s best consumed within 3 days to maintain the quality and flavor.
Reheating in the Saucepan: Start by placing the pasta in a saucepan over medium heat. To revive the creamy texture of the sauce, add a small amount of water and some additional cream. Begin with a few tablespoons of each and adjust as needed.
Stir the pasta frequently to ensure even heating and to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Continue to heat until the pasta is hot throughout and the sauce returns to its desired consistency.
Reheating in the Microwave: If using a microwave, cover the pasta and heat for 2 minutes. After the initial heating, stir the pasta and continue heating in short intervals, stirring in between, until it’s heated throughout.
Pork is probably the most popular meat in Italy. There are some delicious Italian pork recipes. Plus, every region has its famous hams, sausages, salami and other cured pork products (salumi). Salumi or cold cuts were traditionally made when pigs were butchered in the late autumn. These were then stored to guarantee a supply of meat during the cold winter months.
This tagliatelle alla Castellana has two types of pork in it, pork tenderloin and pancetta. Some recipes I found for this dish included pork loin, instead of tenderloin and speck, instead of pancetta. So, you could use any combination. In other words, tenderloin and speck or loin and pancetta. However, pork tenderloin (also called fillet) needs much less cooking than pork loin. Plus it’s a lot more tender. I definitely prefer it for this recipe.
If you prefer not to use brandy, you can substitute it with white wine or simply use chicken or vegetable broth for a non-alcoholic option.
Other pork pasta recipes on The Pasta Project.
If you make this tagliatelle alla Castellana recipe, I’d love to hear how it turns out and if you liked it. So, please leave a comment here on the blog or on The Pasta Project Facebook page.
Looking forward to hearing from you!
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If you are interested in learning how to make homemade pasta and different types of gnocchi, check out my shop page for some great video online courses from my friends in Rome! Nothing beats learning to make pasta from Italians! Plus while you’re there why not order a copy of one of my pasta recipe cookbooks or checkout some recommended pasta making tools?