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Charred Beef Tenderloin With Cacio e Pepe Toasted Barley and Watercress Pesto

Charred Beef Tenderloin With Cacio e Pepe Toasted Barley and Watercress Pesto

[Photograph: Kerry Saretsky]

This is a hearty, crave-buster dish that I still feel proud to eat because it's full of lean protein and whole grains. Rather than the traditional buttery pasta, I'm using toasted barley flavored with a hearty sprinkling of black pepper and a light dusting of salty Pecorino Romano cheese to capture the flavors of cacio e pepe. Simple as that, but so nutty, chewy, hearty, and good. On top is a piece of simply grilled filet mignon topped with a peppery pesto of watercress, spinach, and arugula.

About the author: Kerry Saretsky is the creator of French Revolution Food, where she reinvents her family's classic French recipes in a fresh, chic, modern way.

Charred Beef Tenderloin With Cacio e Pepe Toasted Barley and Watercress Pesto

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About This Recipe

Yield:serves 2
Active time:30 minutes
Total time:1 1/2 hours
Special equipment:food processor, grill pan
This recipe appears in: Charred Beef Tenderloin With Cacio e Pepe Toasted Barley and Watercress Pesto


  • 2/3 cup pearl barley, rinsed
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 packed cup mixed bitter greens, such as watercress, spinach, and arugula
  • 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped walnuts
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olie oil, divided
  • 3 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano, divided
  • 12 ounces beef tenderloin
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. 1

    Cover barley with water by 2 inches in a medium pot and add a teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a bare simmer, and cook until barley is tender, 35 to 45 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water, and set aside. Barley can be cooked up to 3 days in advance.

  2. 2

    For the pesto, place the greens, garlic, walnuts, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 1 tablespoon of Pecorino Romano cheese in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Process until a paste is formed. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.

  3. 3

    Rub beef with 1 teaspoon oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Heat a cast iron skillet or grill pan over high heat until lightly smoking, then add beef. Cook, turning frequently, until well-browned on all sides and an instant read thermometer inserted into deepest part of meat registers 120°F for medium rare or 130°F for medium, about 10 minutes total (reduce heat if the meat threatens to burn or the smoking is excessive before it reaches its finished temperature). Transfer meat to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes.

  4. 4

    While the meat is resting, make the cacio e pepe barley. Wipe out skillet and add remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Return to medium-high heat until shimmering. Add barley and 2 teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until barley is toasty and lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat and scatter remaining 2 tablespoons of Pecorino over the top. Stir into the barley, allowing the residual heat to melt it. Season to taste with more salt and pepper as desired.

  5. 5

    To serve, divide the barley into two shallow bowls. After the meat has rested, cut into 1/2-inch slices. Place on top of the barley. Spoon one or two spoonfuls of the pesto over the meat, and top with some extra freshly cracked black pepper. Serve.

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