The rustic reputation of much Italian cooking sometimes unfairly gives it the reputation of being a bit "rough".

Sure, it can be a bit rough and ready, combining what’s available at that day’s market or in the pantry or supermarket and throwing it together to produce something wonderful, often serving it for a casual every-day lunch or dinner. 

But just as many dishes have an elegance to their simplicity that makes them very suited to something a little more formal.

The is especially so with the various filled meat dishes made around the country, each region having its own interpretations and specialties.   

“Involtini” is the perfect example.  These small bundles of meat produce something subtle and elegant.  In this recipe, it’s veal pounded into thin tender slices and wrapped around mortadella (or prosciutto), cheese and asparagus spears: perfect for something a little more refined than the everyday.

To serve 4, you need these ingredients:

8 asparagus spears

4 veal escalopes

4 thin slices of mortadella (containing pistachios if possible; although Italian prosciutto is equally as nice and may be more easily available)

4 thin slices of Bel Paese cheese (otherwise other firm cheese good for melting)

plain flour seasoned with salt and pepper

3 tablespoons of butter

1 tablespoon of olive oil

3 tablespoons of dry Marsala

kitchen string


  1. Wash the asparagus and remove the woody ends; do this by holding each spear at each end and gently bending it – the asparagus spear will snap at its natural breaking point
  2. Blanch all the asparagus spears in boiling salted water for 3 minutes. 
  3. Drain the asparagus and reserve 3 tablespoons of the liquid
  4. Using a meat mallet, pound each veal escalope between 2 sheets of plastic wrap.  You are looking to shape a rectangle of 12x 18cm / 5 x 7 inches
  5. Season the flat escalopes with salt and pepper.
  6. Slice a piece of mortadella and a piece of cheese and size them just a little smaller than the veal
  7. Cover each piece of veal with a slice of mortadella then a slice of cheese
  8. Add two asparagus spears in the center of the meat (for effect, you could alternatively place an asparagus spear overhanging each end of the meat).
  9. Roll each veal slice up tightly and tie at each end with kitchen string.
  10. Roll each slice in the seasoned flour to coat it for frying
  11. Heat 2 tablespoons of butter with olive oil in a frying pan and fry the rolls evenly over a low heat for around 10 minutes until they are golden. Transfer to a hot serving dish to keep warm whilst you prepare the sauce
  12. Add the Marsala, reserved asparagus liquid and remaining butter to the pan and quickly bring to the boil, then simmer it for 3-4 minutes.  The juices will darken and reduce.  Season to taste and then spoon over the veal rolls and serve immediately.

Enjoy with a beautiful light read wine or white.

La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy
Amazon Price: $45.00 $24.53 Buy Now
(price as of Jun 26, 2014)