Of the many wonderful things about Italian regional cooking, one must surely be the different wonders that can be created with the one base ingredient.  With a slight twist, addition or subtraction or a different cooking method, that one ingredient can be transformed into something completely different.  The change may only be slight, but the effect is substantial.

Veal Saltimbocca is a great example of this versatility. The same veal you use for your other beautiful classics is employed for this beautiful meat dish often attributed to the parts in and around Rome.  The veal that you could use for Cottolette alls Milanese or Veal Involtini, can be deployed for yet another dish.  And that dish carries an evocative name that says its all: Veal “Saltimbocca”: veal that jumps into the mouth!

And it is not called that for nothing.  The catchy name belies the elegance of the dish, but also its simplicity.  Saltimbocca is perfect for the evening meal when you don’t need too much more work.  And yet it's versatile enough to be dinner party staple too.  Girello is usually used, which is a cut of veal from the back leg.  If you purchase this as one piece, be sure to remove any sinew before cutting into slices (say, 1-1.5cm thick).

This version is sometimes called Saltimbocca alla Romana as it's the pan fried version from around Rome and is often accompanied by Gnocchi Romano.

To serve 4, you need these ingredients:

8 veal escalopes (preferably on the small side)
8 slices of prosciutto (no ham, please)
8 sage leaves (not small ones, the sage leaf should cover at least ¼ of the veal piece)
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
60g (2 ½ oz) of butter
185ml (¾ cup) of dry white wine.  A dry marsala could be used, but NOT sweet marsala which can overpower the delicate veal.
Plastic wrap
Cocktail sticks


1. Each veal piece should be placed between two sheets of plastic wrap, and pounded with a meat mallet until thin.  Season each veal piece with salt and pepper.
2. Cut the prosciutto slices to the same size as the flattened veal pieces.
3. Cover each piece of veal with one slice of the prosciutto.
4. Place a sage leaf on top of each slice of prosciutto and secure it to the veal with a cocktail stick.
5. Heat the oil and butter in a large frying pan.
6. Once the butter is melted and just foaming, add the veal prosciutto side up and fry on a moderately high heat for 3-4 minutes until the veal is cooked through.  Be careful not to have the heat too high, or it will brown without cooking sufficiently.  You may need to cook the veal pieces in batches; if so, transfer the batch that you have just cooked to a warmed plate and commence cooking the next batch, repeating this step.
7. Remove the Cocktail Sticks from each piece that has been cooked.
8. Take the pan and pour off the oil, then add the white wine/marsala.
9. Cook over a high heat until the liquid is reduced to about half the original amount.
10. Add the remaining butter to the fry pan and heat until melted.  Spoon it over the cooked veal pieces to serve.

Enjoy this mouthwatering recipe with a white wine, or a light red if you prefer.

La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy
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