Saltimbocca literally means “jump in the mouth” because it’s so delicious. Fortunately, it’s just as easy to make them as they are delicious.
There are many variations of saltimbocca, some even substitute veal for chicken or pork, but the constant factor is the mouth-watering combination of tender veal scaloppine with prosciutto di Parma and fresh sage. Some use butter, some use olive oil. Some use flour to dust before cooking, others don’t. Some cook the prosciutto side first, some the veal side. Some put the sage on the outside, others on the inside. Some use veal or chicken stock for the sauce, others don’t. Some use marsala instead of white wine for the sauce. Some use tougher (cheaper) veal that requires longer cooking time. Some even roll up saltimbocca. As with most Italian cooking, it is impossible to establish what is the “official” or “authentic” version. So I think it’s the taste that counts! As always, get the best quality ingredients you can afford and treat them with respect.
For each saltimbocca
1 veal scaloppina (70-110 grams, 3-4 oz) from the top round, pounded thin by your butcher, about the size of a slice of prosciutto
1 thin slice of prosciutto di parma
1 leaf of fresh sage
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp dry white wine
optional: 4 tbsp veal stock
Preheat the oven to 60C/140F. Put in the plates you will use for the dish to warm up.
Pat scaloppine dry with paper towels. Rub with salt and freshly ground pepper on one side and only with a bit of salt or none at all on the other (this is the prosciutto side).
Put a leaf of sage on each scaloppine.
Arrange a slice of prosciutto on top. You do not need a tooth pick, as the prosciutto will stick to the scaloppina by itself and will also keep the sage in place.
Heat butter and olive oil in a frying pan over high heat. When the butter foams, add the veal with the prosciutto side down. You can probably only cook two or three at the time.
Turn around after a minute or so. The prosciutto should be golden but not too dry/crispy. Control heat such that the butter doesn’t burn. Cook for a minute on the veal side.
Put the saltimbocche on a plate in the oven. This serves not only to keep them warm while you are making the sauce or while you are cooking additional saltimbocche, but also to let the heat that is now on the outside of the saltimbocca also get into the middle to cook them throughout and to catch the juices that will come out of the meat.
Add white wine (and veal stock, if using) to the pan to make the sauce. Using veal stock will give the sauce a fuller, meaty flavor. Stir and scrape to get all the flavor from the bottom of the pan also into the sauce. Also add the juice that has leaked out of the meat onto the plates in the oven to the sauce. Turn down the heat as soon as the sauce has thickened somewhat.
Now take the plates with saltimbocca out of the oven and serve with a tablespoon of the sauce. Served here with marsala-glazed carrots, for which I will post the recipe soon.
Saltimbocca go well with a full-bodied dry Italian white that may have been aged in barriques. The traditional combination is a light fruity Italian red wine, but I prefer the white.