Rabbit Loin Saltimbocca (Saltimbocca di Coniglio)

Cuts of meat that come from different muscle groups in an animal require different cooking to make them shine. For instance, a ribeye steak is best served medium rare after a quick sear and some resting, whereas a brisket needs to be cooked low and slow to become tender and delicious to eat. Smaller animals like chickens and rabbits are often cooked whole, disregarding the wisdom gained from preparing beef in separate parts. Part of the reason for this may be that a chicken fits easier into most pans and ovens than a whole cow does 😉 A more economical reason is that if you judge by effort per pound of meat, a relatively big effort is needed to separate the different muscle groups of a small animal. Even so, it is worth doing so to get the best results. This is also true for rabbit. Rabbit loins are the ‘rib eye’ of the rabbit, they are very tender and require very little cooking. The legs and other parts however need to be braised or stewed. Even so, rabbit is often cooked whole with the loin dried out.

I thought this to be a waste of a very nice piece of meat, and so when I bought a whole rabbit I decided to do my own butchering and divide the rabbit into loins, legs, flap meat, and carcass. (Of course you can also ask your butcher to do this for you.) The latter three parts will be used for tomorrow’s recipe. The tenderloins are so small in a 1.1 kg (2.5 lbs) rabbit that they are hardly worth getting out. The loins themselves were about 160 grams together or about 14% of the weight of the rabbit.

On the same day I had bought the rabbit, I had also bought some very nice prosciutto. As I still have fresh sage growing in my garden, I decided to turn those rabbit loins into rabbit saltimboccaSaltimbocca is a famous dish from Rome consisting of veal scaloppine with prosciutto and sage. It is so delicious that it is called “jump into mouth” (salt = jump, bocca = mouth). I prefer to have a rabbit jumping in the direction of my mouth rather than a calf 😉 But seriously, this rabbit saltimbocca was absolutely delicious. The meat is super tender and succulent, and pairs very well with the prosciutto and sage. Compared to the veal version, it is a bit lighter and softer in style.

Rabbit could be cheaper and easier to find than veal, but that depends on where you are located. Apart from the deboning part, preparing rabbit saltimbocca is as quick and easy as the original using veal. You pound the loins thin, add sage and prosciutto, panfry briefly in clarified butter, and finally deglaze the pan to make the sauce.


For 2 servings

2 rabbit loins, membranes removed

2 slices prosciutto

2 fresh sage leaves

2 Tbsp clarified butter

salt and freshly ground black pepper

60 ml (1/4 cup) dry white wine


Arrange the rabbit loins between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound them thin. I like to use a rubber mallet for this that I borrow from Kees’ tools.

The rabbit loins should become only 2 mm (1/12 inch) or so.

Season one side with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Turn them over and arrange a sage leave on each. The cover with a slice of prosciutto. It is not needed to secure this with a toothpick if you are careful.

Melt the clarified butter over high heat. Cook the rabbit saltimbocca on the prosciutto side first, over high heat for a minute only.

Carefully turn over the saltimbocca and continue to cook over high heat for another minute.

Take the saltimbocca out of the pan and put them on warm plates. Deglaze the pan with the white wine.

Allow to reduce over high heat, stirring and scraping with a wooden spatula, until only 1-2 tablespoons of sauce is left.

Spoon the sauce on the saltimbocca and serve immediately.

Wine pairing

A medium-bodied but complex and flavorful dry Italian white is best for this, such as a good Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi. A dry rosé or very light red could also work.


19 thoughts on “Rabbit Loin Saltimbocca (Saltimbocca di Coniglio)

  1. You are so right about cooking the parts separately, which we do so well with a cow. I’ve never cooked rabbit, but my mother used to… mostly to freak people out.


    1. In tomorrow’s post I’ll try not to show the rabbit’s head too prominently in the photo, to avoid freaking people out too much…
      How about giving rabbit a try yourself? 🙂


      1. 1. I’d be the only one eating it, and 2. I have no idea where to order it.
        I wish I had your butchering techniques. I’ve looked into classes for just that, but I haven’t found any!


      2. When we lived in Malta – the restaurant would serve the rabbit’s head, along with the other parts, so the customers would know it wasn’t a cat !!


  2. I know you’re already aware of this Stefan but for those who aren’t… the “tenderloin” comes from the muscles that run along the back of an animal. Because these muscles aren’t used in the way that – for instance – leg muscles are, they’re far more tender and require less cooking.


  3. I never would have thought to make saltimbocca with rabbit, Stefan, and would love to give it a try. Your preparation certainly does sound tasty. The rabbit I’ve seen and purchased here, though, are far too small to have loin large enough for this dish. In fact, i just “discovered” a market that sells rabbit cheaper than any I’ve yet come across. At barely 1.5 lbs, the loin is hardly worth the effort. I’ll put “loin of rabbit” on my growing list of things to seek out. Who knows? I may find a “super” butcher with all of the meats and cuts that I need. A dinner of your rabbit loin saltimbocca won’t be far behind. 🙂


    1. 1.5 lbs is indeed a bit too small — the one I used was almost twice as heavy at 2.5 lbs and even those loins were only just big enough. I’ve seen recipes for rabbit loin online (wrapped in prosciutto for instance), so it appears that they are available somewhere.


  4. When in Italy, we were served a whole rabbit, cooked and cut up on a platter. An old Italian gentleman sitting next to me went right for the head of the rabbit. Is this a common thing in Italy? He was originally from Calabria if that matters.


    1. I think the key point here is that it was older Italian gentleman. In modern recipes the head is not served, but used to make stock. In older recipes, nothing was thrown away as every piece of protein was precious. I have eaten rabbit in restaurants in Italy on a number of occasions, but the head was never served. As far as I know, rabbits are prepared all over Italy.


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