Why It Works
- Pounding the veal tenderizes it and gives it an even thickness, which leads to even cooking.
- Very quickly flipping the cutlets prosciutto-side down and then immediately back gives the cured meat just a kiss of heat—enough to intensify the prosciutto's flavor without turning it overly crisp and salty.
- An optional splash of soy sauce adds depth and complexity to the pan sauce.
Veal saltimbocca, a Roman specialty, is a simple dish of sautéed veal cutlets, layered with prosciutto and fresh sage, and served with a buttery, lemony pan sauce. It's quick and easy to make, but to make it truly great, you have to pay attention to the details. At its best it's rich and flavorful, and just salty and tangy enough to make it practically leap off the plate (and into your mouth).
- 8 veal cutlets (about 1 pound; 450g)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 8 large, thin slices prosciutto (about 1/4 pound; 115g)
- 1 bunch fresh sage, divided (about 1/4 ounce; 7g)
- Cornstarch, for dredging (about 1/2 cup)
- 3 tablespoons (45ml) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup (80ml) dry white wine
- Fresh juice from 1 lemon, to taste
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce (5ml), preferably usukuchi (light soy sauce) (optional; see note)
Arrange cutlets on a work surface, cover with a sheet or two of plastic wrap, and pound each with a meat pounder or the bottom of a small heavy saucepan or skillet until no more than 1/4-inch thick throughout. Season lightly on one side only with salt and pepper.
Flip veal cutlets so that the salted side is down. Pick eight of the the largest sage leaves from your bunch and lay one in the center of each cutlet; if the sage leaves are small, use two per cutlet.
Lay a slice of prosciutto on top of each cutlet, sandwiching the sage leaves flat between them. Using two wooden toothpicks per cutlet, fasten the prosciutto to the cutlets (the easiest way to do this is to push the toothpicks down through the prosciutto and just into the veal, then back up through the prosciutto again, much like fastening them together with a safety pin).
Pour about 1/2 cup of cornstarch into a wide, shallow bowl. Dredge the underside of each prosciutto-topped cutlet in the cornstarch, shaking off the excess.
In a large skillet or sauté pan, heat two tablespoons olive oil over high heat until shimmering. Add four of the cutlets, prosciutto-side up, and cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until the cutlets are lightly browned on the bottom and the last traces of pink are visible on top at the edges. Using a thin metal spatula, flip all of the cutlets prosciutto-side down, then flip them back immediately. Transfer to a clean platter. Lower heat at any time while cooking the cutlets to prevent burning.
Add remaining one tablespoon olive oil to the skillet. Add remaining four veal cutlets and repeat as in Step 5, then transfer to the platter.
Lower heat to medium-low and add butter and a few sprigs of sage to the skillet and cook until butter is melted. Add white wine. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring and scraping up any browned bits, then continue to cook, stirring and swirling constantly, until sauce is emulsified and slightly thickened (exact time can vary significantly depending on your skillet size and burner power; increase the heat at any time if it seems to be taking too long, or lower the heat if it's reducing too quickly).
Season with salt and pepper, then stir in one teaspoon of lemon juice. Taste and add another teaspoon (or more) of lemon juice, if desired. Stir in soy sauce, if using. If the sauce breaks at any point, whisk in a tablespoon or two of water to bring it back together. Discard sage sprigs. Pour sauce all over veal cutlets and serve right away.
Wooden toothpicks, meat pounder or small heavy saucepan or skillet, plastic wrap
Soy sauce is not traditional but it adds amazing depth and complexity to the pan sauce. If you have usukuchi (light) soy sauce, use that; it's saltier and less malty than regular dark soy, so it blends into the sauce excellently. If not, dark soy also works.