THE ART OF ITALIAN DINING
The culinary traditions of Lazio are deeply rooted in the ancient and agricultural heritage of the land.
A fertile landscape of bucolic farms, hearty livestock and rich olive groves has nurtured a regional cuisine that favors simplicity and has produced high quality, savory staples like pecorino romano, spaghetti all’amatriciana, cacio e pepe, stracciatella soup, carciofi alla giudea, and roasted lamb and pork to name but a few. Perfecting the balance between acids and animal fats and imagined through an aromatic blend of herbs, spices and flavors that reflect its diverse landscape, the dishes of Lazio beckon you to enjoy every salty, tangy bite with reckless abandon. But one dish in particular holds a special place in the pantheon of Roman cuisine, perhaps best epitomizing the gloriously decadent dining experience that only Lazio can provide.
Considered the king among all Roman “secondi”, Saltimbocca alla Romana is a quintessentially Roman dish meant to literally “jump in the mouth.” Unifying the local flavors of the region into one luscious offering, Saltimbocca alla Romana combines butter, white wine, thin fillets of veal, prosciutto and sage in a complex symphony for the taste buds.
With one whiff of this classic Lazio mainstay bubbling away on your stove, it won’t be long before every last fillet has “jumped” from the pan onto your inviting plate.
SALTIMBOCCA ALLA ROMANA
So delicious are these rolls of veal that, as their name declares, they “leap in your mouth”. Thin slices of veal are covered by a slightly smaller slice of prosciutto and a sage leaf. The meat is rolled up and secured with a toothpick “stitched” along the length of the roll, rather than stuck through it. Another, less common, way of making saltimbocca is to leave them flat, securing the prosciutto and the sage leaf to the open piece of veal with the toothpick. Also, if you are not a big fan of veal you can use chicken thighs (pounded thinly) .
Total Time: 35 min
Prep: 25 min
Cook: 10 min
Yield: 4 servings
Put the veal cutlets side by side on a sheet of plastic wrap. Lay a piece of prosciutto on top of each piece of veal and cover with another piece of plastic. Gently flatten the cutlets with a rolling pin or meat mallet, until the pieces are about 1/4-inch thick and the prosciutto has adhered to the veal. Remove the plastic wrap and lay a couple of sage leaves in the center of each cutlet, and some grated Fontina cheese. Roll the veal cutlet a neat sausage-like shape. Weave a toothpick in and out of the veal to secure the prosciutto and sage. Put some flour in a shallow platter and season with a fair amount of salt and pepper; mix with a fork to combine. Dredge the veal rolls in the seasoned flour, shaking off the excess.
Heat the oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter and in a large skillet over medium flame. Put the veal in the pan, prosciutto-side down first. Cook for 3 minutes to crisp it up and then flip the veal over and saute the other side for 2 minutes, until golden. Transfer the saltimbocca to a serving platter, remove the toothpicks, and keep warm.
Add the wine to the pan, stirring to bring up all the delicious flavor in the bottom; let the wine cook down for a minute to burn off some of the alcohol. Add the chicken broth and remaining tablespoon of butter, swirl the pan around. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the saltimbocca, garnish with sage leaves and lemon wedges; serve immediately with a side of sauté’ spinach or greens.
A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT ‘LA CUCINA ROMANA’
Nowadays, the term “Cucina Romana” is readily employed to categories a variety of recipes, sometimes a little too quickly. Here is a quick overview of the history of Rome’s cuisine, exemplified by the allegedly Roman recipe “saltimbocca alla Romana”.
While “Cucina Romana” refers specifically to recipes that appeared during Rome’s Imperial period, Roman recipes that originated before and after are categorised as “Cucina Romanesca”, forming a long tradition, much of it being the simple and tasty fare of the people.
Many traditions can be traced back to some of Rome’s original founders, shepherds who formed their colonies on the seven hills, and who eventually became farmers. Contemporary Rome’s strong ties with products reflecting that age are illustrated by the omnipresence of the famous cheese, Pecorino Romano.
But ancient Rome is also well known for its legendary banquets, hosted by Rome’s aristocrats, which brought together Rome’s wealthy and powerful to eat for days: Meals could consist of up to a hundred courses. This luxurious and decadent demeanor was a sharp contrast to the city of sheperds and farmers, and their traditions. This was the age where the Roman generals such as Lucullo hosted meals that were so sumptuous that even today, Italians reference Lucullo when they allude to something extremely refined and abundant. Chefs from around the world would come, seeking to delight the aristocratic palates with exquisit and unusual ingredients, such as flamingo, and dormouse…
The richness of that cuisine was recorded by a legendary chef of that age, Apicio, in an enciclopedic collection of books called “L’arte della cucina. Manuale dell’esperto cuoco della Roma imperiale” – “The art of cuisine. The expert chef’s manual of imperial Rome”.
Today, the term “Cucina Romana” has taken on much broader significance. In fact, some recipes that are not even clearly of Roman origin, but have become popular throughout the city, are quickly identified as belonging to the “Cucina Romana” cuisine.
A few examples are the dish “carbonara”, the “gnocchi alla Romana”, or the “satimbocca alla Romana”.
Experts have varying opinions on their origins, but most agree that they are not, strictly speaking, from Rome: The ancient recipe for “saltimbocca” is said to originate in Brescia. While it is much older than a century, the first written trace of this recipe can be found in an influential book published towards the end of the 19th century, by Pellegrino Artusi, a celebrated Italian chef: “Saltimbocca alla Romana” is recipe No. 222, and Artusi claims to have enjoyed the dish in Rome, at the trattoria “Le Venete”.