Saltimbocca alla romana

Time for the May edition of Cucina Conversations! By the time Blogger automatically posts this, I'll be on vacation in Prague and then Budapest (posts on both cities to follow) so I'll keep this short and sweet, as I've still got packing to do!  

This month our theme is *drumroll* --  "Italian dishes with body part names." Sounds weird, unappetizing, and possibly slightly creepy, I know, so let me explain. My fellow bloggers and I had been discussing Italian dishes with odd names, a conversation that got started after we read this article here, which covers everything from calzone ("pant leg") to spaghetti alla puttanesca ("whore's pasta"). As we added to our list of Italian foods with peculiar names we noticed that actually, if you think about it (and understand Italian) there are lots of foods and dishes with body parts in their names. For example: the pasta orecchiette, after all, translates to "little ears;" vermicelli pasta translates to "little worms;" occhi di bue, a round sandwich cookie with a hole in the middle translates to "bulls eye;" yet another cookie goes by the name dita degli apostoli, or rather, apostles' fingers. Many of these dishes resemble what they have been named after -- orecchiette are small and round like, you guessed it, little ears, vermicelli are long and skinny like worms -- while others have names that came about by way of funny little stories (see Daniela's recipe below). Still others have weird, body part names that came about in a foggier way -- for example, the aforementioned dita degli apostoli (a Pugliese sweet reminiscent of cannoli) translates as "apostles' fingers," for example, but I've not been able to find much online about why apostles have been included here and what their fingers have to do with it -- any info welcome! 

With no further ado, here are the recipes (and name translations) from my fellow bloggers this month:

Rosemarie over at Turin Mamma has prepared pansoti, a type of filled pasta whose name comes from the word "pancia" (tummy) and refers to the round shape of the pasta;

Daniela of La Dani Gourmet is sharing her recipe for brandacujun, a Ligurian dish made with cod and potatoes and whose name contains the word for um, testicles (cujun) in Ligurian dialect. There is a story to explain this name, and I can assure you that the dish is made with cod, potatoes, parsley, and garlic!

Lisa aka Italian Kiwi has made a cocktail called gamba di legno (gamba means "leg");

Carmen at The Heirloom Chronicles has made homemade orecchiette pasta (see explanation above);

Flavia from Flavia's Flavors is sharing a recipe for cookies called lingue di gatto (lingue means tongues, referring to the shape of these cookies);

Last but not least Marialuisa over at Marmellata di Cipolle has made a sweet named after the patron saint of the Sicilian city of Catania, minne di Sant'Agata, (which translates to "Saint Agatha's breasts") or rather, pastries filled with ricotta, candied fruit, and chocolate, topped with a cherry.

My contribution for this month is saltimbocca alla romana, a (you guessed it) Roman dish. Unlike the recipes selected by some of my fellow bloggers, this dish actually does not resemble the body part (bocca means mouth) in its title. Its name literally translates to "jump in your mouth," accurately referring to the fact that the dish is so flavorful that your taste buds do a little hop and skip when you eat it: the mild flavored veal is complemented but not overwhelmed by a slice of salty rich prosciutto, the sage leaf adds a cozy, herb-y note, and the white wine (and subsequent pan sauce) adds another layer of flavor to the whole dish. For me, it personifies the very essence of Italian cuisine -- it is and incredibly simple dish, made with only a handful of ingredients, and yet manages to be spectacularly tasty, in the same category as the equally paired down, minimal cacio e pepe, spaghetti aglio e olio, and cicoria alla romana. It isn't fancy, or fussy, or intimidating, just straightforwardly delicious, fast, and easy. What more could you want in a recipe?!

A couple of notes: As you can see in the photo below, I was cooking for two not four, so there are only two cutlets pictured -- if you're cooking for 4 follow of course the quantities provided below. Try and buy sage leaves that are on the bigger side so that they can be easily secured with the toothpick/lend more sage-y flavor. That's about it for notes, this is a pretty easy one, I think!

Want more Cucina Conversations recipes? Click here and scroll to the bottom of the page!


2 tablespoons butter
4 veal cutlets
4 leaves of sage
4 slices of prosciutto
1/2 cup white wine

4 toothpicks
Wax paper

Start with your veal cutlets. If you don't have cutlets that are very thin -- place each cutlet between two pieces of wax paper and using a meat pounder (or any other heavy object you have on hand -- I have been known to use a big jar of Nutella) pound the meat until thin, one at a time. Next, place slice of prosciutto on top of each cutlet, then a sage leave, and use a toothpick to secure the prosciutto and sage leaf to the cutlet.
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the cutlets, prosciutto side up, and season with a bit of salt and pepper (keeping in mind that the prosciutto is already on the salty side).
Turn the veal cutlets after a few minutes and let them brown on the other side, seasoning again. Add the wine to the skillet and let it cook down and reduce for a few minutes.
Remove the cutlets from the pan when cooked through and golden on both sides, and remove a plate. Carefully remove the toothpicks.
Serve your saltimbocca alla romana immediately with the wine-y pan sauce you have created. These are great with a side of roast potatoes. Serves 4.


  1. I just LOVE saltimbocca! I never really though about what the name meant. That's funny! Meat cooked this way really does "jump in your mouth"!

  2. Such a flavoursome dish! Must cook this some day soon. Xx

  3. Great post, thank you for the useful information. Keep up the good work! FYI, check this out: Smile Direct Club Review