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In Italian, “Saltare in Bocca” means “to jump in your mouth.” Though it sounds like it would be a salted dish, Saltimbocca actually refers to the superior taste of Meat prepared in the Saltimbocca style and how quickly the dish is made.

Today Saltimbocca is a part of the cuisine in southern Switzerland, Italy, Spain and Greece. Each region has its own take, generally adding their own twist through their choice of Marinades (Wine, Oil, Saltwater, etc.), the meats used and how the dish is prepared.

The wide-ranging, Roman footprint of Saltimbocca warrants the conclusion that Saltimbocca is an ancient preparation. However, Saltimbocca was first written about as recently as 1891, when Pellegrino Artusi, at 71 years of age, finished his seminal Italian cookbook, “La Scienza in Cucina el'Arte di Mangiare Bene" (The Science of Cooking and the Art of Eating Well). The link above goes to Amazon because the book is still in print. It now contains around 790 old-style recipes, but is more description and anecdote than actual process and measurements.

Artusi, who peppers his works (snuck in a pun on ourselves) with anecdotes and stories, claims to have enjoyed the dish in Rome, at “Le Venete,” a well-known Roman trattoria of the day. Saltimbocca alla Romana” is a good recipe.

Saltimbocca is an old favorite that is alive and well today and highly regarded, even in the future. The fictional captain of the Starship Enterprise, James T. Kirk, is said to be very fond of Veal Saltimbocca after his first visit to Velluto’s Restaurant in San Francisco, CA around 2250 AD.  At least this is the story as recounted in the Star Trek novel, My Brother’s Keeper.

Culinary Uses

Saltimbocca means “Jump in your Mouth” in Italian and refers to a style of preparing Meats with Prosciutto and Sage and Marinating them in Wine, Oil or salted Water, depending on the region. Capers are also an ingredient in some versions of the dish.

Because the name Saltimbocca is derived from Italian, most food scholars believe that the dish originated in Italy, though it quickly spread throughout the Mediterranean and Southern Europe via the broad sweep of the Roman Empire. In fact there is a version of Saltimbocca called Saltimbocca Alla Romana which is a variantof Saltimbocca made with a Pounded Escallop of Veal topped with fresh Sage and Prosciutto (or Ham) that is rolled together, and often also held together with a toothpick, and then Pan Fried in Marsala Wine and Butter. Smart Kitchen’s Exerciseson Saltimbocca alla Romana goes into much more detail.

Depending on the region, Saltimbocca can be broadly characterized as MarinatedPounded Meat, that is then rolled with Prosciutto (or Bacon/Ham) and Sage. The combination of rolled meat and herbs is held together with a toothpick, or Skewer, and is then Pan Fried or Sautéed in whole Butter or Oil. Lighter meats such as VealChicken, and Pork are most commonly used.

From that broad definition, imaginations have run wild. Saltimbocca alla Romana is classically Marinated in fortified Marsala wine. Other cuisines use Brines or Flavored Oils, but the Marinade is usually kept fairly simple so that it enhances the flavors of the Meats and Sage without overpowering them. Some marinade may be Reserved before use (so that it does not touch Raw) to De-Glaze the pan and make a Pan Sauce after the meats are cooked. It is a good way to ensure that all the flavor in the Fond becomes part of the dish. Separate Sauces can also be paired with a SaltimboccaLemon and Capers are favorite flavors commonly used.

Depending on the preparation and size of the portions, Saltimbocca can be an entréeHors d’Oeuvre or an Appetizer.

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