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Saltimbocca is one of those classic Italian dishes that makes you think, “man, I wish I thought of that!”. ‘Saltimbocca’ literally means “jumps in the mouth” in Italian and that is exactly the type of sensation you’ll experience when you bite into one of these delicious bundles of joy. There are several variations of this dish floating around Italy but most involve thinly pounded veal scallopini, fresh sage, and prosciutto di Parma. Sometimes the sage and prosciutto are stuffed inside the veal (Saltimbocca alla Romana). Other times you may see a recipe that calls for ‘stitching’ the sage and prosciutto along the outside of the veal using a toothpick. It’s also quite popular to make braciole or involtini (AKA stuffed rolls) out of the above ingredients. I happen to be of the mind that you should make all versions before deciding which one is “the best”. Though I don’t like to get caught up in the politics of recipes I will say this, there is an inherent risk when frying toothpicks.
The version I personally subscribe to is a variation of the ‘alla Romana’ – greatly influenced by the incomparable Mario Batali who, alongside Antonio Carluccio, Lidia Bastianich and Michael Chiarello, is my go-to inspo for Italian recipes. His recipes are very easy to follow and, more importantly from the point of view of this blog, can be adapted to paleo/whole 30 guidelines.
Today, I substituted the traditional veal for chicken breast because, well, that’s what I had on hand. Like Batali, I begin seasoning the inside of the chicken breast with salt and pepper and pounding it until it’s paper-thin. I then stud the filets with a few fresh leaves of sage before folding over the top half to form a packet. The next step is to place the folded chicken onto a thin slice of prosciutto so that the seams run perpendicular to one another. For some added flavour I like to place an extra sage leaf on the outside of the chicken before wrapping the prosciutto over top. The oil in the pan will kiss the sage and give another element of flavour to to the dish. I then pound the complete package once more before dredging in arrowroot starch. This is really the only major difference between my paleo/whole 30 version and Batali’s. The saltimbocca are then pan-fried in a bit of extra virgin olive oil. Once golden brown and crispy on both sides, I transfer them to a serving dish and add some stock and lemon juice to the pan. Scraping off any brown bits on the bottom of the skillet, I reduce the sauce by at least one half. The beauty here is that the arrowroot starch in the ‘foundation’ (AKA brown bits) of the pan will naturally thicken the stock to form a loose, yet flavourful gravy. I finish by spooning the sauce over the saltimbocca. The whole recipe takes about 15-20 minutes in total and is easy enough for a novice to master. Serve it over cauliflower purée or zuchinni noodles with a side of sautéed rapini or spinach. The secret though, is to eat this immediately because it will start to turn soggy if left to sit.
See images below for a step-by-step on how to make Paleo/Whole30 Saltimbocca.
I hope you like this recipe and be sure to let me know what you think in the comments below!
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Step-by-Step: How to Make Saltimbocca
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INGREDIENTS: (serves 3)
3 chicken breasts – butterflied into two slices each (totalling 6 filets)
8-10 fresh sage leaves (more if you have small sage leaves like the ones pictured)
6 slices prosciutto di Parma (look for one that has nothing more than salt and pork in the ingredients)
1/4 cup arrowroot starch – for dredging
1/2 cup chicken stock (substitute bone broth or stock of choice)
1/4 lemon – juiced
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
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- Rinse and pat chicken breast very dry with paper towel. Butterfly in half and season the top side with salt and pepper. Cover chicken breasts with plastic wrap and pound with mallet until paper-thin.
- Stud the chicken breast with sage and fold over the top half to form a packet.
- Place the folded chicken onto a thin slice of prosciutto so that the seams run perpendicular to one another. Add one additional leaf of sage on the top of the chicken (optional) and wrap tightly with prosciutto.
- Pound the saltimbocca once more to flatten. Dredge both sides with arrow root starch – be sure to shake off all excess starch.
- Preheat approximately 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil in a stainless steel skillet set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, carefully lay the saltimbocca in the skillet. Pan-fry until golden brown, crispy and cooked through (approximately 4 minutes per side). Transfer cooked saltimbocca to a serving dish. Set aside.
- Discard all oil from the skillet but reserve any brown bits. Return skillet to stove top and deglaze with 1/2 cup stock and juice of 1/4 lemon. Use a wooden spoon to scrape off any brown bits. Reduce stock by approximately one half. Spoon sauce overtop of saltimbocca and serve immediately.