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Tuscan Recipes: Veal Saltimbocca with Polenta

By: Steve Keenan Journalist | Specialist in rural tourism

Pheobe Ryan - cook and food blogger

“Saltimbocca literally means ‘jump into the mouth’ in Italian. The sagey, prosciutto flavours are so very tantalising, stunning in the simplicity of the taste, and are brought out beautifully by a dash of marsala.
“Although you can cook saltimbocca with thin beef steaks, veal is so beautiful: as long as you are careful about your supplier and get rose veal or free-raised veal (the best, most caring slaughter process). If you want a dairy cow to keep providing milk, she has to calve once a year. Although female calves become milkers, male calves are of little use to a farmer.
“A rose veal or free-raised veal is slaughtered between 24–35 weeks, where even the best quality chickens are normally slaughtered around 60 days old, and cheaper, more dubitably sourced birds much sooner than that.”

Veal Saltimboca with Soft Polenta and a Rocket Salad

Saltimbocca with Polenta

Ingredients (to serve two)

  • Two veal escalopes
  • Four pieces thinly sliced prosciutto
  • Four sage leaves
  • 175ml marsala
  • Knob of butter
  • Yellow polenta
  • Chicken stock
  • Two handfuls rocket
  • Good grate of parmesan
  • Seasoning

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 50 minutes


  1. Flatten your escalopes (put them between two sheets of clingfilm, and use a large metal spoon or back of a small frying pan to bash them until they are thinner).

  2. Lay each flattened escalope on its slices of prosciutto, and lay the sage leaves in the centre of the escalope. Then roll the escalope tightly, with the prosciutto tight around the outside, and pin with a toothpick. Put them into the fridge for 20–30 minutes, to let them settle into their rolls (not necessary, but I find this inhibits the roll’s propensity to unfurl as you fry).

  3. Remove your escalopes from the fridge, if you put them there, to bring them to room temperature. Measure out the polenta (around 75g per person) into your saucepan. For flavour, add chicken or vegetable stock to the boiling water. This adds a richness to your polenta. With a ratio of 4:1, add four times as much boiling water as you have polenta, and let thicken for a couple of minutes before turning down to simmer gently. You’ll have to be on hand for frequent stirring, though not as frequently as risotto — keep your eye on your pan, and stir every few minutes. Now, back to the veal...

  4. Slide a 20g nob of butter into a frying pan and let it melt. Remove your toothpick and cook the escalopes until well browned all over, then pour a small glass of marsala over them. Let this hubble-bubble for a few minutes, watching your marsala simmer down to a reduced, thickened sauce.

  5. Add any extra butter to the polenta if you think it needs it, plus plenty of salt and pepper.  Polenta and butter are a match made in heaven. Also add a few good scrapes of parmesan, again to your taste.

  6. Slice the escalopes into four or five, and place them delicately on top of the polenta you have spooned into a bowl or plate. Add a handful of rocket for a peppery, biting contrast to the sweet, salty richness on the plate, and don’t forget to spoon over your reduced marsala sauce.

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