Tony, our son, Gio, and I enjoy coming up with dinner menus inspired by new recipes or just some of our favorite dishes, and this week’s Scaloppine of Pork Saltimbocca is the perfect main course for a Sunday dinner.
When translated from Italian to English, saltimbocca means “jump in your mouth,” and once you try this savory specialty, you’ll understand why.
Our version of this dish features tender cutlets of pork tenderloin topped with salty prosciutto ham, mild and creamy fresh mozzarella cheese, and fresh sage leaves, complemented with a lemon butter sauce. These flavors are well-balanced and relaxed with each other, and Tony likes to say that the taste experience “dances on the tongue.”
Roman in origin, a saltimbocca dish traditionally features veal, but this high-end meat can be expensive and is often difficult to find in our region. Instead, we’ve found pork tenderloin to be a great substitute, as its excellent flavor and tenderness work well with the scaloppine preparation.
Scaloppine is a method in Italian cuisine where slices of meat (typically veal, but chicken and pork can also be used) are pounded into thin, tender cutlets, or scallops. The cutlets are then dredged in flour and quickly pan-fried, then served with a tomato or wine-based sauce. We love preparing meat this way, as it cooks in minutes and comes out unbelievably tender.
The process for Pork Saltimbocca is an easy one, but requires some advance preparation as several ingredients may not be staples in your pantry. To begin, a whole pork tenderloin is sliced into half-inch medallions, which are then pounded with a meat mallet until they are about Z\,-inch thick. This step can be done up to one day in advance if desired.
Each cutlet is lightly dredged in flour and pan-fried on each side in olive oil for about one to two minutes, then transferred to a baking sheet and topped with a slice of prosciutto and fresh mozzarella to be finished in the oven. The sauce for this dish is a simple lemon butter sauce, which must be prepared just before serving, so it’s important to wait until the sauce is ready before baking the cutlets.
The same pan is used to make the sauce so that all those leftover little brown bits of meat can bring flavor and depth to the dish. Lemon juice, white wine and water are cooked over medium heat until the liquid is reduced by half and those savory brown bits have been freed from the bottom of the pan, about three to five minutes. Use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to coax the bits loose as the sauce thickens. For extra flavor, chicken or vegetable stock may be used instead of water.
A teaspoon of sugar is added, along with a pinch of salt and pepper, and then 2 tablespoons of butter are stirred in as the sauce continues to reduce over medium-low heat for three to five minutes, until all of the ingredients are fully combined and the sauce has achieved a light, silky consistency. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting to keep the sauce warm while the pork cutlets bake in the oven for about three minutes, until the cheese melts and the prosciutto crisps up just a bit.
Transfer the finished cutlets to serving plates or a platter and top with fresh sage leaves followed by the lemon butter sauce. Serve with roasted or whipped potatoes, or linguini tossed in a little bit of garlic and extra virgin olive oil.
Scaloppine of Pork Saltimbocca
Serves: 2 to 4
1 whole pork tenderloin, cut into half-inch medallions
Flour for dredging
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 slices prosciutto ham
6 slices fresh mozzarella, approximately 1 ball
6 fresh sage leaves, whole or julienne cut
Lemon Butter Sauce (see recipe)
Use a meat mallet to gently pound each pork cutlet into cutlets about Z\,-inch thick. Lightly dredge each cutlet in flour, shaking off any excess.
Heat the olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat, then cook up to three cutlets until browned on both sides, about one to two minutes per side. Set the pan aside and transfer cooked cutlets to a baking sheet and top each with a slice of prosciutto and fresh mozzarella.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and begin to make the lemon butter sauce as per the recipe. When the sauce is ready, place the sheet of cutlets in the oven to bake until the cheese melts and the prosciutto crisps up just a bit, about three minutes.
Remove from oven and transfer to serving plates or a platter and top with fresh sage leaves. Use a ladle to pour the lemon butter sauce generously over each cutlet, serve and enjoy.
Tony’s tip: If you’re new to the scaloppine method, you may want to place the pork cutlets between plastic wrap before pounding to protect the meat.
Lemon Butter Sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup white wine (any kind)
½ cup water (use chicken or vegetable stock for more flavor)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Pinch of salt and black pepper
Use the same sauté pan that was used to cook the pork cutlets. Combine the lemon juice, white wine and water or stock and cook over medium heat to deglaze the little brown bits of pork from the pan.
Cook until the liquid has reduced by half, about three to five minutes, using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to help loosen the bits.
Add the sugar, salt and pepper and stir until incorporated. Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir in butter until combined. Continue to reduce the liquid until all ingredients have come together and the sauce has achieved a silky, light consistency, about two to three minutes.
Keep the sauce on low heat while the pork cutlets finish in the oven, then pour over the cutlets and serve immediately.