Makes 8 servings (serving a crowd?)

  • 2 whole chicken breasts (about 2 lbs)
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 16 fresh sage leaves
  • 8 paper-thin slices proscuitto (⅛ lb but see note)
  • approx. 1 oz Parmesan cheese, sliced very thinly (see notes)
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • approx. 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 oz sliced fresh mushrooms, preferably oyster and/or porcini
  • ¼ cup dry white wine

Special equipment

wax paper
round toothpicks
large frying pan
serving platter


One by one, split each whole breast into two halves. Split each half into two thin cutlets by placing each on your cutting board and slicing into two with a sharp French blade parallel to the surface of the cutting board. This will yield 8 cutlets.

Pound each cutlet between sheets of wax paper until it’s even and thin, about ⅛ inch thick and 4 inches by 8 inches at it’s widest. Don’t break out a ruler: you want them thin, but not unworkably thin. The wax paper prevents the meat from sticking to your mallet and your cutting board.

Atop each cutlet, spin a couple of twists of black pepper, arrange each half of two torn sage leaves to maximize coverage area, and slivers of Parmesan in between, and cover with a sheet of proscuitto. Now pin the proscuitto to the cutlet with a pair of toothpicks as if you were securing them with a safety pin. You can easily layer this and store in the fridge for later cooking.

Melt one tablespoon of the butter and one teaspoon of the oil in a large frying pan. When it begins to sizzle, place in two of the cutlets, proscuitto side up. You’ll be cooking these by color, not by timer. When the cutlet is almost done, flip it onto the proscuitto side side and finish it off, only 15-30 seconds. Remove to your prewarmed platter. Without adding any more grease, cook the next two cutlets.

Add another tablespoon of butter and teaspoon of oil and repeat with the remaining four cutlets in two removes.

With the pan still on medium heat, add the last tablespoon of butter and toss in the mushroom slices. The heat will be more intense than you expect so the mushrooms will brown quickly. Splash in the wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up the brown bits with your spatula, and pour over the cutlets.

Remove toothpicks before serving.


Some overdo the sauce with a rich lemon-caper-butter cream, or a potent beurre blanc. Ours is simple: let the cutlet, herbs, Proscuitto and hint of cheese dominate. The sauce is only to keep the cutlets moist.

Canzoneri sent us down this road, recommending Bettoja’s saltimbocca as prime example where chicken cutlets can substitute for veal. But that recipe is a little too High Church for us, demanding that you trim cutlets and proscuitto into perfect little squares of differing dimensions. Gourmet Magazine’s is better, but the sauce’s not right, which lead us to our own.

You’ll easily get 8 slices out of ⅛ lb of proscuitto…unless your Deli Man has an extra heavy thumb and slices his proscuitto way too thickly. Just be aware that if you order by the pound instead of by the slice, your quantity will vary.

Don’t go to the effort of shaving your Parmesan. You don’t want it that thin. Slice thinly with your knife. Chef gets to eat the slices that are too thick.


This dish demands a side of pasta and the perfect accompaniment is Spaghetti aglio e olio. A simple tomatoey pasta will do; a carbonara won’t because the flavours offer no contrast; nor will a Puttanesca’s because its flavours are too complex and will overwhelm the saltimbocca.

Lose the toothpicks. With very little practice, the cutlets work fine without them.

What would happen if we broiled the top of the cutlets instead of flipping them over? Would the proscuitto dry out or would the tops brown nicely?