Chicken Saltimbocca (pronounced sal-tim-BO-ck-ah) is a classic Roman dish of seared chicken cutlets layered with prosciutto and fresh sage and finished with a simple white wine pan sauce. It’s easy to prepare but boasts complex flavors and a sophisticated appeal. There’s a reason its name means to “jump in your mouth!”
The incredibly complex flavor of this Chicken Saltimbocca recipe stretches far beyond its short ingredient list: salty prosciutto, aromatic sage, and a decadent white wine sauce made with the chicken’s drippings and a touch of butter. But all that delicious flavor is almost overshadowed by its rather impressive appearance!
Maybe it’s the way the vibrant sage leaves sit delicately atop the thin layers of prosciutto and golden brown chicken that gets people excited. However, while this saltimbocca recipe looks like you spent hours in the kitchen it actually takes less than 20 minutes to prepare.
To balance out the richness of the recipe serve it with something light and fresh. An Endive Salad would add a gorgeous pop of color or simply a veggie on the side like Blanched Asparagus or Roasted Green Beans works well to round out your meal.
Table of Contents
- What is Traditional Saltimbocca?
- What is in Chicken Saltimbocca?
- Swaps and Substitutions
- How to Make Chicken Saltimbocca
- What to Serve with Chicken Saltimbocca
- Leftovers and Making Ahead
- You'll Also Like: Italian Chicken Recipes
- Chicken Saltimbocca (Chicken with Prosciutto and Sage) Recipe
What is Traditional Saltimbocca?
The traditional version of Saltimbocca calls for veal cutlets, though chicken is the way to go if you’re looking for a crowd-pleaser that will appease a wider range of diets. Otherwise, this recipe is as close to traditional as you can get!
What is in Chicken Saltimbocca?
Every time I make this Chicken Saltimbocca recipe, I feel like I’ve traveled back in time to ancient Rome. That’s the feeling this elegant dish conjures. In reality, it’s believed to have originated much later (the mid-1800s or so) in Rome, or perhaps Brescia, depending on who you’re talking to. Thankfully this classic Roman dish requires very few ingredients for it to be transformed into a mouthwatering meal.
- Chicken cutlets: Saltimbocca is intended to be light and tender, so using cutlets (rather than whole chicken breasts) is a must. They cook quickly, which helps retain the juices. You can buy them premade or slice and pound whole chicken breasts into cutlets, which I explain how to do in the recipe.
- Prosciutto: A thin layer of this dry-cured Italian ham imparts a salty and slightly sweet flavor that balances well against the citrus-like sage.
- Sage: Be sure to use fresh sage leaves. Not only do they make for a stunning presentation but the flavor adds a vibrant note while being less bitter than dried sage. And if you have yet to taste a “fried” sage leaf, you’re in for a real treat!
- Flour: Dredging the bottom of the cutlets creates a crispy texture and helps to thicken the sauce.
- Wine: Look for dry white wines like Chardonnay. The wine adds a nice hit of acidity and works to keep the chicken moist.
- Butter or ghee: Enriches the sauce to give it a velvety quality. If you avoid butter you can make this recipe without it and it will still be absolutely delicious.
- Salt and pepper enhance the flavor.
- Extra virgin olive oil is used to pan-fry, imparting a delicious and rich flavor. There’s an old myth that you shouldn’t cook with olive oil–see our deep dive into why that’s incorrect in our article Cooking with Olive Oil: Everything You Need to Know! To summarize, though, it needs to be a high-quality extra virgin variety (try the Nocellara from our shop for a traditional Italian variety).
Swaps and Substitutions
You can mix things up depending on what you have on hand. Here are some go-to substitutions for this chicken saltimbocca recipe:
- Veal: If you want to make a true Saltimbocca alla Romana, you’ll want to use veal cutlets instead of chicken breast. It’s lighter than beef, with a soft texture and mild flavor.
- Other cured pork: Almost any thinly sliced cured pork will work in place of the prosciutto. Don’t be afraid to play with other varieties, like speck, Jamón Serrano or Ibérico. They all come from the pig’s hind legs and have distinct flavors.
How to Make Chicken Saltimbocca
This chicken saltimbocca recipe is quick and easy to make. In fact, you can have it on the table in less than 20 minutes from start to finish.
- Prepare the chicken breasts: Pat the chicken breasts down with paper towels. Place them on a cutting board. Use your palm to hold them firmly in place, and carefully slice each chicken breast in half (horizontally) starting at the thicker side. Use a clean, even stroke with a sharp chef’s knife (do not use a serrated knife). If the chicken breasts are really thick, use a meat tenderizer to pound each half into ¼-inch thick cutlets.
- Dredge the cutlets: Evenly distribute the flour on a large plate and place the cutlets on top. You only coat one side of the chicken with the flour, and you’ll build the rest of the dish right on this plate.
- Pile on the prosciutto and sage: Lay a slice of prosciutto over the top of each chicken cutlet. They don’t need to be perfectly flat. Place a sage leaf right on top of the prosciutto so that it can get crispy during the cooking process (trust me, it’s nearly the best part). Secure with a toothpick, pushing it through parallel to the chicken so it lays flat. Alternatively, you can place the sage under the prosciutto or just be extra careful when flipping.
Cook the Chicken Saltimbocca
- Pan fry until golden: Place the dredged side of the cutlets down in the prepared pan and cook until golden brown. Since the cutlets are thin, this should only take about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and cook the top side until the prosciutto and the sage have become crispy and slightly darker in color; about another 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add a splash of wine: Add approximately ¼ cup of white wine to the pan and let cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of butter or ghee if you’d like a richer, more velvety sauce.
- Finish and serve. Add the chicken back to the pan to warm through. Remove the toothpick, then serve the chicken saltimbocca with the sage side facing up and plenty of pan sauce spooned over top.
What to Serve with Chicken Saltimbocca
Chicken saltimbocca is satisfying and packed with flavor, so it doesn’t need many accompaniments to make it a complete meal. Try serving it alongside asparagus, roasted fennel, or broccoli topped with Parmigiano cheese.
Leftovers and Making Ahead
Chicken saltimbocca is best enjoyed right away while the prosciutto is crispy and the chicken is juicy. And it takes just minutes to cook!
However, if you are looking for a shortcut, slice the chicken breasts into cutlets and layer them with prosciutto and sage. Wrap them tightly in plastic so they’ll be ready to go when you are, then flour them just before cooking.
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Chicken Saltimbocca (Chicken with Prosciutto and Sage)
- Unflavored toothpicks (optional)
- 1 ½ pounds chicken (about 2 chicken breasts)
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper
- 4 prosciutto slices
- 4 large sage leaves
- ¼ cup flour
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons butter or ghee (optional)
- Prepare the chicken cutlets: Slice chicken breasts in half horizontally, starting at the thicker end. If you’re using thicker chicken breasts, pound them working with one at a time. Wrap loosely in plastic or add to a large sealable bag with the top open. Use a rolling pin or kitchen mallet to gently pound until thin and uniform in thickness (about ¼-inch thick). Season with a big pinch of salt and pepper.
- Dredge the cutlets: Evenly distribute the flour on a large plate and place the cutlets on top. You’ll build the rest of the dish right on this plate.
- Pile on the prosciutto: Lay a slice of prosciutto over the top of each chicken cutlet. They don’t need to be perfectly flat.
- Add the sage: Place a sage leaf on top of each prosciutto slice and secure with a toothpick, pushing it through parallel to the chicken so it lays flat. If you don’t have a toothpick, place the sage leaf down first then add the prosciutto on top, or you can just be extra careful when flipping.
- Cook the cutlets: Add the olive oil to a frying pan and heat on medium. When the oil shimmers, add the cutlets, flour side down, and cook until golden brown on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook for an additional 3 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the prosciutto and the sage have become crispy and slightly darker in color. Transfer the cutlets to a serving platter.
- Make the pan sauce: Lower the heat to medium-low. Add the wine to the pan and scrape up any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan (aka the fond, which is filled with amazing flavor.) Let the sauce bubble until it’s reduce by half, then stir in the butter or ghee (if using). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Finish and serve. Add the chicken back to the pan to warm through. Remove the toothpick then serve with the with the sage side facing up and plenty of pan sauce spooned over top.