Uccelli Scappati Con Polenta

Birds Escaped, a traditional dish consisting of skewers of meat rolls wrapped in bacon; “escaped” because there aren’t really any birds in the dish.


6 veal escalopes, 150g (5½oz) each
6 thin slices prosciutto
12 sage leaves
250g (9oz) pancetta in one piece (or streaky bacon, if unavailable)
30g (1oz) melted butter

How to make the Uccelli scappati:

Uccelli scappati means ‘escaped birds’: individual ‘birds’ are cut free from a cage shape. Although you need a little work in the preparation, having all the meat in a piece makes the cooking part a doddle. You will need six 20cm (8in) skewers.

Bat out the veal into rectangles approximately 18cm by 10cm (7in by 4in). Season them with salt and pepper, lay a slice of prosciutto on top of each escalope and then two sage leaves on top. Roll up the combination into a cylinder – with the escalope on the outside – making six cylinders about 18cm (7in) long and 2cm (4/5 in) in diameter. Cut the pancetta into cubes about 2cm (4/5 in) square and thread one down to each of the six skewers’ bases. Lay the six rolls of veal side by side on a board so that the long sides are touching, to form a thick rectangle, and thread the skewers at regular intervals through each. You will now have a kind of grid, with the skewers creating the warp and the rolls of veal the weft. Anchor each skewer at the end with a second cube of pancetta.

Grill the meat over a gentle fire – either towards the edge of the coals or on a high rack – for eight minutes on each side, brushing the cooked side with a little butter. Then lay the piece on a board and cut down between the skewers to make six separate portions with a long sharp knife.

Serves 6

Regional recipe from Friuli and Lombardy