Rachel Laudan

What’s in a name? Rovellini or cutlet or schnitzel or milanesa?

Just had this question from Bonna Flynn.

I’ve been on line looking unsuccessfully for a description/recipe which we’ve been making in my Italian family for 3 generations called Rovellini (sp?). It’s very thinly slice round or flank steak, pounded, then egged, breaded, and fried. It’s served either dry with lemon, or baked in a seasoned tomato sauce. Could this be a regional name/recipe? Would like any info you could give me.

Bonna, the technique and the way of serving are typical of the group of “milanesa” or “schnitzel” and “cutlet” dishes that shoot around the world in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth, cropping up in Europe, Argentina, Mexico, the southern United States (chicken fried steak), parts of the Middle East and India and the tonkatsu of Japan.

If I were asked to guess, I’d say they mark a move away from “wet” one-pot soups and stews to a drier way of cooking, particularly where ovens have not come in.  They presuppose a supply of fresh butcher’s meat that can be bought in small quantities, leftover newly inexpensive white bread obviously, some kind of newly inexpensive cooking fat, and a pan for frying in addition to the soup pot.  They are economical, tasty, and stretch a small amount of meat.  I’ve talked about them before here.  And there’s an earlier discussion here.

The name rovellini is new to me though.  Any readers have any thoughts on that?

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4 thoughts on “What’s in a name? Rovellini or cutlet or schnitzel or milanesa?

  1. Donato

    The real name is rovellina, plural rovelline.
    It is indeed a “milanesa” in a tomato sauce. Called rovellina in the province of Lucca, Tuscany
    I love your blog. Best greetings from freezing Switzerland!

    1. Rachel Laudan Post author

      Thanks Donato. But why rovellina. I have non-existent Italian. Does it mean anything?

      And thanks for the nice comments about the blog. Yours looks interesting but I’m crippled by my lack of language skills.

  2. Paula

    It means delicious! It was always a special dish. Almost as special as my Nonna’s Raviolli at Thanksgiving. She was born in outside of Lucca, and brought the receipe with her. The ingredient proportions are left up to the cooks desire. Try it. It’s served with angel hair pasta, plain French bread, green vegetable (the Italian flag!) and a green salad- greens only- dressed with a light olive oil and sal dressing. Fruit for dessert, as there won’t be room for any thing else.

  3. Rachel Laudan Post author

    Thanks Paula. I agree it is quite delicious. The same thing here might be served with melon with a little oil and salt.

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