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Veal is a cut of meat that comes from a young cow. It has a naturally tender texture, with a delicate flavor and little fat. Its lack of fat may increase the chances of the meat drying out if even slightly overcooked; therefore, veal is often served a sauce in order to add moisture to the meat. One of the most common veal dishes is veal marsala, an Italian dish consisting of thin pieces of veal topped in a marsala wine and mushroom-based sauce.
Veal cutlets, or thin pieces of boneless veal from the leg of the cow, traditionally form the base of veal marsala. Since veal cutlets are so thin, they only require a brief sautéing on each side, often one to two minutes, just to add a golden brown coating and to gently warm the meat through without overcooking it. Recipes usually don’t call for adding much more seasoning than basic salt and pepper in order to prevent overpowering the flavors of the marsala sauce.
Marsala is a type of wine primarily produced in the Italian region of Sicily. It is a fortified wine, in which another type of alcohol is added to the wine. When making sauce for veal marsala, sliced mushrooms are sautéed in butter or oil, along with finely chopped garlic and onions, and the wine is added to the cooked vegetables. As the mixture cooks, the other ingredients absorb the wine and reduce the total amount of liquid for the sauce, so another liquid, such as veal or chicken broth or heavy cream, may be added to the marsala sauce to thin it out.
The marsala sauce is added on top of the sautéed veal cutlets for serving. For additional flavor from the sauce to soak into the meat, the veal cutlets may be placed into the pan with the sauce and gently simmered for one to two minutes. If this step is to be performed, recipes will typically advise to slightly undercook the veal cutlets during the original sautéing step since the heat from the sauce will carry over and continue to slightly cook the meat.
Veal marsala is often served with a starch to help absorb any additional marsala sauce. A common accompaniment is buttered fettuccini or another type of thin pasta, and the veal may either be served atop the pasta or on the side. Although not as traditional in Italian cuisine, many restaurants also offer the dish alongside mashed potatoes. Since the veal will eventually soak up much of the liquid from the sauce, it is usually served immediately after cooking.