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cotoletta alla milanese

Cotoletta Milanese: everything you need to know

Cotoletta Milanese is a famous dish of Lombardy, a symbol of regional cuisine together with risotto alla Milanese and panettone.

Let’s see together the origins, the curiosities and the recipe of the famous cotoletta Milanese.

History and origin of the cotoletta Milanese

Regarding the etymology of its name, the term “cotoletta” comes from the French “cotolette”, abbreviated to “cote” and translated as a small rib (one of the first six) of the veal loin.

The first reference to cutlet (“cutelèta” in the Milanese dialect) can only be found in 1814 in the Milanese-Italian dictionary written by Francesco Cherubini.

In the 18th century in France there were already breaded côtelettes, or “breaded ribs”, brought to Italy by some French cook and initially called “French Revolution cutlets”.

The way the French Revolution’s cutlets were prepared was different from the first recipe of the “Costoletta Milanese” published in 1855 in the book “Gastronomia Moderna” by Giuseppe Sorbiatti: the French Revolution cutlets, in fact, differed from the Milanese cutlet in that the former had to be marinated with melted butter, herbs, salt, pepper and cloves and then passed in flour, beaten eggs and breadcrumbs before being fried.

The first traceable recipe for ‘cotoletta milanese’ was entitled ‘Ribs of veal fried Milanese style’ and according to this procedure the ribs had to be dipped in the beaten eggs, covered with breadcrumbs and fried in butter until golden brown, by cooking over a low heat.

Cotoletta or costoletta Milanese?

Cotoletta or costoletta? In the Milanese dialect both terms refer to the same recipe. In cookbooks, in fact, it is usual to find both terms undifferentiated. In 2008, however, the Municipality of Milan clarified the issue and on March 17 of the same year assigned the Denominazione Comunale (De.Co) ,namely the Municipal denomination, to the costoletta and not to the cotoletta.

The De.Co protocol also provides the guidelines for the preparation of the original costoletta alla Milanese, which must be 3-4 centimetres thick.

cotoletta alla milanese

Cotoletta Milanese or Wiener Schnitzel?

Which one came first? Legend has it that it was the famous General Radetzky who exported the schnitzel to Vienna in the early 1800s, after a dinner in Milan where he was served a breaded schnitzel of which he was delighted. According to this narration, therefore, the Italian recipe influenced the Austrian one, as it was written in 1963 in the book “Cucina Lombarda”.

Other sources, instead, attribute the birth of the cotoletta to the Austrians, as already back in 1719 there were recipes based on breaded vegetables and veal in Austrian cuisine.

Although they somehow contend for the primacy of birth, the two dishes are quite different:

  • The cotoletta milanese is prepared only with veal loin, while the Viennese schnitzel (the so-called Wiener Schnitzel) is prepared with a different cut of veal or pork.
  • The Cotoletta Milanese is served thick, while the Viennese one is thin.
  • The Cotoletta Milanese is fried in butter and the Viennese cutlet in lard.

Variants of the Cotoletta Milanese

Today the cotoletta Milanese is a very famous dish all over the world and in Italy several regional versions have been created, all very tasty.

We would like to point out three that deserve to be mentioned:

  • Cotoletta alla bolognese: this is a typical recipe of the Emilian capital where the slice of veal is breaded, fried and stuffed with raw ham and grated Parmesan cheese. Discover here the recipe and the differences with the cotoletta Milanese.
  • Cotoletta alla valtellinese (Valtellina style cutlet): in this version the meat is floured and then cooked with butter and sage and finally wet with white wine.
  • Valdostana: typical of the mountain region, the slices of veal are filled with cooked ham and fontina cheese and then breaded and fried.

The original recipe of the cotoletta Milanese 

At this point we just have to find out what is the real traditional recipe of the cotoletta Milanese.

To prepare a real cotoletta Milanese you need veal, clarified butter (i.e. without milk proteins), breadcrumbs and fresh eggs.

Ingredients for 4 people

  • 4 veal chops (loin)
  • 150 grams of clarified butter
  • 2 fresh eggs
  • about 200 grams of breadcrumbs
  • salt
  • lemon (optional)


Remove the visible fat from the slices of meat with a knife, then cut them on the edgesand beat them slightly. Using a fork, beat the eggs in a container. Dip the slices into the eggs one at a time and pass them through the breadcrumbs.

Melt the butter in a pan and insert the meat and let it cook for 2/3 minutes on each side. When it is well browned, remove the meat from the pan and place it on a dish with absorbent paper. Add salt to taste and serve hot with a slice of lemon.

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