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Vitello tonnato – Veal with tuna sauce

Thinly sliced veal covered with a tuna sauce could be an invention of nouvelle cuisine or fusion kitchen.  This recipe however is truly Italian, and comes from Piemonte. It was already mentioned in the cookbook  “Il cuoco senza pretese” written by Odescalchi in 1834, where the recipe still had the name “vitello tonné

Too often the veal is being roasted and covered with a sauce made up of mayonaise mixed with  some tuna. The resulting sauce misses the finesse and freshness of the real stuff, which is made of egg yolks and olive oil, cooking juices of the veal and enhanced by capers, anchovies, lemon juice and a hint of vinegar.

The classic preparation demands some time: the veal is marinated overnight, and then simmered in the marinade.  The prepared dish should be kept for some hours in a cold place, for the taste to develop fully.


  • 500 gr of veal loin
  • 3 dl dry white wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 sage leaves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • battuto: a battuto is the finely chopped mixture of herbs that flavour an Italian dish — in this case 30 gr each of carrot, celery, onion, and flat-leaved parsley. Purists (i.e. Cucinone) use a mezzaluna, a crescent-shaped knife, and a chopping board
  • 4 salted anchovies, deboned and desalted
  • 150 gr of best-quality tinned tuna
  • 2 hard boiled egg yolks
  • 20 gr salted capers, desalted
  • 1/2 tablespoon tarragon vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 dl olive oil
  • pepper and salt
Marinate the meat for 24 hours in the white wine with the sage leaves and the bay leaf. Sieve the marinade and put it in a pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 2dl of water.  Bring to a boil, put the meat in the liquid with the battuto and let simmer for 30 minutes.  Add the anchovies and continue to simmer for another 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the meat cool in the cooking liquid. Wrap it in cling film and let it get thoroughly cold in the fridge.
Sieve the cooking liquid into a pan, and let it reduce to 2 1/2 dl. Let it cool down completely.
Put the tuna with the egg yolks and the cooked anchovies in a blender.  Add half of the capers, the lemon juice, the vinegar and the olive oil and blend.  Thin down this mixture with 1 1/2 dl of the cooking juice. Aim for a relative thick consistency, and taste for salt and pepper.
Cut the meat in thin slices, and put on a serving dish.  Cover with the sauce, and garnish with the remaining capers. Let rest for a few hours in a cold place (or overnight in the fridge, but do take it out before serving to come to room temperature).
Although vitello tonnato is an antipasto dish, it can be perfectly served as a light lunch.  Serve with a nice white wine, such as Arneis, a Vernaccia di San Gimignano or a Greco di Tufo.

Posted in Cucinone in English, Recipes.

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2 Responses

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  1. Ivonne says

    I was in Italy this past August and my zia made this dish and she referred to it as vitello tonné so I’m with you all the way. Nicely done!

  2. Meeta says

    oh oh oh! I am in heaven. although I have never made this quite myself I love ordering it at my fave Italian! A great submission!

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