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Vitello Tonnato Recipe - Chilled Veal in Tuna Sauce Recipe


Lee wrote, asking, "How about Vitelo al Tonno? Not easy to find but so....delicious." Many thanks to him for reminding me; Vitello tonnato, chilled veal in tuna sauce, is one of THE classic summer dishes, and is also the traditional centerpiece of the Ferragosto dinner in Milano (Assumption Day, August 15).

It takes a while to make but is well worth it. To serve 6-8 you will need:

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 2 hours

Total Time: 3 hours


  • 2 1/4 pounds(1 k) boned veal, cut from the rump.
  • 3/4 pound (320 g) tuna packed in oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 6 salted anchovies (the canned variety, sold by delicatessens)
  • A handful of pickled capers
  • 1/2 cup (approx.) olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • A bottle of dry white wine
  • The juice of a lemon
  • A rib of celery, thinly sliced crosswise
  • A few leaves of sage
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves (some people omit these)
  • Salt
  • A few more perfect capers, some lemon slices, and sprigs of parsley for garnishing


Put the meat in a bowl with the bay leaves, cloves, sage and celery, and pour the wine over it. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours, turning the meat occasionally. The next day place the meat in a Dutch oven. Strain the wine and add it to the meat, then add enough water to cover. Lightly salt the pot and simmer the meat for an hour. In the meantime, wash, scale and bone the anchovies. When the hour is up add them to the pot and continue boiling for another half hour; the liquid should be reduced by half.

Hard boil the eggs, run them under cold water, peel them, and extract the yolks (you can discard or fill the whites as you prefer). Rinse, squeeze dry, and mince the capers.

When the meat is fork-tender remove it from the pot and strain the broth into a bowl. Transfer the fish filets to a clean strainer and press them through it, together with the tuna and the yolks, into another bowl. Stir in the minced capers, the vinegar, the lemon juice and the olive oil, and then dilute the sauce to your taste with some of the reserved broth.

When the veal has cooled slice it finely and lay the slices out on one or more platters (you want just one layer). Spread the sauce over the meat, garnish the platters with the lemon slices, capers and parsley. Cover them with plastic wrap and chill them in the refrigerator before serving.

A wine? A Valcalepio Bianco would be nice, as would a Lugana.

Yield: 6-8 servings vitello tonnato.

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