What is vitello tonnato?
Vitello tonnato (pronounced “vee-TEL-loh ton-NAA-toh”) is an Italian dish consisting of an unusual combination: cold veal and canned tuna. Thinly sliced veal with a thick, creamy sauce that has been flavoured with canned tuna, to be precise. The dish is originally from Piedmont in northeastern Italy.
The starting point – veal with creamy tuna sauce – seems simple, but Italian chefs have devised infinite tiny variations so that every plate of vitello tonnato tastes different. One chef simmers the meat, another roasts it. Sometimes the veal can be marinated for hours, sometimes for days. There are even chefs who turn it around and serve tuna in a veal sauce. Although for a real Italian, that probably goes too far.
Did you know...
The Italian dish once ended up in Argentina, where people love to eat well. The Argentine version, vitel toné, has now become a true Christmas classic.
How to make vitello tonnato
One of the ways to prepare the dish is as follows: a piece of veal, preferably shoulder or loin, is seared in olive oil and then simmered in wine and stock. The meat is cooled in the refrigerator and then sliced as thinly as possible.
The veal slices are placed on a thin layer of tuna sauce. The sauce is based on good quality canned tuna and mayonnaise, then seasoned with anchovies, pickling liquid from a jar of capers and the cooking liquid of the meat. More tuna sauce is spooned over the meat.
The meat can now rest for a few hours or overnight. During this step, tuna and veal get to know each other and slowly form the unlikely combination.
Outside of Italy, the dish is also served immediately after the meat has been covered with the sauce. The taste of the sauce is not absorbed into the meat. The veal slices are served with capers or barber apples and sometimes also thinly sliced lemon, cornichons or hard-boiled eggs.
How to eat
Vitello tonnato can be eaten as a starter, but also as a main course.
Make this dish a complete meal by combining it with a typical Italian Caprese salad or a vegetarian antipasti board.