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Veal with tuna sauce (vitello tonnato). A classic dish of Italian cuisine and my home

Veal with tuna sauce (vitello tonnato)

I just finished arranging the decorations on the veal with tuna sauce, capers, and fresh parsley leaf when I take a picture and send it to my mom.
The reply is quick.
She write me that I made her think of Christmas.

She refers to Christmas lunch, veal with tuna sauce never missed, and many other festive moments.
This recipe, which has Piedmontese origins, but there is also a Lombard version, has belonged to my family’s sentimental and gastronomic geography for as long as I can remember.
In my family, we all love its taste. And its presence on the holiday table was as constant as that of relatives.
I am sure that, for a brief moment, my mom and I find ourselves in a remote and happy time.
You know, it happens to those who share memories.

A home fav recipe

At home, veal with tuna sauce has always been a household dish.
Nonna had her own recipe, similar to that of Artusi and Ada Boni, both famous Italian gastronomes.
I heard more than one guest sigh with pleasure on those thin slices of veal slathered with sauce. I was so fond of them that, for once, I ate quickly to ask for more. Above all, I loved and still love the sauce, savory and smooth, that nicely contrasts with the buttery tenderness of the meat. And that each slice had its own caper. Still today, I choose those well garnished with sauce and decorated with capers.

Now, the trend is to serve slices of veal with clumps of sauce. It is not for me. I like to serve it the old-fashioned way, with a generous, even layer covering the meat.

Not only Grandma, Oriella, daughter of one of the house cooks who gravitated around Grandma like satellites around Jupiter, also performed exceptional veal with tuna sauce. Indeed, when Grandma began to cook little due to illness, the cooking of veal with tuna sauce was entrusted to her, who, unlike Grandma, added mayonnaise to the tuna sauce.


Before raising a puzzled eyebrow, know that many greats of Italian cuisine recommend it.
For my part, I admit to liking mayonnaise in the tuna sauce as it adds roundness and makes it as smooth as an ice cream flavor.

However, here, I shared my maternal grandmother’s recipe that blended vegetables by adding some hard-boiled egg yolk.

Vitello tonnato

Ricette italiane

Veal with tuna sauce kitchen notes


The meat cooks like boiled meat in broth. This means the veal goes into the pot when the liquid is boiling. In this way, the liquid seals the meat, preserving its flavor.
As with the stock pot, the meat goes into the cold water if you want a good stock. But you put it into the boiling liquid to get a better piece of meat (boiled). This is the only trick that supports a simple dish where everything cooks in the same pot.
Of course, you can brown the meat and add the liquid later; however, I recommend following the technique of bollito (boiled meat).

Again, Artusi and Boni do not use garlic, as the same made Grandma.
Its incredible flavor relies on a delicate balance, and the taste of garlic risks compromising the dish. If you use it, add only one clove.

Guarnaschelli, Chef Marchesi, and Ada Boni recommend adding a few spoonfuls of mayonnaise sauce to the ingredients of the tuna sauce. Nonna used to blend tuna and vegetables with a few hard-boiled egg yolks.
Bring veal with tuna sauce to the table without looking at the season. Everyone will love it in winter, spring, summer, and fall.

Buona cucina, Monica


Choose a recipe from the Side dishes section to serve with Vitello tonnato!

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Veal with tuna sauce (vitello tonnato)


Vitello tonnato (veal with tuna sauce)

Vitello tonnato, boiled in a hot liquid with vegetables and tuna, is a great classic of Italian cuisine. Here,I share my home version.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword tuna sauce, Veal, Veal with tuna sauce, Vitello tonnato
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 4 servings


  • 700 g of boneless veal shoulder
  • 1/4 of white onion without skin
  • 2 cloves
  • 30 g of butter
  • 50 g of olive oil
  • 1 anchovy fillet
  • 100 g of carrots
  • 50 g of celery stalk
  • 10 g of fresh parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 150 g of tuna in olive oil mashed with a fork
  • 1 g of lemon zest (a piece, not grated)
  • 100 g of dry non-aromatic white wine
  • 500 g of lukewarm water or what is needed to cover the meat
  • 3 g fine salt
  • 20 g of pickled capers
  • 4 yolks of hard-boiled eggs or 300 g mayonnaise


  • Tie the meat to hold its shape (or ask your butcher to do it for you). Keep aside.
  • Splint the onion with cloves.
  • Melt the butter in olive oil with the anchovy over medium heat for one minute.
  • Then, add all the ingredients except salt and meat to the pan, stir, pour in the wine, and let evaporate over moderate heat for two minutes.
  • Pour in the water and salt. Bring to a boil before submerging the piece of meat, which should be covered by the liquid.
  • After combining the veal, reduce the boil by lowering the stove and cook over medium heat on a medium stove and half-covered pan for one and a half hours.
  • Then, turn off the heat and let the meat cool in the cooking liquid, then remove it and arrange it on a plate.
  • Strain the cooking broth, and keep it aside to make the sauce creamy and/or other uses.
  • Remove bay leaf and cloves (leaving the lemon zest is optional. I leave it). In a food processor, chop finely the vegetables and the capers washed under running water and two generous tablespoons of the cooking liquid. Taste and, if needed, adjust the salt. Cover the bowl and let rest in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Cover the meat dish and put a weight on it (like a meat pounder) for a couple of hours. Then, cover the dish with meat and place it in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Cut the veal into thin slices, arrange in an oven dish, and cover with the sauce. Decorate with capers, fresh parsley leaves, or lemon slices.

Food tips

  • For a creamier sauce, after the yolks of hard-boiled eggs, incorporate 100 to 200 g of mayonnaise, a little at a time.
  • Arrange the leftover sauce in a separate bowl and bring it to the table with the tuna veal.
  • Use the cooking broth to cook rice or vegetables, even several times.
  • Store in the refrigerator for two to three days.


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