Vitello Tonnato; The Glorious Twelfth

Yesterday was The Glorious Twelfth.

I first heard people talking excitedly about The Glorious Twelfth shortly after we moved to Andorra.

I was very touched, honored, slightly embarrassed…. but also a wee bit confused.

It was wonderful to be so quickly embraced into a new group of friends but how did they know it was my birthday?  Was this the norm for everyone's birthday?  Wasn't it just a bit over the top?

I mean, my birthday may be important to me, and perhaps to my family, but even my mother never referred to it as The Glorious Twelfth.

I was slightly more embarrassed when I learned that the The Glorious Twelfth refers to the opening of grouse hunting season in the UK.

Funny how that memory returns on an annual basis….

The other thing that happens on an annual basis is that I fix dinner totally without regard to or consideration for mon mari.

He gets his Birthday Dinner and I get mine.

His is normally grilled lamb chops with roasted potatoes and asparagus – which I love also.

Mine is normally Vitello Tonnato which he can't abide.

He's having hamburgers…..

The first time I had this was in Venice and I fell in love.  I freely admit it's not a dish for everyone, but it is a dish for me.  It's already chilling in the fridge.

This is properly made with a veal roast that is braised for hours, then sliced thinly and served with the sauce.

This is my shortcut version…. Summer cooking!

I've included the traditional Tonnato Sauce as well as a version using commercial mayonnaise rather than the raw egg.

It serves two – me for dinner tonight and me for lunch tomorrow.

It is not photogenic…..


Vitello Tonnato
veal scallops, sliced thinly, 12 oz (350 gr)
3/4 cup chicken

Heat chicken stock in a medium skillet. Add veal slices, a few at a time and poach briefly, until cooked through. If they are very thin and the stock hot, it should only take a few minutes per slice. Remove and cool. Reserve stock and allow to cool.

Tonnato Sauce Traditional Version

3/4 cup good olive oil
1 egg yolk If you are uncomfortable with the raw egg, make the mayo version below. Don't try an egg substitute
6oz (190gr) canned tuna, packed in oil – the best you can find, do not use fresh tuna
3 anchovy fillets (or the equivalent in anchovy paste), drained and rinsed
2 tbs fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp dry mustard
2 tbs capers, drained
2 tbs cream or milk or more poaching liquid
2 – 6 tbs of the poaching liquid

Put 1/4 cup oil, egg, tuna, anchovies, 1 tbs capers, mustard and lemon juice in the blender. Cover and blend on high speed a few seconds, until puréed and smooth. Remove 'cap' from blender top and, with blender running slowly, pour in the rest of the oil. Sauce should be thick and smooth and total blending time not more than 10 – 11 seconds. Pour into a bowl. Slowly stir in the cream or milk. Add some of the cool poaching liquid, 1 tbs at a time until the sauce is the consistency of very thick cream. Stir in the rest of the capers. If you prefer you can purée all of the capers – which I did, (albeit, accidentally).

Assembling the Vitello Tonnato

Pour a thin layer of sauce to cover the bottom of a large platter or baking dish. Lay the cooled veal slices over the sauce, trying not to overlap. If you must overlap put a layer of sauce between the meat. Pour the rest of the sauce over the veal, smoothing it to cover the veal completely. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours, all day is better. You can garnish the platter with a few cherry tomatoes for color when serving… 

Tonnato Sauce, mayonnaise version

6 oz (180gr) tuna
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 anchovy fillets (or the equivalent in anchovy paste), drained and rinsed, optional
1 1/2 tbs lemon juice
1/4 tsp dry mustard
2 tbs capers, drained
2 – 6 tbs of the poaching liquid

Put all ingredients, except poaching liquid, into a blender and purée until smooth. Pour into a bowl. Add some of the cool poaching liquid, 1 tbs at a time until the sauce is the consistency of very thick cream.

If you have any leftover sauce….


It's pretty darn good on pasta.

Two things to note:

1. I'm hosting Presto Pasta Nights next week – entries to me at thyme2.kate (at) gmail (dot) com by midnight Thursday. Come on and join the fun!

2. I decided to change the color of the links on my navigation bar this morning….. 12 hours later I have done a bit more than that.  If any of the changes I made to this blog effect how it works for you, please let me know…. Thanks.

Best go fry some burgers for mon mari (his choice)

14 thoughts on “Vitello Tonnato; The Glorious Twelfth”

  1. My sister-in-law makes a chicken dish with a similar sauce – it sounds revolting but it is really delish. Enjoy your special meal and HAPPY BIRTHDAY, a day late.

  2. Happy Birthday…
    The pleasures of cooking for one. Embrace it (as you always do!). Sorry I haven’t been around as much as I would like. I had connection issues, and it was all but impossible to load and comment on all the blogs I would have liked. But, all fixed and will return to being a regular. Hope all is well and the habitable parts of the house are expanding!

  3. Happy belated. Not so sure about this dish, and it seems there are a lot of steps I could easily muck up, but those often to turn out to be the most surprisingly delicious, so I’m going to print the recipe out and put it into my queue! Thanks – Gary

  4. Tanna, I know it’s not for everyone – but I love it!
    Zoomie, it doesn’t sound good if you’ve never tried it… chicken, eh? Thanks for the B-day wish
    Ina, thanks and thanks!
    Thanks, Christine… works with turkey cutlets, too ;-))
    Year of the Grill – Thanks! Cooking for one can be fun – for awhile. I’ve missed you but know about connection (and other) problems…..
    Magic of Spice – Thanks, my sentiments exactly ;-))
    Tv Food and Drink, it’s really not so bad… and it can all be done ahead so it’s great for a party. I like it because I can make my B-Day dinner in the afternoon and have a G & T before dinner….

  5. Happy (belated) Birthday! I fell in love with vitello tonnato after the first bite. I didn’t have it in a restaurant, nor at someone’s house, but in the hospital where I worked in Milan. Yes, vitello tonnato was served to the patients and in the staff’s cafeteria (I don’t remember how often they prepared it). So, I am totally with you on yur birthday present. I have never had the sauce on pasta: great idea!

  6. Happy birthday! Nice to have the whole nation celebrate your birthday 😛
    Birthdays are about having complete disregard for anyone’s feelings other than your own. I wholeheartedly approve.

  7. Thanks Pam….
    Simona, not that is good hospital food! I usually make too much sauce (darn!)
    Joanne, I thought it was rather nice that it was such a big holiday! I’m a bit self-absorbed…..
    Val, I did… It was…. Thanks ;-))

  8. I just signed up and everything look great.
    I wanted to know if you could have your tech people provide and option to print all daily menus with one press of a button. Not a big deal but it would be a time saver

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