Vitello Tonnato; the update

The annual birthday dinner!

Sometimes we go out for dinner to celebrate our birthday, sometimes out to lunch, sometimes on a weekend getaway…. Sometimes we do none of the above.

Regardless of that whole bit, we always have a ‘Birthday Dinner’ at home.

Mon mari’s choice is almost always lamb chops, some sort of gratin potato and asparagus if I can find it. The starter varies from year to year…. whatever his current favorite is.

My choice is always Vitello Tonnato, pasta with fresh, home-made pesto, melon with dry-cured ham and whatever vegetable the garden gives me.

The problem is that, while I love mon mari’s birthday dinner, he barely tolerates mine.


That’s not totally true.

He likes everything but the Vitello Tonnato.

But things change…. Tastes change….

In the early years he left the room while I ate.

In more recent years he would grill a couple of hamburger patties and join me for the rest.

This year he actually ate the Vitello Tonnato.

I’m told it’s an acquired taste.

I acquired it the first time I tasted it years ago in Venice.

It’s a Northern Italian dish, not often seen on menus.

If one loves it…. One truly loves it.  It’s a DO (Digestive Org*sm)

I really, truly love it. 

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. 

Vitello Tonnato

Preparation and cooking time:   20 minutes plus at least 2 hours resting time  


  • veal scallops, sliced thinly, 10oz (300gr)
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • Tonnato Sauce, mayonnaise version:
  • 6oz (180gr) canned tuna, packed in oil – the best you can find,  do not use fresh 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

Vitello Tonnato


  • 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, mayonnaise version:
  • 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. 
  • 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.

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, drained and rinsed (or the equivalent in anchovy paste)
  • 2 tbs fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp dry mustard
  • 2 tbs capers, drained
  • 2 tbs cream or milk  or 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 pureed and smooth. 
  • Remove ‘cap’ from blender top and, with blender running slowly, drizzle 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. 

Remember the fireplace?


We nows have a mantel as well as sides.


Yes, the sides are wood, but this will never be used as a fireplace.  

We could open up the chimney and put a stove in, but the plan for the moment is simply candles and floowers.


I had to show you this tomato plant.  

I have no idea how it remains upright.  It has so many tomatoes on it.  

I have it tied to the poles for the green beans on one side and another tomato plant on the other.

I love summer….

9 thoughts on “Vitello Tonnato; the update”

  1. I love summer, too, and it’s been great being able to visit you here and see the progress on your house.
    I have some hanging tomatoes, an experiment mon mari wanted to try. They have three small ones, and I am going to have one eggplant and one green pepper.
    I might have two squash, and that’s it.

  2. I have had a chicken dish “Tonnato” and it was delicious and intriguing. I could hardly believe the sauce was made with canned tuna – so I know a bit about your birthday dish. I’m glad ton mari is coming around.

  3. Did I leave a bad comment and you deleted it 😉 well I was sure I left one.
    The mantel is grand.
    We had a tomato plant like that one year that volunteered in the middle of the flower bed. We couldn’t believe how many tomatoes it produced and how really huge it got. This year it’s so hot nothing even blooms.

  4. Happy Birthday Katie. Love your mantel. Can’t say I would love the tonnato, but that is the fun of birthdays. All day belongs to you alone.

  5. Happy Birthday Katie! If it’s on the 13th, well that’s amazing, because so is mine! And if you and your husband share the same day, that’s incredible! Dinner looked delicious!

  6. Phoenicia, I have it tied to everything I can find to keep it upright LOL
    Mimi, the tomatoes and sweet corn were crazy this year, but not the squash… I told mon mari we’ll be eating more cauliflower this winter LOL
    Val, come for a week – we’ll make a big batch of it all LOL
    manningroad, I have this plant, and the one next to it has produced 1 tomato all summer. Go figure!
    Zoomie, chicken would be good – and I use the leftover sauce on pasta… delish!
    Tanna, not me! I’m a clueless but grateful gardener LOL
    Penny, you could eat with mon mari….. I’ll have your share.
    Kirsten, nope, I’m the 12th = hubs is June. Happy Belated Birthday!

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