Vitello Tonnato

Cold, poached veal, covered in a thin tuna mayonnaise, flavored with capers and anchovies.

I have this every year on my birthday, which is in August.

Some years, mon mari will even join me…. It’s not one of his favorites.

Vitello Tonnato is a traditional Piedmontese dish that is not often seen in other parts of Italy. It’s always made at least a day ahead and served chilled.

Click here to Pin Vitello Tonnato


Vitello Tonnato

This should be made ahead and chilled to allow the flavors to meld. It’s serve chilled.

  • Author: Kate
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 2 servings 1x
  • Category: beef


  • 10oz (300gr) veal scallops
  • 3/4 cup (6oz, 180ml) chicken broth
  • Tonnato Sauce, mayonnaise version:
  • 6oz (180gr) canned tuna, packed in oil, drained
  • 1/2 cup (4oz, 120gr) 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, plus 1 tbs for garnish
  • 26 tbs of the poaching liquid


  • Heat chicken broth 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:
  • 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 4 hours, all day is better.


The recipe and instructions for the ‘traditional’ tonnato sauce follow this recipe.


  • Serving Size: 1/2 recipe
  • Calories: 816
  • Sugar: 1.1 g
  • Sodium: 1534.6 mg
  • Fat: 58.5 g
  • Saturated Fat: 12.6 g
  • Trans Fat: 0.1 g
  • Carbohydrates: 2 g
  • Fiber: 0.3 g
  • Protein: 66.2 g
  • Cholesterol: 230.1 mg

Keywords: veal, tuna sauce. veal scallops

Traditional Tonnato Sauce

3/4 cup good olive oil
1 egg yolk
6oz (190gr) canned tuna, packed in oil, drained
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.

Vitello Tonnato

With the Vitello Tonnato we have Tomato & Green Olive Pasta Salad

The first time I had this was in Venice.

We had asked for a restaurant recommendation at the hotel we were staying at. We wanted a ‘nice restaurant where the local residents would go’.

We ended up at a brightly lit, minimally decorated, busy restaurant full of locals. The tables were close together and it was noisy.

The menu was not in English.

With the help of a ‘menu translator’ (an actual book – this was a long time ago) we managed to decide what we wanted to eat and to order our meal – all 4 courses.

Shortly after our wine was opened and poured, a different person came to our table.

He spoke English.

He asked me if I knew that the dish I had ordered, Vitello Tonnato, was served cold. He was concerned that if I didn’t know that I might be disappointed.

I assured him that I knew.

I appreciate it when the staff goes out of their way to make sure diners are happy.

At that time it was probably done out of genuine concern that patrons enjoy the food.

Now it’s likely done in fear of a screaming, irate tourist giving a bad Yelp review.

I order Vitello Tonnato whenever we’re in Northern Italy and I see it on the menu.

I’m never disappointed.

4 thoughts on “Vitello Tonnato”

  1. I would definitely try this if I was served this as a guest, but it would probably not be a dish I would order. I’m always willing to try something. Not bugs though. I don’t eat bugs. 😉

    I’m like you though in that I appreciate it when staff goes out of their way to let me know something like they did about this dish. I ordered a Caprese salad at a restaurant that was different and served warm and after ordering, the server came back to tell me it was served that way. And it was absolutely delicious!

    • Hubs ordered Steak Tartare at a restaurant once – I think in Vegas, and the waiter, very rudely, informed him that it was ‘raw beef’, and did he know that. Funnily, ‘raw beef’; was a common party ‘bar food’ in the area of Wis. that we grew up in. With pickles and lots of raw onions on rye bread.
      I remember my mother telling me that ‘girls don’t eat that’ lol

      • I love Steak Tartare! Of course women eat that. I haven’t had it or made it in a long time, but the way I like my burgers comes darned close to qualifying. And when I order a steak in a restaurant and they ask me how I want it done, I tell them “still mooing” because if I don’t, saying ‘rare’ gets me one that’s usually too well done for me.

        • My mother told me that after I told her how much I liked it lol. I’m the same with steaks – and the duck breast we get here, which is as good as steak.


Leave a Comment

Recipe rating 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share via
Copy link