Vitello tonnato, a classic of Italian cuisine

An appetizer or main course much loved by Italians, a simple and delicious recipe.

The Vitello tonnato (veal with tuna sauce) is a typical Piedmontese dish. Although known by its French name “vitel tonnè”, this recipe is clearly Italian. Since the ‘700, it has been delighting the palates of young and old alike, although it had its heyday in the 80s. This is the perfect starter or second course with thin, tender slices of veal, covered with a tasty egg and tuna sauce.


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A bit of history

Vitello Tonnato, as we said before, is a typical meat recipe of Piedmontese cuisine, born in 18th century. At that time, the recipe did not include mayonnaise or tuna, but only anchovies and capers. The dish was prepared with boil veal leftovers, enriched with anchovies and capers so that it would regain some of its lost flavour. The recipe that we all know today was brought to light by Pellegrino Artusi, who in 1890 added the tuna to the recipe. The ingredients include tuna in oil with capers, anchovies, lemon juice, oil and hard-boiled egg yolks.

Many different ingredients to add to Vitello Tonnato

After almost three centuries this recipe reached all Italy and the world. The recipe for the Vitello Tonnato has undergone many variations and additions over the years by creative chefs and these are few example: cauliflower, gherkins, vinegar, mustard, maracuja juice and juniper berries. Today we can finally appreciate it in a modern version without forgetting its past.

The traditional recipe


  • 800 g veal
  • 1 celery
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 250 g white wine
  • 1.5 l water
  • 1 laurel leaf
  • 3 cloves
  • 3 teaspoons oil
  • pepper
  • salt


  • 2 eggs
  • 100 g tuna in oil
  • 3 anchovy fillets in oil
  • 5 g salted capers
  • caper berries

To prepare the veal in tuna sauce, start by cleaning and chopping the celery, carrot and onion. Put them in a bowl and add the garlic without peel. Clean the meat removing any cartilage and fatty filaments.

In a pot, put the meat, the vegetables, the laurel leaf, the cloves and the pepper. Pour the white wine and then the water to cover all ingredients. Add salt and oil. When the water boils, gradually skim off any foam that rises to the surface. Close with the lid, lower the flame and cook for a further 40-45 minutes. After 45 minutes drain the meat and leave it cooling down, then remove laurel and cloves. Remove 1/3 of the resulting stock and reduce it over a high flame for about ten minutes; at the end of the cooking time, drain the vegetables in a bowl.

In a pot, soak the eggs in plenty of cold water and when the water start boiling, cook for 9 minutes. Remove the shell and cut them into 4 parts. Add the eggs with the vegetables and add also the tuna, the anchovies and the capers (remove the salt from the capers with water). Blend until it becomes smooth and creamy.

Slice the meat finely, arrange the slices on a plate and pour the cream over them. Decorate with capers and enjoy this amazing and delicious dish with all the family!


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Cover photo FrankGeorg by Pixabay