Vitello Tonnato first began appearing in cook books in the 19th century because Piedmont was allied with Liguria where tuna was canned along the coast.
At this time, also, lemons and capers from Sicily and a variety of olive oils from the rest of Italy started to arrive in Piedmont and the tonnato sauce was born because the tuna was simply another ingredient in this sauce.
With the Piedmontese love of very young meat, like the veal, this dish was just waiting to happen. This is great for entertaining because the sauce can be made a day in advance and the meat can simply be popped in the oven when you get home.
Vitello Tonnato – Veal With Tuna Sauce and Capers
This is one of the most famous Italian antipasto platter, sometimes served as a more filling course.
Ingredients for the Veal
- 1.25 kg piece boneless veal topside
- 1 cloves garlic
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 celery sticks (halved)
- 1 small carrot (peeled)
- 6 black peppercorns
- 500 dry white wine
Ingredients for the Sauce
- 2 large eggs
- 1 fat clove garlic (peeled)
- 275 ml Italian extra virgin olive oil
- 2 dessertspoons white wine vinegar
- 75 g best-quality tuna in a jar (drained – if there’s a little more tuna, it doesn’t matter)
- 2 tinned anchovy fillets (drained)
- 1½ tbsp salted capers (rinsed and drained)
- 1 tbsp lemon juice (or more, to taste)
- Sea salt and freshly milled black pepper
Ingredients for Garnish:
- 1 tbsp extra capers
- 4 tinned anchovy fillets (drained and very thinly sliced)
- 1 lemon (sliced)
- Pre-heat the oven to 180°C
- Put the veal in a medium roasting dish and rub the whole piece of meat with some salt and then cover completely with a little olive oil (use your fingers to do this).
- Pour over the wine and add garlic, the bay leaves, the celery, the carrot and the peppercorns and the wine.
- Then, roast the veal for about an hour, remove and allow to cool.
- For the sauce you need to make a mayonnaise first by breaking the whole eggs straight into the blender or food processor, add the garlic clove and salt to taste and pour the oil, in a steady trickle with the motor running, into the jug.
- Switch the machine on.
- Be aware that the sauce will curdle if you add it all too quickly.
- Once you have added all the oil, add the white wine vinegar and blend and blend before adding the tuna, the anchovy fillets and the capers.
- Blend again until the sauce is smooth, add the salt, pepper and lemon and taste and correct until you’re satisfied – the sauce can be made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator until you need to use it.
- When the veal is ready, remove from the oven and set aside to cool down.
- Once cool, remove from the oven dish and discard the vegetables, the bay leaves, the peppercorns and the rest of the wine.
- Slice the meat thinly and arrange it in a large serving platter – either a deep serving platter or a shallow serving dish.
- Spoon the sauce over the meat and garnish with anchovy slices, capers and lemon slices or serve the modern way on watercress, with sauce on the side and garnished as you choose.
Other Italian appetizers: