Vitello Tonnato (Cold Sliced Veal with Tuna Sauce)

  • Active Time 25m
  • Total Time 26h 25m

Makes 8 servings

Italy's most celebrated contribution to the cold table, vitello tonnato, is a dish as versatile as it is lovely. It is an ideal meat course for a summer menu, an exceedingly elegant antipasto for an elaborate dinner and a most successful party dish for small or large buffets.
I have seen dishes described as vitello tonnato served with the sliced veal prettily fanned out and a little mound of sauce on the side. This defeats the very purpose of the dish, which is to give the tuna sauce time to infiltrate the veal so that the flavors of one and the delicate texture of the other become fully integrated. The meat must macerate with the sauce for at least 24 hours before it can be served.
Some cooks braise the veal with white wine, but I find that wine contributes more tartness than is needed here. Veal can become dry; to keep it tender and juicy, cook it in just enough boiling water to cover, determining in advance the exact amount of water needed by the simple expedient described in the recipe. Three other important points to remember in order to keep the meat moist are, first, put the veal into water only when the water has come to full boil; second, never add salt to the water; third, allow the meat to cool completely while immersed in its own broth.
If delicacy of flavor and texture are the paramount considerations, veal is the only meat to use. Breast of turkey and pork loin, however, offer excellent alternatives at considerably less cost.


FOR VEAL: In a pot just large enough to contain the veal (or the turkey breast or pork loins), put in the meat, carrot, celery, onion, parsley, bay leaf and just enough water to cover. Now remove the meat and set it aside. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil, then put in the meat and when the water resumes boiling, cover the pot, adjust heat to cook at a gentle, steady simmer and cook for 2 hours. (If it's turkey breast, cook it about 1 hour less.) Remove the pot from the heat and allow the meat to cool in its broth.

FOR SAUCE: Make the mayonnaise. Drain the canned tuna, and put it into a food processor together with the anchovies, olive oil, lemon juice and capers. Process until you obtain a creamy, uniformly blended sauce. Remove the sauce from the processor bowl and fold it gently, but thoroughly into the mayonnaise. No salt may be required because both the anchovies and capers supply it, but taste to be sure.

When the meat is quite cold, retrieve it from its broth, place it on a cutting board or other work surface, snip off and remove the trussing strings and cut it into uniformly thin slices. Smear the bottom of a serving platter with some of the tuna sauce. Over it spread a single layer of veal (or turkey or pork) slices, meeting edge to edge without overlapping. Cover with sauce, then make another layer of meat slices, and cover again with sauce. Repeat the procedure until you have used up all the meat, leaving yourself with enough sauce to blanket the topmost layer.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. It will keep well for at least a week. Bring to room temperature before serving. When you remove the plastic wrap, use a spatula to even off the top, and garnish with some or all of the suggested garnish ingredients in an agreeable pattern.

Recipe courtesy of

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

by Marcella Hazan
Published by

Alfred A. Knopf,

a division of Random House Inc.

Recipe reprinted by permission of Publisher. All rights reserved.

RecID 4045

nutrition information per serving

792 calories; 72g total fat; 157mg cholesterol; 453mg sodium; 3g carbohydrates; 1g fiber; 32g protein

These nutrition facts are calculated according to the ingredients listed in this recipe. Any substitutions will change these facts. Although we strive for accuracy, please note that food manufacturers occasionally change their food formulas, which could affect the calculations as shown.

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