Vitello Tonnato (Cold Veal With Tuna Sauce)

“There are many versions of this classic Italian dish; it has been served to me in all the regions of Italy, but I think it originated in Lombardy. It is not hard to make, and it is really refreshing on a hot summer day. It looks beautiful on a buffet table. It can be made ahead and stored in the fridge for several days. Originally from Gourmet with two decades of revisions. Cooking time includes refrigerator time.”

Ingredients Nutrition

  • For the veal
  • 2 lbs boneless veal roast, tied securely at one inch intervals (a solid cylindrical piece of meat, usually from the leg, with fascia and membranes removed)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and quartered
  • 2 onions, peeled and quartered
  • 1 stalk celery, quartered
  • 2 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 black peppercorns
  • water, to cover
  • For the tuna sauce
  • 1 12 cups mayonnaise, preferably homemade (LOL. Just don't use salad dressing)
  • 6 12 ounces tuna, preferably packed in oil, drained
  • 2 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 12 small onions or 14 cup scallion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 14 cup cold milk, approximately
  • For the assembly
  • 2 tablespoons small drained capers
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley (optional)
  • decorative lemon slice (optional)


  1. For the veal place the meat, carrots, onions, celery, parsley, bay leaf and peppercorns in a fairly snug pot and add water to cover.
  2. Cover and simmer for one hour. Check from time to time to prevent the meat from sticking to the bottom.
  3. Let cool in the cooking liquid for one hour.
  4. Cover the veal with a plate and 2 lb weight and cool completely in the cooking liquid. (The purpose of weighing down the meat is to insure compact slices when cut. I usually omit this step because I don't have a kitchen weight.).
  5. Store in refrigerator until assembly. If you feel creative, you could make something good with the broth; otherwise, it is discarded.
  6. For the tuna sauce whip the mayonnaise, tuna, anchovy fillets, onion, and lemon juice at high speed in the processor fitted with a steel blade.
  7. With the motor running add the milk in a thin stream until the desired consistency is reached. It should be thick but pourable.
  8. For the assembly remove and discard any remaining bits of rubbery membrane on the veal and slice it thinly, no more than 1/4 inch thick. If some of the slices crumble, don't despair. It will still be good.
  9. Smear 1/4 cup of the sauce in the bottom of a rimmed platter (I prefer glass).
  10. Place the veal slices in slightly overlapping circles in the platter, and cover generously and completely with the sauce.
  11. If you have more veal you can add another layer; just be sure that all is covered by the sauce.
  12. (If you have more sauce than you need (it is tasty), you can combine it with cubed cooked cold chicken, turkey, or fish, or pour it over cold hard-boiled eggs.).
  13. The dish should cool in the refrigerator for several hours or up to 2-3 days, covered with plastic wrap.
  14. Before serving sprinkle on the capers, optional parsley, and garnish with the lemon slices, if desired.

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