Vitello tonnato

  • Antipasto
  • Serves 4
  • 2 hours
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Luca Marchiori shares his vitello tonnato recipe, a classic Piedmontese dish. Slices of aromatic veal are served in a rich fish sauce made from tuna, capers and anchovy. Serve as part of an antipasti platter, or by itself as a more filling main course.

First published in 2016

Vitello Tonnato is a kind of ‘surf and turf’ from the north-eastern region of Piemonte. As a child, I spent several magical summers there at my uncle’s house, cycling through seemingly endless fields of maize and picnicking in the hills around Asti. It was at one such picnic that I first tried this dish.

Traditionally served cold as an antipasto, it consists of aromatic boiled veal – thinly sliced – served in a tuna fish sauce with hints of caper and anchovy. Nowadays, the sauce often includes mayonnaise but this version is the traditional one adapted from Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Good Eating by Pellegrino Artusi. First published in 1891, this book is considered to be the definitive text on classical Italian cookery.




Marinated veal

  • 600g of veal shoulder
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 onion, halved but not peeled
  • 1 celery stick
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 5 cloves
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 500ml of white wine
  • 1.5l water

Tuna sauce

To garnish

  • capers, drained


Begin by marinating the veal. Place the meat in a large saucepan with the carrot, onion, celery, garlic, cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves and salt. Pour the white wine over the meat, cover, and leave for about 30 minutes to allow the meat to marinate
Add the water to the pan, bring to the boil and turn the heat right down. Cover and simmer for 1 hour 30 minutes
Remove the meat from the liquid and allow to cool completely. Don’t throw the liquid away, strain it and use in another recipe
While the meat is cooling, make the tuna sauce. Place the tuna, capers, anchovy fillets and egg yolks in a food processor and blitz for about 30 seconds. Add the lemon juice and whiz for another 10 seconds. Season with black pepper
Turn the food processor onto the lowest speed and add the olive oil, slowly, in a single stream. The finished sauce will have a similar consistency to fresh mayonnaise
To serve, slice the beef as thinly as possible and place the slices on a large serving dish. Pour the sauce over the top of the meat but leave some of the meat showing around the edge. Garnish with whole capers

Discover more about this region's cuisine:

Luca Marchiori is a food writer, recipe developer and food historian. His blog Luca’s Italy is all about discovering authentic Italian food and sharing the recipes that Italians really eat.

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