Chilled Veal in Tuna-caper Sauce Recipe

Veal in tuna-caper sauce (Vitello tonnato)
Veal in tuna-caper sauce (Vitello tonnato). Foodcollection RF/Getty Images
  • Total: 3 hrs
  • Prep: 60 mins
  • Cook: 2 hrs
  • Yield: 6-8 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
870 Calories
74g Fat
2g Carbs
46g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6-8 servings
Amount per serving
Calories 870
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 74g 95%
Saturated Fat 14g 71%
Cholesterol 236mg 79%
Sodium 261mg 11%
Total Carbohydrate 2g 1%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Protein 46g
Calcium 86mg 7%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Vitello tonnato -- chilled, sliced veal in a creamy tuna-caper sauce -- is one of the classic Italian summer dishes and it is also the traditional centerpiece of the Ferragosto (Assumption Day) dinner in Milan.


  • 2 1/4 pounds/1 kg boned veal, rump cut
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves (optional)
  • A few sage leaves
  • 1 rib of celery, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 bottle of dry white wine
  • 6 salted anchovies (the canned variety, sold by delicatessens)
  • 3 eggs
  • A handful of pickled or salt-packed capers, rinsed and drained well (previously soaked in water for 10 to 15 minutes if salt-packed)
  • 3/4 pound/320 grams tuna packed in olive oil
  • 1/2 cup (approx.) olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Fine sea salt to taste
  • Garnish with capers, some lemon slices, and sprigs of parsley

Steps to Make It

  1. Place the raw veal in a large, nonreactive bowl with the bay leaves, cloves, sage, and celery pour the wine over it. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours, turning the meat occasionally.

  2. The next day, transfer the meat to a Dutch oven. Strain the spices and celery out of the wine, then add the wine to the Dutch oven, plus enough water to cover the meat.

  3. Lightly salt the pot and simmer the meat for 1 hour.

  4. In the meantime, wash, scale and bone the anchovies.

  5. When the hour is up, add the anchovies to the pot and continue simmering for another 30 minutes; the liquid should be reduced by half.

  6. Place the eggs in a small pot with 1 inch of cold water to cover. Bring the water just to a rolling boil, then cover the pot, remove it from heat, and let sit for 10 minutes to hard-boil the eggs. Drain the eggs, rinse them under cold water, then let them sit in cold water for a few minutes until cool enough to peel.

  7. Separate the yolks from the whites (the whites will not be used in this recipe; you may discard them or set them aside for another purpose).

  8. Rinse, dry, and finely mince the capers.

  9. When the meat is fork-tender, remove it from heat and strain the broth into a bowl.

  10. Transfer the anchovy fillets to a clean fine-mesh strainer and press them through it, together with the tuna and the hard-boiled yolks, into another bowl.

  11. Stir in the minced capers, olive oil, the vinegar, and the lemon juice, and then dilute the sauce to taste with some of the reserved broth.

  12. When the veal has cooled, slice it thinly and lay the slices out on one or more platters. Spread the sauce over the meat, garnish the platters with the lemon slices, capers, and parsley. Cover them with plastic wrap and chill them in the refrigerator before serving.

  13. A wine? A Valcalepio Bianco would be nice, as would a Lugana.