Vitello Tonnato: Chilled Veal in Tuna-Caper Sauce

Veal in tuna-caper sauce (Vitello tonnato)
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  • Total: 3 hrs
  • Prep: 60 mins
  • Cook: 2 hrs
  • Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
870 Calories
74g Fat
2g Carbs
46g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 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. It is also the traditional centerpiece of the Ferragosto (Assumption Day) dinner in Milan, which is held every year on August 15.

Thin slices of veal are served chilled, dressed with a creamy sauce made of anchovies, tuna, hard-cooked egg yolks, capers, lemon juice, and vinegar. This recipe begins with a whole veal rump cut that needs to be marinated overnight and then simmered for an hour. And, unlike many modern recipes for vitello tonnato, this recipe doesn't use pre-made mayonnaise but combines hard-cooked egg yolks with oil and lemon juice to make it from scratch.

Ingredients

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

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Place the veal in a large, nonreactive bowl with the bay leaves, cloves (if using), sage, and celery; pour the wine over. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours, turning the meat occasionally.

  3. 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.

  4. Add a little salt and simmer the meat for 1 hour.

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

  6. 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.

  7. 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 the 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.

  8. 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.)

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

  10. When the meat is fork-tender, remove it from the heat. Strain the broth into a bowl.

  11. Transfer the anchovy fillets to a food processor; add the tuna, hard-boiled yolks, olive oil, vinegar, and lemon juice and process until creamy. Dilute the sauce to taste with some of the reserved broth and process again. Stir in the minced capers.

  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 and garnish the platters with the lemon slices, capers, and parsley. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator before serving.

  13. Enjoy!