Vitello tonnato is an Italian dish, that contrasts the mild taste of veal with the specific taste of a tuna sauce. Most of the work goes into making the tuna sauce. Not always is it easy to find the right quality veal. Obtain a thinner piece if possible.  If you cannot find good quality and sized veal, use beef tenderloin, after searing the outside very briefly and slicing it thin. The dish will be not the same, but still very excellent in taste. I suggest the recipe name then to be changed in filetto di manzo tonnato.

the art of making vitello tonnato

Try to preserve some pink sections in the veal, when cooking. You can either sear the meat briefly on the outside or simmer it in a broth. Let the meat sufficiently cool down before slicing, otherwise you lose the meat juices. You may also opt to buy ready made cold cuts at your butcher. Most likely most of the pink interior will be gone, but so be it!

Serve this dish cold or at room temperature. This is a dish that shines when made ahead of time.

The most important is to make the sauce a day ahead. The taste becomes so more balanced and intense.

If you object to using a raw egg yolk, you could opt for a pasteurized egg yolk or even for using some mayonnaise in the tuna sauce.  In that case, you could leave out the oil and most of the lemon juice, mustard salt and pepper as well.

I always serve this dish with some greens on the side, arugula being preferred as it has a specific and contrasting bitter taste.

Special equipment

an immersion blender helps

vitello tonnato ©️ Nel Brouwer-van den Bergh

Vitello tonnato

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Appetizer, Dinner, Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4


Ingredients for the meat

  • 14 oz veal for an appetizer, take half the amount

Ingredients for the sauce

  • 1/2 medium yellow onion
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 4 tbsp capers
  • 2-3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 10 oz (280 g) tuna (from a tin or jar is fine)
  • 0.3 pint (150 ml) olive or sunflower/rapeseed oil
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • black pepper to taste
  • salt to taste

For the greens

  • 3 oz arugula greens or slad greens of your choice


preparing the meat

  • Prepare a simple vegetable broth by adding some vegies like carrots, cellery, onion in water with salt
  • bring to a simmer and after 15 min add the veal
  • Cook for 3 -6 minutes depending on the thickness of the meat
  • Let it cool down and then slice it if too think

making the sauce

  • Start mincing the onion and the capers and keep reserved
  • Take the egg yolk and add the lemon juice, some salt and pepper and start adding

Preparing the final dish

  • Just before serving, place the meat on a plate on one side and the greens on the other. Spoon the tuna sauce in the middle, just covering part of the greens and part of the meat.


Method: simmering
Food allergy & intolerance information: egg, fish
Keyword capers, tuna, veal, vitello tonnato


  1. You can keep the sauce for at the least 3 days in the refrigerator, do not freeze the sauce as it will separate.

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