Vitello Tonnato is a traditional Piedmontese dish of thinly sliced roast or boiled veal blanketed with a thick, creamy tuna sauce. The sauce is truly something special—a luscious, silky blend of egg yolks, lemon juice, capers and anchovies emulsfied with olive oil and then blended with oil-packed tuna. The tuna's flavor mellows and provides a subtle, briny backbone without being overly fishy.
This recipe is inspired by the classic with a few summery twists. The extra virgin olive oil is replaced by Agrumato® Lemon Olive Oil, giving the sauce an extra zesty boost of citrus flavor. And, instead of the quintessential veal (because who wants to turn on the oven in the heat of the summer?), we're pairing the tonnato sauce with a fresh, vibrant salad of peak season tomatoes, shaved fennel and peppery greens. To be honest, this sauce begs to be paired with just about anything: grilled summer squash, boiled potatoes, blanched green beans, thin slices of leftover steak or simply slathered on charred bread.
Recipe, food styling and photography by Asha Loupy
To make the tonnato sauce, combine the egg yolks, lemon juice, anchovies, capers and mustard in a blender. Blend on high until smooth (alternatively, you can use an immersion blender and a tall blending jar or container).
With the blender running on medium high, slowly begin to drizzle in the Agrumato® Lemon Olive Oil, starting with a couple drops at a time until an emulsion starts to form. Continue to drizzle the Agrumato® in a thin steady stream until the mixture is thick and creamy. Add the drained tuna and blend until smooth. If the sauce is too dense, blend a teaspoon of water in at a time (up to one tablespoon). You're aiming for a thick, yet pourable texture. Taste and season with salt, if needed (the capers and tuna already bring a lot of salt to the sauce). Transfer the tonnato sauce to a medium bowl, cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.
While the tonnato sauce is chilling, prepare the salad. To prep the fennel, remove the stalks and fronds from the bulb. Pluck the fronds from the stalks, reserving one cup of the fronds for the salad. The stalks can be discarded or saved for later use, like adding to stock. Cut the fennel bulb in half and then thinly slice lengthwise. Transfer the sliced fennel to a large bowl and add the lemon juice, salt and fennel pollen, tossing to combine. Allow the fennel to sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes.
To assemble the salad, add the olive oil to the macerated fennel and toss to combine. Then add the cherry tomatoes, arugula and reserved fennel fronds. Gently toss to coat everything in the dressing. Taste and adjust seasonings, as necessary.
Remove the tonnato sauce from the refrigerator. To serve the salad, spread an generous layer of tonnato sauce on the bottom of a serving platter or individual plates. Pile the tomato and fennel salad on top, and garnish with a smattering of capers.