Tonnato is the sauce part of the dish, vitello tonnato. This is a tuna based sauce that is thick and delicious, and can be served in a multitude of ways.

Head straight on to the Recipe For ♥ Tonnato ♥
Vitello tonnato

In Piedmont, Italy, you may find vitello tonnato on the menu, to be served as secondi. This main course dish consists of leg of veal which has been braised and thinly sliced. It is served cold, topped with a sauce made from tuna and mayonnaise. Italian immigrants to South America serve vitel toné  as part of their Christmas meal. It may be served as an antipasto for a fancy dinner party.

How to make the sauce?

Traditionally, fresh white tuna is simmered until cooked in a liquid of white wine and vinegar. To that, onion and garlic are added as aromatics. But, as is common in restaurants, using tinned tuna is more economical. And it will take much less time to make. To make this authentically, you would add the tuna to a food processor and purée it with egg yolks, olive oil and vegetable oil until it forms a thick mayonnaise. Personally, I find it easier to just add mayonnaise which I make at home each week. To this, anchovies, capers and lemon juice are added. You could even add cayenne pepper if you want yours to have a kick! The sauce should be left in the fridge overnight for the flavours to develop.

Do I need veal?

As we don’t get veal here, I did not even think to make this as a traditional dish. I also did not create this recipe to serve with any cold meat. We were having a meze meal for Christmas with pescatarians, and this sounded like the perfect dip to be scooped up with flatbreads. And it was! Not only did the tonnato get used this way, it was also used to top the meatballs I had made. There were three on offer, lamb, venison and chicken. And the sauce went well with all three. So, the answer is no, you do not need veal. Make this sauce to serve as you wish, or as a dip for crudités.

Take a look at this inspiring recipe for ♥ Tonnato ♥ from Lavender and Lime #LavenderAndLime Click To Tweet



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5 from 2 votes


Use this traditionally with veal, or as a dip
Recipe Category: Dips, Sauces
Makes enough for: 1 batch Tonnato
All Rights Reserved: An original recipe from Lavender and Lime


  • 120 g tinned tuna (drained weight)
  • 30 mls lemon juice
  • 20 g capers
  • 3 anchovy fillets
  • 100 g mayonnaise
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to season


  • Place the tina, lemon juice, capers and anchovies into a blender and purée until smooth
  • Add the mayonnaise, season generously and blend to combine
  • Place into the fridge for at least an hour for the flavours to develop
See the links below for blog posts I published on February 13:

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18 thoughts on “Tonnato

  1. Oh, just oh! Now you have done it!!! At the end of a busy day for me about to go off discuss two rather important speeches re our First Nations today . . . one from Kevin Rudd in Washington . . . and now all the memories for me. Methinks we all have a dish tied to our names . . . from the very first time I served vitello tonnato as a young bride, it became the one everyone asked for !!! . . . Our sauce recipes are virtually the same . . . but, once I did put it in the fridge and forgot to take it out . . . an hour or two before . . . hmm, won’t think about that one . . . thanks . . .

  2. This would be a delightful sauce for my tuna and anchovy loving husband. I never heard of it before so thanks for the background info too.

  3. oh this sounds utterly delicious Tandy. I tried to make mayonnaise once, but it was a complete failure. Yet they make it look so easy in a blender … 🙂

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