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Vitello Tonnato

August 30, 2010

 “Buon Ferragosto”

A celebration on August 15th originally was celebrated by the Italians for the entire month of August, then later in the second half of August and now a one day celebration.  I don’t know if there are traditional foods served on this day but for me it has always been “Vitello Tonnato”.  August was always a difficult time to find some of our favorite restaurants open in Italy, as many people took that entire month off to go to the mountains or the sea.  As a flight attendant there were many restaurants that we went to on a weekly and monthly basis and most of them were family run for generations.  We were lucky on holidays as many of these restaurants that were closed invited us to their family dinners at their restaurants.  The hotels would also have special dinners arranged for us at the hotel at times, but the invitation to one of our favorite eating places was always our top priority.  This is a perfect, tangy and highly seasoned veal dish for the hot days of August which is served at room temperature.  I still always make this wonderful veal dish when having friends over for “Buon Ferragosto” and also many times during the year.

Vitello Tonnato


  • 1 1/2 C. Dry White Wine
  • 1 Stalk Celery (roughly chopped)
  • 1 Medium Onion (peeled and quartered)
  • 1 Carrot (roughly chopped)
  • 1 Leek (white part only, rinsed and chopped
  • 4 Sprigs Marjoram
  • 4 Sprigs Thyme
  • 5 Cloves Garlic (peeled)
  • 2-2 1/2 lbs. Veal Roast, Top Round (no thicker than 3 inches)


  1. In a large pot add the wine, celery, onion, carrot, leek, marjoram, thyme and garlic
  2. Add 3 inches of water and bring to boil, then add the veal and bring back to a boil
  3. Turn off the heat, cover pot and let veal cool in the liquid 2-3 hours
  4. When completely cool, thinly slice the veal (about 1/1/ – 1/8 inch thick
  5. Set aside

Tonnato Sauce


  • 2 Egg Yolks (room temperature)
  • Sea Salt
  • 2 1/4 C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 5 T. Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 1 & oz. Can Tuna (packed in oil)
  • 5 Anchovy Fillets
  • 3 T. Capers (drained)
  • Lemon (for garnish)
  • Black Olives (pitted and sliced, for garnish)
  • Basil and Parsley Leaves (for garnish)
  • Anchovies (for garnish)


  1. While the veal cools make the sauce
  2. Whisk the egg yolks and 1/4 t. salt until pale yellow and the consistency of cream.
  3. Beginning a drop at a time add 1 1/4 C. oil whisking continuously
  4. As mixture thickens, add more oil and when quite thick whisk in 1 T. lemon juice
  5. Continue adding oil until all of it has been absorbed and mayonnaise is quite thick and shiny, whisk in another T. of lemon juice
  6. Drain the tuna and put it in a bowl (or food processor) with the anchovies, remaining cup of olive oil, remaining lemon juice and capers. Process with an immersion blender until the mixture is creamy and uniformly blended
  7. Scrape sauce into bowl with mayonnaise and fold to combine
  8. Taste for seasonings (should be quite tangy and highly seasoned)
  9. Cover and refrigerate until needed

To Assemble

  1. Reserve 3/4 C. of the sauce to serve alongside the veal
  2. Smear the bottom of large serving platter some of the remaining tuna sauce
  3. Place a layer of veal slices on top, edge to edge without overlapping
  4. Cover with the sauce, make another layer of meat and sauce, repeat until all meat is used
  5. Be sure to leave enough sauce to blanket the top
  6. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (at least 2-4 hours
  7. Bring to room temperature before serving and garnish with some or all of the suggested garnishes and the additional reserved sauce on the side

(Serves 6-8)

Adapted from “The New York Times” (originally from “Italy, A Cool Summer Secret”

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