Vitello Tonnato

This is a good delicious appetizer. It is an Italian dish which is loved by numerous generations and which is easy to cook. Most of Vitello Tonnato’s recipes can be prepared in under one hour, and everyone can do it – all cooking levels are warmly welcomed.

It is a fabulous dish and my favorite snack. At my home, it is more prevalent in autumn or winter. I like to serve it along with creamy mashed potatoes, to which I add a few drops of truffle oil or paste. Take a dense red wine. Vitello can be made from any steak but is popular with tenderloin (filet mignon). I believe that it is imperative to take a tenderloin for this dish. 

What about the way of cooking meat? I like to bake it quickly so that there is a small crust and a pink center inside. Don’t like it bloody? Keep the meat 10 minutes longer. If you want super quickly, you can just fry the steak from all sides in a frying pan, let it stand for 5-7 minutes and immediately cut.

You can also make a very tender snack. It is for people who think that the crust on the meat in this dish is superfluous. At home, you can make some likeness of sous vide. You need to wrap small pieces of tenderloin (cut into 10-12 cm) in plastic wraps like candy, or a bag with a fastener, tie tightly with twine. Bring water to a boil (ideally in broth). Remove from the stove. Put the meat in water or broth); every half hour, heat the water to almost boiling (80-90 degrees). Cook for  2-2.5 hours. The meat will be juicy, tender, and pink. 

For the sauce, tuna must be taken in its juice. Not in oil.

The oil should be free of pronounced taste. If there is an entirely neutral olive oil, it is good; if not, then use refined sunflower or grapeseed oil. But the truth is, do not take too aromatic olive oil; it will ruin the whole taste. 

A bit of history

The history of the Vitello Tonnato (vitel tonnè o vitel tonnà in piemontese) dates back to the 19th century to the Piedmontese region, the north of Italy. At that time, it was served as the main course: the veal was marinated and boiled. Throughout centuries Vitello Tonnato recipe has undergone several changes, and now it is done as a starter, which is extremely popular during Christmas time. The integral part of the dish is tonnato sauce (or tuna sauce) prepared with such ingredients as tuna, capers, and anchovies. 

By the way, this appetizer is very popular in Argentina and it is called there vitel tone.

The perfect wine

Wine is an integral element of every dish, and it is essential to know which wine works the best before serving it. The right wine will emphasize the taste and bring the light sweetness. Both red and white wines are ideal for vitello tonnato. For me, the best wine to serve with Vitello Tonnato is the dense velvety red. I like to eat Vitello with Merlot, Chianti Classico or even Chianti Reserve.

But for Vitello Tonnato, white wine from the Piedmont region is also superb option; for instance, try Roero Arneis or Gavi. Without any doubt, you can drink other dry white wines – Pinot Grigio. If you do not consume alcohol, you can always have mineral water with lemon or tomato juice.

Vitello Tonnato Recipe with Delicious tonnato sauce


By the way, you can do this and put the meat on top of the sauce.

INGREDIENTS (serves 2-3)

  • 600 g (1.3 lb) beef tenderloin
  • 1 canned tuna in water (80 g, 3 oz)
  • 8 anchovy fillets 
  • 2 yolks 
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard 
  • 130 ml of vegetable oil (with a neutral taste) 
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar (pink vinegar or lemon juice can be used) 
  • 2 tbsp liquid cream 10-30%
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • 1 tbsp parsley leaves
  • 1 pinch of espelette pepper (chili or black pepper) 



1. Preheat oven to 250°C /480°F. Use convection mode or grill.

2. Pat dry meat with paper towels. Place in a baking dish. Sprinkle with salt, black pepper, lightly drizzle with oil. Rub everything with your hands.

3. Place it in the oven and bake for 25 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn over and bake on the other side. If the tenderloin is thin, reduce the time to 18-20 minutes. The meat will turn out slightly bloody. Cook for 35-40 minutes if you want a good roast. 

4. Take the meat from the oven, wrap the meat in foil, and leave it for 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce: 

1. Beat the yolks and mustard with a mixer. Start adding the vegetable oil drop by drop at first so that the sauce emulsifies. Add the remaining oil in portions. The sauce should be very thick. 

2. Drain the juice well from the tuna. Add tuna, anchovies, black pepper, 1 tbsp of cream, and vinegar. Grind with a hand blender. Pour in the remaining cream if the sauce isn’t too runny. Stir and refrigerate. The consistency should be thick, but the sauce should flow slowly. Chop the parsley finely. 

3. Slice the meat thinly. Pat, it dries lightly on a paper towel. Transfer to a large plate and top with sauce. Sprinkle with parsley and capers. Optionally, for spicy lovers, sprinkle with dried chili flakes or chop fresh chili thinly.

Bon Appetit!

Please share your cooking success in the comment! We can’t wait to see your


You can find the video recipe on my Youtube channel Bible of taste:

If you love everything Italian the way I do, you will love this post Exploring From Home: Italy. Here you can find a lot of information about Italian food, movies, music, books and a list of museums and galleries that you can visit online.

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I'm Alona Bogdanova – cookbooks writer from Ukraine. I create and photograph gourmet, approachable and exciting recipes for every day.

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