This elegant Italian version of surf and turf hails from the north-western region of Piedmont. It is delicious, though when prepared correctly not particularly attractive, and its English description of ‘poached veal in tuna mayonnaise’ doesn’t do it justice at all! You have to wonder why anyone would want their veal to taste like fish. I couldn’t uncover a definitive answer, but suggest that veal being more common than seafood in landlocked Alpine Piedmont, it was a treat to use the available preserved fish (tuna and anchovies) to create this clever dish. Some sources suggest it wasn’t originally made with tuna, just anchovies, and that what is now “tonnato” was originally “toné”, meaning cured or preserved in reference to the anchovies. Today vitello tonnato is seen all over Italy as a main course or part of an antipasti selection. The tuna sauce is so delicious, you’ll want to spread it on everything, especially vegetables; it’s also great tossed through pasta or used on sandwiches instead of mayo. The typical Italian cut used is girello (eye round), which is part of the silverside. In Australia you may find it easier to get veal nut (also called knuckle or round). It’s easier to slice the veal thinly if you have time to refrigerate it first after it’s cooked. The veal stock created by poaching the meat is a bonus, reduce and freeze it to have on hand for another recipe, such as French onion soup. This is a dish that can handle both white and red wine. Arneis, a Piedmont variety, works well and I really enjoy Garry Crittenden’s ‘Endangered’ with it (this wine also has a great story, helping fund turtle conservation). The Alfredo sangiovese from Nugan in King Valley is a fine match too. See video below for another classic Italian veal dish.
Share page on: