italian tonnato sauce

tonnato sauceWell hello, 2020!  It’s taken me to the middle of this month to finally post something.  This is my fourteenth year with this food blog and lately, I have been wondering if I should stop.  And then I find a dish that reignites the foodie in me and my love for sharing recipes.  I started my blogging life when I had NO clue as to what it meant to be a blogger!  A friend of mine suggested I look at Chubby Hubby’s blog for inspiration and to check out Julie Powell’s blog turned book and later a movie: The Julie/Julia project.  It was all very intimidating to see what these two bloggers were doing but something inside me said to get on with it. So I did.  And, although there are times I feel like there’s nothing left in the recipe tank, I see something and it sparks a renewed culinary interest.  I do love sharing my dishes with you.  Which brings me to this Italian recipe for tonnato sauce (tuna sauce).

I’ll bet you never thought that a can of tuna could be so decadent!  Tonnato sauce is a cinch to make (you probably have most of the ingredients on hand) and SO versatile.  Originally this dish hails from Italy’s Piedmont region in the northwest.   Tonnato sauce is spooned over cold slices of cooked veal (vitello tonnato) and usually served in summer.  But, this sauce can be used in pasta, over chargrilled vegetables, as a dip for crudités, potato salad.

One of the other things I like sharing with you is historical research.  According to the Chicago Tribune, this Piedmont dish in the 18th century used to be called vitel tonnè. Vitel means veal and tonnè is a derivation of tanne, which today means preserved, tanned, cured.   Tonnato has nothing to do with tuna.  Italian merchants stopped in France for salt to use some of it to pack anchovies with, where they could lower the price than that of fresh fish and sell to those who couldn’t afford the latter.  It was at that time, made with anchovies packed in salt, not tuna.  We can thank Pellegrino Artusi who published The Art of Eating Well (1891) – the most significant Italian cookbook of modern times.  Tonnè had morphed into “tonnato” and tuna had become the sauce’s definitive element.  Grazie mille, Mr. Artusi!

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice
1 small garlic, chopped (optional)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 can tuna, drained
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon capers

tonnato sauce ingredientsProcess the above ingredients in a food processor. Adjust according to taste.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  This can be left in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.  Enjoy!