Vitello Tonnato, veal tenderloin with tuna sauce, basil pesto and tomato concassé

The no fuss showstopper

Vitello Tonnato is a delicious dish for the taste buds, but not always so for the eyes. It tends to have a greyish color and with the capers on top it sometimes ends up looking more like a bowl of oatmeal gone bad. That doesn’t sound at all like the showstopper advertised above, but with a little twist or two it can be. Instead of the classic Italian starter, this version of Vitello Tonnato serves as the main course of a dinner where you finally have time to entertain your guests while wooing them with your fabulous cooking skills.

The garnishing sauces for the veal can be made a day ahead, and the only thing you then need to do in the kitchen once your guests have arrived is to prepare the veal and arrange the dish nicely on a serving platter.

A little tip on the rocket garnish: wash it a couple of hours before use and refrigerate it in a closed plastic bag with lots of air until you need it. That makes the leaves more crisp and fresh.

Vitello Tonnato with a twist (serves 6)


The veal

2 lbs (1 kg) veal tenderloin, trimmed

Salt and pepper to taste

Tomato concassé

6-8 small ripe tomatoes

1 small onion, diced

1 clove of garlic, crushed

3.5 oz (100 ml or a small glass) dry white wine

Salt and pepper to taste


A good handful (about 1.5 oz/40 g) fresh basil leaves

2 tbsp pine seeds

1 clove of garlic, crushed

3.5 oz (100 ml) good olive oil

1 oz (30 g) Pecorino Romano

2 oz (50 g) Parmesan

Salt and pepper to taste

Tuna sauce

2 cans of tuna in oil or water (about 400 g)

1.5 cups (400 g) mayonnaise

6 tbsp small capers

1-2 lemon (juice only)

Salt and pepper to taste

Garnish and side

A large handful rocket leaves

1 lemon

Caper berries or small capers

1 loaf of Italian bread


1. First, make the tomato concassé. Finely dice the tomatoes and throw into a small saucepan together with onions, garlic and white wine. Let it all simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until the mixture turns thicker. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

2. For the pesto churn the fresh basil leaves in a blender together with the olive oil and blend for about 15 seconds. The leaves should not turn into complete mush, but neither should there be any whole leaves left. Then add the pine seeds and the minced garlic and blend again for 15 seconds. Finely grate the 2 cheeses and add them to the oil mixture and stir (don’t blend). Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Finally prepare the tuna sauce. First put the capers in a sieve and pour cold water over to wash out a little of the saltiness. Then blend the tuna together with mayonnaise and capers. Add salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.

4. Season the veal with salt and pepper. Then sear the tenderloin on a very hot frying pan with some oil, making sure that it takes on color all over its surface. Then put the meat in the oven at 385 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius) for about 15-20 minutes or until it reaches a mid-temperature of about 135 degrees Fahrenheit (58 degrees Celsius).

5. Arrange the rocket salad on a large plate or serving tray, then add slices of the veal and drizzle the sauces on top as shown in the picture. Garnish with caper berries or capers and then serve the Vitello Tonnato with extra lemon and bread.


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