• Vitello Tonnato


Bring on the warm weather.

Nothing says hello to the warm-weather months like cool food. Vitello Tonnato, or cold, sliced veal, is an Italian classic and although it’s traditionally served with veal top round, I like it even better with calf tongue. The acidity and salinity of the sauce is perfect with the rich tongue. It’s the ultimate surf and turf. Is it Italian? You bet. I am really tired of people hammering away at chefs who introduce new ingredients to a classic dish, criticizing it as inauthentic. First, who cares? If it tastes good, it’s a good dish. Second, Italian food is predicated on freshness, simplicity, regional relevance and seasonality. This dish has it all in spades and remains true to the original concept.

Vitello Tonnato


  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 6 parsley sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • One 2-pound calf tongue
  • One 4-ounce jar Italian oil-packed tuna, drained
  • 3 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1  1/2 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • Chopped kalamata olives, for garnish
  • Chopped parsley, for garnish
  • Lemon wedges, for serving


Active: 1 hr
Total Time: 4 hrs 30 min
Servings: 6 first-course servings

In a large pot, combine the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, parsley, bay leaf, wine and 12 cups of water. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Add the tongue and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat until tender, about 2 hours. Remove the pot from the heat and let the tongue stand in the liquid until slightly cooled, about 45 minutes. Using a paring knife, peel and trim the tongue. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of a food processor, combine the tuna with the anchovies, capers and lemon juice and process until finely chopped. Add the oil and mayonnaise and process until smooth and thick. Season with salt and pepper. Scrape the sauce into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about 20 minutes.

Slice the tongue crosswise into 1/3-inch medallions and transfer to plates. Spoon some of the sauce over the tongue medallions and garnish with the olives and parsley. Serve with lemon wedges and the rest of the sauce at the table.

MAKE AHEAD The unsliced tongue can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.

Originally published in Andrew Zimmern’s Kitchen Adventures on foodandwine.com.
Photograph by Stephanie Meyer.

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