Tonnato is an easy, creamy tuna-based sauce from Italy. Although it sounds weird, it’s heavenly and so versatile! Spoon generously over meat, or use as a dipping sauce with vegetables or bread.
This sauce might sound nuts, even for tuna lovers! But give tonnato a chance! This Italian tuna sauce is DIVINE on just about everything – from traditional Vitello Tonnato (cold, sliced veal), juicy chicken, dipped vegetables, or crusty bread.
What is Tonnato Sauce?
Tonnato sauce is one of my favorite Italian condiments! It can be made quickly with canned tuna, fresh lemon juice, anchovies, capers, soft-boiled eggs, and olive oil, all whipped together to create this creamy, crazy-delicious sauce!
Tonnato is traditionally served over meat like veal, or with vegetables and bread.
What Does Tonnato Sauce Taste Like?
Tonnato sauce is creamy and tangy. Tuna is emulsified into a creamy sauce by adding a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil. Lemon, capers and anchovies add a touch of briny tang!
How Do You Use Tonnato?
The uses for tonnato sauce are endless! Serve…
As a Sauce On:
- Vitello Tonnato – a classic Italian dish served in the summertime that calls for thinly sliced, chilled veal drizzled with tonnato sauce.
- Pork – spoon tonnato over thinly sliced pork chops.
- Chicken – spoon sauce over juicy baked chicken.
- Beef – spoon tonnato over beef carpaccio or a steak.
- Pasta Salad – make a pasta salad with tonnato and lightly blanched vegetables. How about this Greek Pasta Salad drizzled with tonnato?
- Salad – use as a salad dressing over arugula, heirloom tomatoes, or a green bean salad.
- Potatoes – roast potatoes with shallots or boil potatoes, and serve with tonnato sauce and a sprinkle of capers & parsley.
- Grilled Vegetables – grill your favorite vegetables and drizzle with tonnato.
As a Dip With:
- Raw Veggies – my favorite raw vegetables to serve with tonnato are radishes, radicchio, snap peas, peppers, cucumber, and carrots.
- Blanched Veggies – drop lightly steamed vegetables in ice cold water after steaming to stop the cooking process and keep your veggies brightly colored. My favorite blanched vegetables to serve with tonnato are broccolini, snap peas, carrots, asparagus, and fennel.
- Olives – serve Castelvetrano or Kalamata olives with tonnato. They are the perfect pair!
- Boiled Egg Whites – use the leftover egg whites from soft-boiling your eggs to dip in tonnato!
- Crusty Bread – really any type of bread is perfect, from store-bought to Homemade Beer Bread or Wheat Naan.
- Italian Bagna Cauda – serve both tonnato and Bagna Cauda (an Italian garlic and anchovy olive oil dip) together with veggies and bread!
- Canned or jarred tuna in olive oil – good-quality canned or jarred tuna is the base for our tonnato!
- Capers – capers add a touch of brine, cutting the richness of the sauce.
- Anchovy fillets – anchovy fillets add a hint of “umami” and taste of the “sea” that plays so well off the tuna.
- Soft-boiled egg yolks – egg yolks that are soft-boiled enhance the creaminess of the sauce.
- Extra virgin olive oil – olive oil emulsifies your sauce, making it extra creamy, light and whipped.
- Fresh lemon juice – lemon juice cuts richness and adds brightness.
Tips & Tricks
- You can remove the anchovies if you aren’t a fan! The anchovies, however, aren’t a dominate flavor, so I do recommend keeping them for the subtle umami taste it adds to the sauce!
- While your blender is running, SLOWLY adding olive oil to your tuna mixture. VERY SLOWLY is key, or else your olive oil will separate from your tuna mixture and it won’t emulsify into a creamy, uniform sauce.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Tonnato translates to “tuna sauce” in English.
Vitello tonnato is the most classic Italian way to serve tonnato sauce, that calls for thinly sliced, chilled veal drizzled with sauce.
Tonnato pairs perfectly with a dry Rosé, Pinot Grigio, or light red wine like a Lambrusco served slightly chilled.
Store leftover sauce in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days.
More Italian Sauce & Dip Recipes on Tastefully Grace!
- Traditional Italian Bagna Cauda
- Sun-Dried Tomato Olive Tapenade
- Garlicky Broccolini Pesto
- Roasted Eggplant Dip
- 2/3 cup tuna, packed and drained (about 7 ounce jar or can of tuna in olive oil)
- ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 large soft-boiled eggs instructions below
- 3 anchovy fillets
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- ½ tablespoons capers
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Make soft-boiled eggs by bringing a pot of water to a boil and gently lower eggs in the water. Set your timer for 8 ½ minutes, keeping your water at a gentle simmer for the whole time.
- When your time goes off, drop your eggs in ice water and let them chill for about 10 minutes. Crack, peel and slice them in half.
- Scoop only the egg yolks into the bowl of a blender. Add drained tuna, anchovies, lemon juice, capers, and salt and pepper.
- Turn your blender on low and while it is running, drizzle olive oil VERY slowly into the tuna mixture. VERY slowly is key, or else your olive oil will separate from your tuna mixture and it won’t emulsify into a creamy, uniform sauce.
- Keep the stream of olive oil running into the blender until it is half gone. Turn your blender off and scrape down the sides of the blender. Turn your blender on low once again, and while it is running, drizzle olive oil VERY slowly into the tuna mixture until the olive oil is gone!
- Serve creamy tonnato room temperature or chilled with meat, vegetables or bread. Serving suggestions in the post above!