Make Ahead

Tacchino Tonnato (Turkey with Tuna Sauce)

November 18, 2017
2 Ratings
Photo by Emiko
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

This is a variation on a classic northern Italian dish, vitello tonnato, which is normally made with rare roast veal. If you've never had it, it seems like an unusual pairing, tuna and veal. But, oh, does it work. And the same goes for turkey. I first had this after my first Tuscan wine harvest when the winemaker's wife, Marisa, made it for us. She said she got it from the Silver Spoon cookbook, but I've never found it exactly the way she made it and she definitely didn't use any recipes to cook with. It's just the thing for serving at a party or to a large table of friends and family—it's ideal, too, for a buffet style dinner, as this is delicious cold or warm and it's an easy dish for people to help themselves to. I now like to add anchovies to the sauce and a couple of hard boiled eggs for extra creaminess and richness—in my opinion a better option than mayonnaise, but there is that too. You can try recreating this also with leftover turkey. —Emiko

What You'll Need
  • 2 pounds (1 kg) boneless turkey breast (1 half breast)
  • 1 white onion
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 7-ounce (200 grams) tin of tuna
  • 2 cups (500 ml) white wine (or water or chicken stock)
  • 2-3 anchovy fillets
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons capers packed in salt or brine, soaked in water and drained
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 handful flat leaf parsley, chopped (optional)
  1. If you want nice, even slices it's a good idea to roll or shape and then tie the turkey breast with kitchen string, as for a roast – it cooks more evenly this way too. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. Peel and cut the onion in half, and then in thin slices. Add to a deep, heavy bottomed pot with the olive oil and heat gently. Let the onions sweat, cooking on low heat until softened but not browned, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the tuna, drained of any liquid, then add the turkey. Turn heat up slightly and sear turkey on all sides.
  4. Add the wine (or water) and turn heat up. When it comes to a boil, turn down to a simmer and let cook for 1 hour, turning the turkey about halfway and at this point, covering with a lid to finish cooking – there should still be sufficient liquid in the pot that it arrives at least halfway up the turkey.
  5. Remove the turkey from the pot and set it aside. Drain the tuna and onions from the liquid in the pot and set aside the liquid. Blend the tuna and onions with an immersion blender (or similar), adding the anchovy fillets and the boiled eggs, until very smooth and thick. If too thick, add some of the liquid slowly until the sauce loosens. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.
  6. Serve the turkey sliced, with the sauce poured over and sprinkled with capers (a must) and parsley, if desired. This is lovely warm or cold.
  7. If you would like to make just the sauce, say, to use with some left over turkey or another roast, simply sautee the onion in olive oil, add it to the tuna, anchovies and boiled eggs in a blender or food processor, adding a few tablespoons of mild olive oil, a dash of white wine vinegar or water (the combination of oil and water will help make an emulsion) until you have a thick, creamy sauce.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

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3 Reviews

Donna March 3, 2024
Although I've always liked vitello tonnato (and would like it even more with turkey), it's always seemed a little bland. Adding anchovies is the perfect solution!
AntoniaJames November 24, 2017
Yes, yes, yes. I must try this recipe, soon. Thank you, Emiko! ;o)
Barbara S. November 23, 2017
I love veal tonnato even though it sounded strange at first. I'm looking forward to trying this with turkey because it seems much more manageable for the home cook.