Diva Tasting: Tomato Tonnato

Tomato Tonnato

Serves 4–6


For the tonnato sauce:

1 Tin (3 To 4 Oz.) High-Quality Tuna Packed In Olive Oil

1 Anchovy Fillet (Or More, If You Like Things Punchy)

¼ Cup Mayonnaise

¼ Cup Olive Oil

Juice From ½ Lemon (About 2 To 3 Tbsp.)

1 Tbsp. Capers In Brine, Drained

1 Clove Garlic, Peeled

1 Tsp. Ice-Cold Water

For Serving:

2 Lbs. Fresh, Firm, Flavorful Tomatoes

Kosher Salt

2 Tbsp. Fresh Basil Leaves, Roughly Torn

Fresh-Ground Black Pepper


1. Make the tonnato sauce. In a blender or food processor, combine all ingredients (including the tuna oil), except water, and blend until the mixture achieves a pale, silken consistency, slightly thicker than cake batter, pausing and scraping down the sides as needed. Add ice-cold water and blend for another 10 to 15 seconds until the sauce takes on a slightly glossy texture. If the mixture feels too thick or lumpy, add more ice-cold water, 1 tsp. at a time, until you reach the desired consistency. Transfer tonnato to a serving bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and transfer to the refrigerator to set for 30 minutes or up to 3 days.

2. Prepare the tomatoes. Wash tomatoes and remove their stems. Using a very sharp knife, slice tomatoes latitudinally into ½-inch rounds. On a serving platter, arrange a single layer of tomato slices, and dust sparingly with kosher salt. If more tomatoes remain, arrange them on top of the lower layer and sprinkle each slice with a few grains of salt. Just before serving, remove the prepared tonnato sauce from the fridge and stir to incorporate any oil that may have separated. Spoon about half the tonnato sauce over the tomatoes, reserving the remainder for another day (or for slathering on bread, or eating furtively with a spoon). Garnish with basil leaves and several coarse grinds of black pepper. ♦

Tomato Tonnato Is the Sauce of the Summer

Tonnato is an Italian creation of conserved tuna whipped, with mayonnaise and a few other ingredients, into a velvety sauce; essentially tuna salad put into the blender until it liquefies. This is an elegant method that happens to be entirely out of synch with the way kitchens generally operates, especially in warm weather. The appeal of a summer tonnato is easy: plug in a blender or food processor, throw in a big scoop of mayo, a can of good-quality tuna with its oil, a heaping spoonful of brined capers. Blend it all with a few hearty glugs of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, or clove or two of peeled garlic, and an anchovy fillet. (No salt— A scant teaspoon of ice-cold water blended in at the very end, somehow, miraculously, makes the whole thing glossy and light.

Tonnato is a deep, rich sauce, and when applied to sliced tomatoes it acts a little bit like the creamy insides of a burrata, bathing the ruby slices in cream. Spoon tonnato generously over the arranged tomatoes, garnish the platter with basil, and apply a few drifts of fresh black pepper, as coarsely ground as you can handle. The ingredients happily accommodate variation: add some tarragon, leave out the garlic, swap the tuna for tinned salmon—the correct answer is whatever happens to be on hand, though the better the fish, the better the results.

Lately I’ve been making a version with smoked tuna, whose rich, sweet cuts, slightly dry from their smoke bath, make for something gorgeous and earthy, a savory summer dressing of the gods.

Depending on the appetites of those you’re feeding, one can of tuna makes about enough tonnato to dress tomatoes for four or six. Set out the extra sauce in a bowl, for eating with bread or other peak-season vegetables.


Requested Repeat


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