Italy: Chicken Tonnato is a fresh take on a classic summertime dish

Rome: Veal Tonnato is a traditional summertime dish in Italy. Hailing from the Piedmont region, it’s made with the unlikely combination of cold sliced veal topped with a smooth, cold tuna sauce.

We can substitute chicken breasts for the veal. It’s best served al fresco on a warm day, accompanied with a quality chilled Pinot Grigio.

For advance preparation, the chicken can be poached the day before serving and stored in the refrigerator, well-sealed, along with the broth mixture. The sauce can be prepared a day in advance and stored, airtight, in the refrigerator. Assemble and garnish just before serving.

Buon appetito.

Chicken Tonnato

Yield: 6 servings


1 tablespoon olive oil

1 stalk celery, thinly sliced

1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced

1/2 cup dry white wine

6 chicken breasts, boned and skinned

1/2 cup drained canned tuna, olive oil packed preferred

1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard

1 tablespoon capers, drained

4 anchovy fillets

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon minced lemon zest

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 cup mayonnaise

Garnish: Drained capers

Optional garnish: Baby lettuce, frisee (curly endive), cherry or teardrop tomatoes


1. Heat oil on medium-high heat in a deep skillet or Dutch oven large enough to hold the chicken in a single layer (but don’t put chicken in yet). Add celery and onion; reduce heat to low and cover. Cook 10 minutes. Add chicken in a single layer. Cover and cook until chicken is thoroughly cooked, about 18 to 25 minutes. Cooking time will vary depending on the size of the chicken breasts. Let cool in broth mixture; refrigerate in the broth mixture.

2. In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine tuna, mustard, 1 tablespoon capers, anchovies, lemon juice, olive oil, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Process until smooth, about 1 minute. Add mayonnaise; pulse 3 or 4 times to blend. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Refrigerate.

3. Remove chicken from broth; cut each breast into 3/8-inch crosswise slices. Arrange each breast on a dinner plate, spreading the slices out like a fan. Drizzle sauce over the top. Garnish with drained capers. If desired, place some greens on the side, and garnish with tomatoes.