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Tacchino tonnato. Turkey breast with tuna and mayonnaise sauce

A friend is someone you share fun, laughter, interests and passions with, someone who naturally pushes you do to better. Emiko is a friend, she has taught me so much. She explained me how to make pretty lanterns with old jars, wire and cheese cloth. She made me discover for the first time the Florence of those who live there, and I grew fond of it, she showed me where to have a dreamy afternoon tea and stay on a budget, she invited me in Cecina for a weekend with our friends, to a molecular aperitif, in San Miniato and Fucecchio for the first time. We’ve been to Venice together.

Tacchino tonnato - Turkey breast with tuna mayonnaise

The pavlova was the first recipe we made together, from there a stream of recipes dots our friendship with tasty memories. She made gracious lemon curd tartlets for my 30th birthday party, sinful fried zucchini flowers stuffed with buffalo ricotta and fig honey when she organized an Apulian lunch, she catered a Japanese home lunch at me and she made with such an incredible skillfulness chirashi sushi and miso eggplants. Even if we three continents and a certain number of Oceans divide us, we managed to bake together an Easter schiacciata and we developed the Italian Table talk project with Valeria and Jasmine.

When she came back to Italy a few months ago, although it was difficult to juggle commitments, deadlines and travels, we were able to carve out some days to spend together in the kitchen, and in one of these, along with Regula, she taught us a new recipe which won a special place in my new book. She made tacchino tonnato, turkey breast with tuna and mayonnaise sauce, and now I’m going to tell you why it is so special.

Tacchino tonnato - Turkey breast with tuna mayonnaise

The veal with tuna sauce, know as vitello tonnato or vitel tonnée, is a traditional recipe from Piedmont. If you think about this dish out of the encoded social and gastronomic rules of that region and you just focus on the mayonnaise and the nice decoration of capers and parsley over the sauce blanketed veal slices, it reminds me so much of the glorious ’80s. Each family has its own version, which ranges from the meat cooking procedure to the ingredients to make the sauce.

Mum makes a mean vitello tonnato, especially in Summer. It is a winning recipe when you have friends over for dinner and you don’t want to spend time in the kitchen while they are hanging outside in the garden. You can make it in advance and serve it nicely decorated in a candle lit table al fresco.

Emiko’s turkey breast with tuna and mayonnaise sauce, though, is totally different. You roast the meat on the stove with the canned tuna, the lemon zest and white wine. This as a double effect. On one side your meat, a turkey breast which is known to be a cheap cut with not much flavour, will turn out unusually tasty and juicy. On the other hand, and here the quality of the wine has a key role, the white wine gravy gives an unexpected scent to the tuna mayonnaise.

Tacchino tonnato - Turkey breast with tuna mayonnaise  Tacchino tonnato - Turkey breast with tuna mayonnaise

Emiko has a curious approach to food and she loves all the stories which are hidden behind, so I can smoothly admit she knows Tuscan cooking, recipes and food better than anyone. It was a warm September Sunday, she was spending a day harvesting the grapes with some friends and a Tuscan lady told her this recipe. As you will discover at the first bite, this is a typically summer recipe, better when served cold. It will become the highlight of your summer, as it has become of mine.

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5 from 1 vote

Turkey breast with tuna and mayonnaise

Course Meat
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 8
Author Giulia


  • 1 kg 2.21 lb of turkey breast
  • Salt
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 white onion
  • Zest of 2 unwaxed lemons
  • 160 g 1 cup of canned tuna in oil
  • 2 glasses of white wine

For the mayonnaise

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 200 ml 13 tablespoons of sunflower seed oil
  • 50 ml 3 and 1/2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of strong mustard
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons capers + capers to decorate the meat
  • Fresh parsley


  • Tie the turkey breast with a butcher's string, this will allow an even cooking. Massage the turkey breast with some fine salt, then brown it in a thick-bottomed cast iron pot with a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive on medium flame. Turn the meat using two wooden spoons or two spatulas.
  • When nicely golden, move the turkey breast onto a plate and add the finely chopped onion into the pot. Add also the drained tuna and the grated zest of two lemons. Stir to mix the flavours and cook for two minutes, then add the turkey again into the pot.
  • Pour the white wine, reduce for a few minutes and cover the pot with a lid. Cook the turkey on the lowest flame for about 30 minutes, then move the meat onto a plate again and wrap in aluminium foil. Reduce the gravy on low heat.
  • Make the mayonnaise following this recipe. When the mayonnaise is ready drain the cooking liquid from the gravy and add the juicy bits of tuna to the mayonnaise. Add also the drained capers.
  • Serve the turkey once cold, cut into thin slices and dress with the tuna sauce. Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and drained pickled capers.
Tried this recipe?We love to see your creations! Snap a pic and tag @julskitchen and hashtag it #myseasonaltable!


Link Love

  • If you want to learn the recipe to make the traditional recipe for vitello tonnato, or vitel tonné, the Piedmontese veal with tuna sauce, follow this recipe from Memorie di Angelina and turn it into your summer dinner party go-to recipe.
  • Follow this tips from Julia Child and watch also my video recipe (!!!) to make the best mayonnaise. It is a fool-proof recipe, just avoid to stumble into the electric wire of your immersion blender and breake the mayonnaise jar into a thousand pieces. Yes, this things happen in my kitchen, during cooking classes…
  • Do you have leftover tuna sauce? Spread it on crusty bread slices, fill grilled peppers fillets and wrap them on themselves or stuff tiny cherry tomatoes… endless ways to use it till the last spoon.



Our seaside holidays looked too far (we’re leaving next week) so we decided to have a fresh foretaste of the sea life, and we headed to Livorno, a lively city on the Tuscan coast. A walk on the Terrazza Mascagni at sunset, a seafood lunch and a tour of the port of Livorno have contributed to a perfect day trip during an unusual sunny Sunday.

On the Medici port, a short walk from the harbor piers to Sardinia, Corsica and Capraia, Cristina and Giuseppe made us discover L’Aragosta. In a quiet, sunny Saturday in the early August, sheltered from the veranda, we had light and authentic dishes. Typical Tuscan seafood recipes and a selection of sweet treats from Campania and Sicily are a good excuse to visit this place again.

P.zza dell’Arsenale, 6 (Porto Mediceo) – Livorno
Tel. +39 0586 895.395


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This Post Has 4 Comments
  1. Love this idea! I also cook tuna before adding it to the mayo, but I never thought of cooking it with the meat (usually pork) I roast.

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