Plates with tomatoes and tonnato sauce with drinks next to them
Photography, Dominique Lafond

Tomato Tonnato

Savoury beefsteak tomatoes play the part of thinly sliced veal in this creative take on vitello tonnato.

At Elena restaurant in Montreal, co-owners Janice Tiefenbach and Stephanie Mercier-Voyer are always looking for ways to be creative with famous Italian dishes.”We basically do a little twist on the classics and put the vegetable in the foreground to be the star of the dish,” explains Tiefenbach. That’s exactly what happened with this tomato tonnato recipe, a take on the Piedmontese dish known as vitello tonnato (cold, sliced veal served with a creamy anchovy-and-tuna sauce). A hit at the restaurant, the unique recipe made it into the Elena team’s cookbook, Salad Pizza Wine: And Many More Good Things from Elena

The tonnato is the real star of this recipe: “I could put that sauce on anything,” says Tiefenbach. “In a sandwich, on toast, you could thin it out and use it as a salad dressing for more of a tossed salad. It’s delicious even on pasta, tossed with a bit of lemon juice – it would just be a really good pasta salad too. There’s really no limit. Anything you would put mayonnaise on – why not use tonnato sauce?”

Plates with tomatoes and tonnato sauce with drinks next to them

Tomato Tonnato

The Elena restaurant team from Montreal share their recipe for a take on vitello tonnato that swaps veal for beefsteak tomatoes.
Course Appetizer, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4


Fried Capers

  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup capers rinsed and patted dry


  • 10 oil-packed anchovy fillets drained
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 clove garlic chopped
  • 5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil divided
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp white wine divided
  • 2 cans (each 160 g) oil-packed tuna drained
  • 1 tbsp capers drained and rinsed
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground pepper

Tomato Tonnato Salad

  • 4 large heirloom tomatoes thinly sliced
  • 1 lemon juiced
  • 5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • generous pinch flaky sea salt
  • generous pinch freshly ground pepper
  • ½ cup seasoned bread crumbs see note
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped chives
  • 1 cup Tonnato
  • dill flowers or sprigs


Fried Capers

  • In frying pan, heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Add a single caper to pan; if it sizzles, the oil is ready. Add capers and fry, stirring until they resemble crystals (capers change colour and open during cooking) and reducing the heat to avoid burning, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate.


  • In blender, add anchovies, egg yolks, garlic, 2½ tbsp of the oil, Dijon mustard, lemon juice and 1½ tsp of the white wine; purée until smooth. Add tuna, capers, the remaining 2½ tbsp oil, the remaining 1½ tsp white wine, salt and pepper; purée until smooth.

Tomato Tonnato Salad

  • Arrange tomatoes on a large platter. Drizzle with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Sprinkle with seasoned bread crumbs, chives and crispy capers. Top with a few dollops of tonnato and finish with dill flowers.


To make your own seasoned bread crumbs, remove crust from half a loaf of sourdough; cut into 1-inch cubes and toast in a 250°F oven until dry but not browned, about 1 hour. Pulse cooled bread in a food processor until crumbs form; scrape into a bowl and toss with ½ cup grated Parmesan, 1½ tsp garlic powder, ¾ tsp kosher salt and ¼ tsp freshly ground pepper. Makes about 2 cups.

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A book cover in a light frame

Recipe excerpted from Salad Pizza Wine by Janice Tiefenbach, Stephanie Mercier Voyer, Ryan Gray and Marley Sniatowsky, adapted for ELLE Gourmet. Copyright © 2023 Janice Tiefenbach, Stephanie Mercier Voyer, Ryan Gray and Marley Sniatowsky. Photography by Dominique Lafond. Published by Appetite by Random House, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved.
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