Tonnato is an elegant Italian aioli made with canned tuna, anchovies, and lemon. It’s typically seen as a condiment for lean meat. The idea of combining meat and tuna sauce might sound odd, but it works well – very well. Traditionally, Piemonte tonnato (tonnè) is served with veal, but if you skim the pages of Italian-inspired modern cookbooks you’ll find tonnato served with all sorts of things. Even potato chips. It’s rather beloved among cookbook authors with household names. In most hands, it’s a humble beige color that packs a lot of flavor into an unassuming package. However, when Yotam Ottolenghi imagines tonnato sauce he sees, shall we say, greener pastures. His version packs a big handful of parsley which gives the sauce a delightful spring-green hue.
Lately, many of the aforementioned famous culinary faces are pairing tonnato with vegetables, which is also Ottolenghi’s preference. In the recipe I lifted this sauce from it’s drizzled on a baked potato and topped with a soft-boiled egg. It’s from his cookbook Simple and the combination is simply a winner. I know, I’ve tried it. Other vegetables would work too. “Tomato tonnato” has an especially nice ring to it and is another natural fit. Serving it with slices of tomato topped with salty little caper bullets makes a sumptuous summer salad. Vinny Dotolo of the Los Angeles restaurant Jon & Vinny’s has served it spooned over wood-grilled shishito peppers garnished with sesame seeds.
Grilled Treviso with Tonnato Sauce
But I chose radicchio di Treviso, a vibrant reddish-purple member of the chicory family similar to regular radicchio. However, rather than looking like tight little fists, Treviso is missile-shaped. Sort of like a gawky overgrown adolescent Belgian endive.
As a former gawky adolescent, how could I not love Treviso? Sadly, I don’t come across it very often in the markets in my neighborhood. So when I see it, I grab it and I grill it. Once grilled, Treviso loses a little of the bitterness that some people find challenging about chicories. A wedge drizzled with Ottolenghi’s tonnato sauce makes a great starter. GREG