Tonnato sauce - a rich tuna sauce for pasta

This is a variation on a famous Italian sauce for a dish called vitello tonnato, but it omits the vitello (veal) and just uses the sauce to toss with pasta. It is a very frugal dish since you can make dinner for two with 1 can of tuna, pasta, and a bit of olive oil and seasonings. (You may want to add a green salad or something for a complete meal.)

  • 1 can of tuna, well drained
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • 2-3 filets of canned anchovies (you can omit this if you like, but add more salt in that case)
  • About 1/4 cup or more of good quality olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 1-2 Tbs. of pickled capers
  • salt and pepper to taste, if needed (pepper yes, salt probably not)

  • cooked pasta (about 100g / 3oz per person dry)

Put the tuna and garlic in a food processor with chopping blade. Turn the processor on, and while it's running, slowly add the olive oil until it forms a smooth, thick sauce. Add lemon juice, capers, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss well with hot pasta. Makes enough for 2-3 servings.


  • Use about 2 Tbs. of miso instead of the anchovies for a tuna-miso-sauce that's quite interesting. Try on udon noodles.
  • Add some chopped olives
  • A traditional tonnato sauce often has chopped boiled eggs in it, but I prefer it without.

A downmarket version

Mash up tuna with plenty of mayonnaise. Add some chopped green onion and mix well. Squeeze in a little lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Good on cold noodles for a sort of cold noodle tuna salad pasta.

Taxonomy upgrade extras: