Turkey Tonnato


Makes 12 ample servings

Turkey Tonnato
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 2 sprigs parsley
  • 1 14½ oz can low sodium chicken broth
  • salt and pepper
  • 6-7 lb whole turkey breast
  • 2 6½ oz cans tuna packed in olive oil
  • 8 anchovy fillets
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 Tablespoons pressed-dry capers (see notes)
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 medium lemons
  • greens for garnish, such as a bed of romaine or red lettuce

Special equipment

food processor
large (6 qt) stewpot or slow cooker (see notes)
gravy boat


There are two ways to make this dish. You can either poach the turkey breast quickly on the stovetop, or let it sit unattended in a slower cooker for a few hours. Either way, assemble the vegetables as a base in the bottom of your cooking pot. Add broth. Generously salt and pepper the breast and place on top of the vegies and cover tightly.

If quickly on the stovetop, bring to a boil, and reduce to bearest simmer and cook for about an hour and a half. Alternatively, in a large slow cooker, set to high and let it sit for 3½ hours. You can be lazy and let the pop-up timer tell you when the breast is done with both methods.

While the turkey is cooking, prepare the sauce: In a food processor, whirr together the tuna and its oil with the anchovies, mayo, capers, garlic, and the juice of both lemons and the zest one and a half of the lemons. You want to squeeze the brine out of the capers so that the sauce doesn’t become too thin. Gather up each heaping tablespoon of capers and press them dry with your thumb. If the volume compresses to less than a tablespoon, add more and press again. Set the sauce aside. The longer the flavors have a time to marinate the better, so feel free to make the sauce a full day ahead of time.

Give the turkey about 15 minutes to cool before slicing thinly, arranging on the bed of greens on a platter, and ladling about half of the sauce thereon. The rest of the sauce should go in a gravy boat for patrons to ladle to their own tastes.

This is just as good served cold, but then don’t slice the breast until you’re ready to serve. Refrigerate overnight, then slice and sauce.


Tuna, on turkey?? You can’t be serious. But we are. This is a spin on the classic Italian Vitello Tonnato, a poached veal leg with a tuna-lemon-caper sauce, served hot or cold. Scicolone gave us the inspiration to substitute mild turkey for the veal and offer the slow-cooker method. It’s not really intended for restaurant fare; it’s more a caterer’s entré


Leftovers welcome. Chop the turkey, chop the lettuce from the bed that patrons ignored, toss in some red onion and more lettuce and lemon juice as needed, and you have one helluva salad. Not fancy enough? Add chopped egg and sliced black olives.

The sauce alone can serve as a salad dressings. Make a half recipe and try it on spinach. Try it on asparagus as one of original testers did. Use it as a dipping sauce. Once you taste and try this, you’ll have a secret sauce in your pocket to impress the uninitiated.

We’ve tried skinning the poulty before seasoning and poaching but the breast always came out noticably dryer. It may be more healthful to prepare the turkey without the skin, but we cannot recommend it. Nonetheless, you should still remove the skin before slicing. Since it’s not crispy and flavourful, it adds nothing to the dish once it’s presented and will be discarded by your patrons anyway. Trim it away for them.