Seriously Simple: Enjoy this cool dish as the hot summer days wind down

Seriously Simple: Enjoy This Cool Dish As The Hot Summer Days Wind Down
Diane Rossen Worthington/TNS

Slightly sweet summer tomatoes drizzled with velvety tonnato sauce.

I remember the first time I ever tasted this delectable salty, creamy sauce. It was at a friend’s home, where they served a dish called veal tonnato. Poached veal leg was sliced, chilled and then finished with this unique Northern Italian sauce.

On a recent hot summer day, I thought about how I could use that sauce in another dish. Of course, the juicy, slightly sweet summer tomato drizzled with velvety tonnato sauce seemed like a Seriously Simple dish that would please family and friends. I served this recently and received a resounding, “Yes, please.”

I like to change it up by using delicate heirloom tomatoes with their rainbow of colors. You could also use multi-colored cherry tomatoes, halved, or small tomatoes cut up into small chunks. Adding a bottom layer of arugula or other greens is another possibility. Sometimes I will sprinkle capers or shredded basil leaves on top for a colorful flourish. This sauce is so adaptable. Try it as a dip for raw vegetables, or instead of mayonnaise on your sandwiches. It’s also a lovely accompaniment to simple grilled chicken.

Tomato Tonnato

Serves 6; makes about 1 cup sauce

For the sauce:

  • 1 (5-ounce) can Italian tuna packed in olive oil (use the oil in the sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon anchovy paste
  • 1 teaspoon grainy Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Freshly ground black pepper

For the dish:

  • 1 ripe tomato per person, sliced
  • Basil leaves, for garnish

1. Combine all the sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until completely smooth. If the sauce is too thick, add a bit of cold water to create a saucy texture.

2. Arrange sliced tomatoes, overlapping on a rectangular platter. You can also place tomatoes on individual salad plates. Drizzle the sauce over the tomatoes and garnish with basil leaves.

Advance preparation: Cover and refrigerate sauce up to four days ahead of using. Bring to room temperature.

(Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including “Seriously Simple Parties,” and a James Beard Award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at