Tuna sauce (“tonnato”)?! On pork?! Served cold?! 😲 What is going on here?! Welcome to an epic summer Italian-style with a delicious twist on a classic!
The summer of 2021 is shaping up to be quite a season. People are making up for lost time by visiting with friends and family they’ve missed, going to places across the globe they love, and eating out at neighborhood restaurants again. Here in Los Angeles, the streets are filled with people, summer concerts are back and you can hear the sounds of parties everywhere. And some of us, who enjoyed a time with a quieter life and less traffic, are saying—can’t we just keep things the way they’ve been?!
But whether we miss the quiet or are delighted with our new normal, any summer would be incomplete without occasions for eating outdoors, whether on a patio at home or at a picnic in a park. Easy to prepare ahead of time, this roasted pork with tuna sauce is perfect for casual outdoor dining in warm weather. Served all over Italy, it is traditionally made with veal (called vitello tonnato). Its origins are claimed by regions across Italy, but it probably originated in Piedmont, where the technique of making mayonnaise was originally adapted from nearby France.
This rendition uses pork loin instead of veal (which you or some of your friends may have objections to eating). Pork loin is not an inherently exciting cut of meat, so a zesty traditional Italian tuna sauce full of flavor is a perfect accompaniment. By brining the pork ahead of time, you achieve a succulent texture that, when thinly sliced, gives veal a run for its money. (You might also try a version with chicken posted by Michele some time ago.) Also, this recipe includes homemade mayonnaise, which is quite simple to make, but can be substituted by a good quality store-bought mayo to save a few steps. The addition of capers, Gherkin pickles and the other acidic ingredients gives this classic sauce a tang that brightens up whatever meat you pair with it. This is a recipe where the quality of the ingredients is everything: be sure to find the best tuna, eggs, capers, etc. to make it really extra tasty 😋!
So, here’s to a summer of celebrating all we’ve regained and learning the lessons of the past year-and-a-half, with a new take on an Italian classic that is sure to be a crowd-pleaser, now that crowds are possible again! My hope for this summer is that we get back the things we love but leave behind the stuff we never really enjoyed. For me, getting back to outdoor summer meals with family and friends is one of the things I am most looking forward to enjoying over and over again!Print
- A 3-lb pork loin roast
- 3–5 oil-packed anchovies, drained
- 1 tsp brined capers, drained
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard or dry powdered mustard
- 3–5 baby Gherkin pickles (a.k.a. cornichons) plus more for garnish
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed with a knife
- A 6-oz. jar of good-quality tuna, drained
- 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
- Juice from 1 small lemon
- Extra-virgin olive oil
Brine and roast the pork (start 2 days in advance of serving):
- In a container large enough to hold the pork loin, dissolve 1 cup of Kosher salt (no iodine) with 1 gallon of cold water. Submerge the pork loin in the brine. Cover and refrigerate for 1 day but no more than 2 days.
- When the pork is brined, heat the oven to 350℉. Remove the pork loin from the brine and dry completely with paper towels. Liberally season the pork all over with salt and pepper.
- In a cast iron or other heavy pan over high heat, add 1 tbsp of olive oil. Add the pork loin and lightly brown all sides by rotating the roast in the pan.
- Place the pan with the roast in the oven. Using a meat thermometer inserted in the middle, roast until the pork reaches 135℉. Remove from the oven but leave in the pan. The pork will continue to cook and reach 145℉ before it starts to cool.
- When the pork is cool enough to handle, wrap it in plastic wrap and place on a plate in the refrigerator.
Make the tuna sauce:
- In a small food processor or blender, or using an immersion blender with a mason jar, add the anchovies, capers, mustard, pickles, garlic, tuna, eggs and lemon juice. Process until the mixture is well blended and the ingredients are well minced. Small chunks of the capers and pickles with be visible.
- If needed, ask a friend to help with this next part. While the blender is running, very slowly drizzle olive oil into the mixture until you form mayonnaise. You want to make the mixture a little looser than store-bought mayo so it pours out of the jar but is not runny. You can use a little water or more lemon juice to thin it further.
- Taste and season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready for use.
Note: As shortcut, you can mix everything but the eggs and then mix with a good quality store bought mayo.
- To make it easier to slice, put the pork roast wrapped in plastic wrap in the freezer for 30 minutes. Remove, unwrap it and thinly slice the pork and arrange on a serving platter.
- Remove the tuna sauce from the refrigerator and let it warm up for about 10 mins. Stir with a whisk to loosen. Spoon over the pork roughly as shown in the photos. Rough chop some additional pickles and sprinkle on the sauce.
- Serve immediately or refrigerate the whole platter until ready to serve.
Special equipment: Small food processor, blender or immersion blender.