Vitello tonnato and the mayonnaise conundrum

I’ve been blogging today about the epistemological implications of “vitello tonnato and the mayonnaise conundrum” for my client Tenuta Carretta

best vitello tonnato recipe piedmontAbove: vitello tonnato at Osteria More e Macine in La Morra (Piedmont) earlier this year. My bromance Giovanni always ribs me about how little I eat when he and I are on the road together. But his grin is always as wide as a mile when he sees me devour my vitello tonnato with gusto, religiously washing it down with some young Nebbiolo.

Although the dish is commonly made with mayonnaise today, most Italian gastronomic pundits maintain that true vitello tonnato should be mayonnaise-free. And they often point to Artusi’s mayonnaiseless recipe, first published toward the end of the nineteenth century, as the original recipe (La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiare bene [The Science of Cooking and the Art of Eating Well], 1891). This attribution is owed in no small part to the fact that Artusi’s cookery book became wildly popular toward by the end of his lifetime. And today, it’s rare not to find a dog-eared copy on the shelves in the homes of the typical Italian family who often uses it for everyday and festive cooking (I can attest to this from my own experience in Italian homes).

It’s important to note that Artusi also included a recipe for mayonnaise in his game-changing tome.

His recipe number “126” is for “salsa maionese” (“mayonnaise sauce”), which he recommends to accompany poached fish. (You can read an English-language translation here.)

So it’s clear that he was aware of the mayonnaise but did not include it in his recipe for vitello tonnato. This fact would seem to indicate, definitively, that the use of mayonnaise was introduced much later.

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