Ventresca Tuna Salad

I own the cookbook The Young Man and the Sea, published in 2007. I guess at some point, even though I live in a landlocked state, I decided I needed to learn more about cooking seafood. I had never heard of the author, David Pasternack, who is the Chef of the “seafood mecca” Esca in New York City, which he opened in 2000.

There are so many great recipes in the book for seafood, divided by the style of cooking, like grilled or roasted, and the type of dish, like pasta or soup.

Here’s a great review from none other than Anthony Bourdain: “If I were strapped in the electric chair and facing a last meal of a sea creature, I would pray that Dave would be cooking it.”

The recipe I chose is a tuna belly salad – perfect for a picnic! A method of slow-poaching the tuna belly in olive oil is used in this recipe; it isn’t seared as one would expect. The chef also stores the poached tuna and its oil in canning jars to preserve it, just like “the Italians have done for a thousand years.”

“Just bring it to room temperature before you use it. You can even serve it warm – chunks of it over spaghetti with black olives and some of the oil, or with a white bean salad. Or over ripe tomatoes. But the important thing to remember is that tuna cooked this way is no good piping hot or ice cold.”

Unfortunately I couldn’t find actual Ventresca for this recipe, but these tuna steaks worked great. Of course you can buy (pre-cooked) canned tuna belly, like I show below, but I was exited to try out the slow oil-poaching technique with fresh tuna.

Ventresca Tuna Salad

1 1/2 pounds fresh tuna, preferably yellowfin or albacore belly cut
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 large cloves garlic, smashed
1 1/3 cups extra-virgin olive, plus additional
3 sprigs lemon thyme or plain thyme plus 1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 bay leaves
4 large salted anchovies (I used regular anchovies in oil)
3/4 pound fingerling potatoes (I used mini reds)
1 pound fresh green beans
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup lovage or inner leaves from celery, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup red-wine vinegar

Cut the tuna into 1 1/2-inch chunks. Season well with salt and pepper. Place in a saucepan with the garlic and add 1 cup of oil, so the tuna is just covered (adjust the olive oil amount if necessary).

Over a low flame, bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 10 minutes, taking care that the oil does not boil. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the lemon thyme and bay leaves and set aside to cool to room temperature.

The tuna can be used at this point but will be better if allowed to marinate. Transfer the contents of the pan to a medium bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight. Bring to room temperature at least an hour before serving.

Soak the salt-packed anchovies in water for 2 hours and drain. Remove the bones, cut anchovies into 1/2-inch pieces, and toss with a little olive oil. (Mine are boneless and unsalted.)

Place the potatoes in a pot of salted water, bring to a boil, and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain. When cool enough to handle, peel and halve lengthwise. Place in a large bowl.

Meanwhile, bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil, and prepare a bowl of ice water. Add the beans to the water and cook until tender 5 to 7 minutes. Drain and place in the ice water. When cool, drain again and pat dry on paper towels. (I steamed my green beans.)

Add the cooked beans to the bowl with the potatoes along with the anchovies, onion, parsley, and lovage.

Drain the tuna, reserving the oil. Break the pieces of fish into smaller pieces and add to the bowl.

In a small bowl, beat the vinegar with the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil and 1/4 cup of the tuna’s cooking oil. Season with additional salt and pepper, then pour the dressing over the tuna and beans.

Toss gently but thoroughly.

Serve in wide shallow bowls.

Or eat it out of the serving bowl like I did. I just couldn’t wait. It is so so good. I’ll agree with Anthony Bourdain on this chef’s expertise with seafood.



By Published On: May 13th, 202445 Comments on Ventresca Tuna Salad

About the Author: Chef Mimi

As a self-taught home cook, with many years in the culinary profession, I am passionate about all things food-related. Especially eating!


  1. terrie gura May 13, 2024 at 6:52 AM - Reply

    This sounds delightful, Mimi! We have a terrific fresh seafood shop in my city, and I’m hoping they can hook me up with some tuna belly so that I can try this. Thanks for sharing it!

    • Chef Mimi May 13, 2024 at 7:18 AM - Reply

      Oh how exciting! It would be so much better with the belly! But it was still excellent.

  2. Dorothy's New Vintage Kitchen May 13, 2024 at 7:56 AM - Reply

    This looks like everything I love! I can taste the lovely flavors from a distance Mimi. It’s darn pretty to look at too.

    • Chef Mimi May 13, 2024 at 8:27 AM - Reply

      I thought so, too! You just can’t beat summer ingredients.

  3. Liz May 13, 2024 at 9:49 AM - Reply

    I have cooked tuna this way but I love the idea of using it in a salad. Great picnic idea.

    • Chef Mimi May 13, 2024 at 10:00 AM - Reply

      Definitely! It’s really fabulous!

  4. Jeff the Chef May 13, 2024 at 10:09 AM - Reply

    Glad to know that this works with tuna steaks, because I know exactly where to find them. Tuna belly is completely new to me!

    • Chef Mimi May 13, 2024 at 1:26 PM - Reply

      It’s got to be even better than what I buy jarred, so I hope you can find belly!

  5. Bernadette May 13, 2024 at 11:27 AM - Reply

    Mimi, this looks like the perfect summer dish. I am not sure I will be able to find fresh tuna belly either. But, I will use your method.

    • Chef Mimi May 13, 2024 at 1:26 PM - Reply

      If you end up with tuna steaks, just don’t simmer the tuna as long as the recipe calls for.

  6. angiesrecipes May 13, 2024 at 12:55 PM - Reply

    I actually prefer yours with fresh tuna. This looks so very good, Mimi.

    • Chef Mimi May 13, 2024 at 1:26 PM - Reply

      It was so good, Angie!

  7. Charlie DeSando May 13, 2024 at 1:42 PM - Reply

    I love working with fresh tuna, such a great ingredient

    • Chef Mimi May 13, 2024 at 5:28 PM - Reply

      Tuna is so good!

  8. Healthy World Cuisine May 13, 2024 at 1:59 PM - Reply

    Oh yum! This salad is like the REAL deal – freshly cooked tuna and all the fixings. It’s almost like a very kicked up Nicoise Salad but only better. We actually have tuna steaks right now… my goodness your timing is perfect!

    • Chef Mimi May 13, 2024 at 5:30 PM - Reply

      Oh great! Just don’t simmer them in the oil as long as the recipe says. Do let them marinate further in the fridge!

  9. Roz May 13, 2024 at 7:31 PM - Reply

    What a beautiful salad, Mimi! I love tuna and that you used fresh must have made this salad extraordinary! Good tribute by Anthony Bordain; that says alot about the author/chef! Printing, saving and hoping to prepare this summer when I’m in need of more delicious salads! Thank you!

    • Chef Mimi May 14, 2024 at 8:57 PM - Reply

      Thank you! I know you’ll love it. I also love Anthony Boudain’s tribute. That means a lot!

  10. paulineandneil3147 May 13, 2024 at 9:38 PM - Reply

    This really does look very delicious, and I appreciate all the work involved with this dish. It’s interesting that probably because of all the delicious tropical and freshwater fish at my disposal, I never cook with tuna, but enjoy the canned variety in salads and meals etc. Whereas my French daughter in law loves fresh tuna. I’ll think of you Mimi if and when I see fresh tuna for sale at our seafood outlets. Lovely photography for this post.

    • Chef Mimi May 14, 2024 at 8:58 PM - Reply

      Oh thank you! Photography of food is still very challenging for me, but I’ve always thought that good food is pretty food! So hopefully it all speaks for itself !

  11. Tandy | Lavender and Lime May 13, 2024 at 10:52 PM - Reply

    I will have to ask a friend for some tuna belly as its tuna fishing season here. And this looks delicious.

    • Chef Mimi May 14, 2024 at 8:58 PM - Reply

      Oh how nice! You’re very lucky.

  12. CarolCooks2 May 14, 2024 at 12:35 AM - Reply

    A delighful salad using the best part of the tuna a lovely use for the belly :)

    • Chef Mimi May 14, 2024 at 8:59 PM - Reply

      I wish I could have gotten actual belly for this salad. I really do love jarred tuna belly.

      • CarolCooks2 May 14, 2024 at 10:59 PM

        If I can’t get tuna belly I will use Salmon belly as that I can always get :)

      • Chef Mimi May 16, 2024 at 12:42 PM

        Oh good! You’re very lucky!

  13. Anonymous May 14, 2024 at 3:24 PM - Reply

    This has to be the perfect tuna salad. Super!

  14. Ann Coleman May 14, 2024 at 3:38 PM - Reply

    I never used to like tuna salad because the only kind I was familiar with was the sort made from drained canned tuna, celery, onions and a bit of mayonnaise (from a jar, of course.) This recipe makes me realize there really is such a thing as a good tuna salad!!!

  15. thatskinnychickcanbake May 14, 2024 at 6:17 PM - Reply

    Years ago, I made a Dorie Greenspan recipe that had us poach our seafood in oil. I liked it!!! And I know I’d enjoy your tuna salad, too!!

  16. sherry May 14, 2024 at 10:46 PM - Reply

    So many great flavours here Mimi. I love tuna, and this sounds so good. I even like canned tuna! But yes fresh tuna makes a great salad or sashimi. I love the idea of poaching tuna in oil. I think I’ve done salmon like this before.

    • Chef Mimi May 16, 2024 at 12:42 PM - Reply

      I have as well, and this also worked really well. The oil had lots of flavor in it. Great salad.

  17. spicedblog May 15, 2024 at 6:33 AM - Reply

    Kudos to you for poaching that tuna! It looks like it turned out well, and the flavors in this salad sound absolutely fantastic. This would be a great lunch on a summer day!

    • Chef Mimi May 16, 2024 at 12:43 PM - Reply

      Definitely! It would be great for a picnic, also, if it could stay warm!

  18. Ronit Penso Tasty Eats May 16, 2024 at 5:10 PM - Reply

    Great Mediterranean flavors in this salad! I do have a few tuna steaks at hand, so will definitely try it soon.

    • Chef Mimi May 17, 2024 at 8:39 AM - Reply

      It was very very good!

  19. Raymund May 16, 2024 at 8:02 PM - Reply

    Wow, your adventure with seafood from a landlocked state is inspiring! The slow-poached tuna belly salad sounds like a flavorful treat, and your adaptation with tuna steaks turned out great. The idea of preserving it in olive oil for that authentic touch is genius. Can’t wait to try it out myself.

    • Chef Mimi May 17, 2024 at 8:39 AM - Reply

      It’s a truly unique and wonderful salad.

  20. aodenwalder May 16, 2024 at 10:16 PM - Reply

    Similar to a Nicoise? Sounds so good and healthy and something I need right now!

    • Chef Mimi May 17, 2024 at 8:40 AM - Reply

      Yes, but the tuna is really unique!

  21. Karen (Back Road Journal) May 19, 2024 at 12:17 PM - Reply

    This sounds like a dish you might discover in one of the charming Mediterranean coastal towns during a summer visit.

    • Chef Mimi May 19, 2024 at 2:07 PM - Reply

      Oh yes! In fact, I always ordered a seafood salad in both France and Italy, never knowing what I was getting. But they were always wonderful!

  22. David Scott Allen May 20, 2024 at 12:17 PM - Reply

    This sounds fabulous! We have had several versions but yours is more robust! Adding to our summer salads list!

    • Chef Mimi May 21, 2024 at 7:38 AM - Reply

      I really hope you can make this with belly. It would be so much better, and it was already really good!

      • David Scott Allen May 27, 2024 at 11:16 AM

        We always keep ventresca belly in the cabinet — it is absolutely superior!

      • Chef Mimi May 27, 2024 at 3:15 PM

        I agree! But this recipe is for raw tuna belly, which I couldn’t find.

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