My very best tonno (that’s Italian for tuna) sandwich

I’ve been lucky enough to travel to Italy twice. Both times I concentrated my adventures in the Tuscany region. I am a lover of wine and food and I just couldn’t help but go back there. 

The first time I went I spent a few nights in Vernazza, which is one of the villages that makes up the Cinque Terre on the Ligurian Coast. It’s a remarkable place and I think I got there right before it became uber trendy. Not that that matters but it meant that when I visited in the summer of 2003 it wasn’t really that busy. You could always get a table at a restaurant in the evening and I was able to experience stretches of the 10km walk along the coast that connects the five villages with just me. No one else – bliss. You really must try to get there if you do go.

One of my favourite memories is a lunch that I had one day. I’d been hiking and swimming on a hot July day and I emerged from a small hole in the wall bakery with a sandwich made on fresh ciabatta and a large can of cold beer. I promptly sat on the stairs outside the bakery and ate said sandwich.

It was heaven – tuna (tonno – I’m so cultured), olive oil, tomato and basil. The olive oil ran down my forearms and dripped off my elbows onto the stairs. The bread was fresh but had the delicious bitey crust and granules of sea salt and olives baked into the top of it. The beer was shit and flat but cold and did its job.

I’ve remade this sandwich countless times since that day and today I share it with you. I have tweaked it because sometimes you don’t have fresh olive ciabatta on hand. It’s more of a suggested flavour combo than a recipe. Add as much or as little as you like of each component. Except the olive oil – don’t bother unless you are prepared to go OTT on the EVOO:

My very best tonno sandwich:

  • Hardy bread – I used rye today – it needs to be hardy so it doesn’t go soggy with the oil
  • Tuna in olive oil – not drained!
  • Ripe tomatoes
  • Basil – or pesto is fine if you don’t have basil at the ready
  • Kalamata olives – preferably marinated in olive oil for the true flavour bomb
  • Red onion to taste – optional
  • Extra virgin olive oil


I mix all the ingredients together and season with salt and pepper. I then work out if itneeds more olive oil (remember it was DRIPPING off my elbows!) and add if it does.

Pile onto bread and enjoy as an open sandwich, which is messy but delightful or whack a  bit of bread on top to keep it all in place. If I have it as an open sandwich I usually have a little more bread to mop up the goodness left on the plate.

Let me know what you think of it if you do make it.

Buon appetito!

S x


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