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Ina Garten Always Adds This One Ingredient to Her Tuna Melts


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For a sumptuous, hearty sandwich, you can't go wrong with a tuna melt. There's just something about an open-faced sandwich with zesty seasoned albacore and sizzling cheese to top it off that makes for modest yet decadent comfort food. It's a classic that has stayed with many of us from childhood to adulthood because of how simple it is to make. And because there are some truly great ways to elevate it from a lunchroom favorite to upscale dining.

Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, has perfected her spin on the meal: the Ultimate Tuna Melt. And while this recipe, like most of her other dishes, uses easy-to-find ingredients mixed with a few unexpected finds here and there, it also has one very off-the-wall addition that you likely won't be expecting when it turns up. That makes Garten's Ultimate Tuna Melt one super unique twist on the familiar food, and one you may find yourself needing to try as soon as possible.

How does the Barefoot Contessa skillfully update the tuna melt with her own unique addition? Here's a quick hint: it's all in the "sauce". In fact this special ingredient has a lot to do with pizza - or you may at least be expecting to see it there and not a tuna melt! Any way you slice it, it's delicious.

What Surprising Ingredient Does Ina Garten Add to Her Tuna Melts?

Looking to make a tasty tuna melt like the Barefoot Contessa? This is a gourmet twist on the tasty treat like you've never tried it before. The best part? You won't be breaking the bank, even with the special ingredient that helps kick things up a notch.

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First, you've got to start with the tuna. Not just any will do, though: Garten's favorite tuna is Spanish tuna, packed in olive oil. "It's big pieces, and it's absolutely delicious and moist," she says. "The flavor is fantastic. I always look for some imported tuna in a glass jar."

Garten then adds celery, scallions, fresh dill, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and mayonnaise to her heaping bowl of tuna. Make sure you grab a good grocery store mayo, Garten advises, for your tuna salad. These are all fairly typical ingredients for whipping up a batch of the familiar favorite, but some choices do matter more than others.

Then comes the kicker, though. What comes after mayonnaise? Can you guess? Do you smell something fishy? You might: It's a nice squeeze of anchovy paste. Garten's secret weapon for Ultimate Tuna Melts includes anchovies! But don't go running just yet, non-fishy fans.

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Ina Garten

(Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for The New Yorker)

"A lot of people don't like anchovy paste, but it adds just a little depth of flavor, and you don't know it's anchovies," says Garten. Instead, it adds some complexity to the tuna salad's flavor profile. Try it, you might like it!

Once the tuna salad is mixed up together, Garten takes pieces of toasted white bread and spreads the comforting blend on top of it. It's just like when she was a kid -- or maybe when you were -- but better!

"It's just comfort food: a weeknight dinner, the perfect thing to make. My mom used to make us tuna sandwiches when we were kids. Trust me, it didn't taste anything like this. This is much better,"

The next addition is a melted layer of Emmentaler cheese, a delicate Swiss that she chooses instead of the golden yellow American that so many tuna melt fans are likely all too familiar with. Finally, she throws on some microgreens at the end for a fun topping: "It's like having a salad with your tuna melt," she says.

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With the microgreens added and the cheese melted to her liking, the Ultimate Tuna Melt is ready to dive into! And now you have something retro and familiar for dinner with a fun, gourmet kick. The best part? No one'll know you used anchovy paste unless you mention it, which is a fun way to drum up conversation about unexpected flavors in familiar food. Thanks, Ina!

READ MORE: Ina and Jeffrey Garten: A Love Story of Over 50 Years

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