Kitchn Love Letters

This Underrated Ina Garten Recipe Is the Only Lunch I Never Get Tired Of

published Feb 26, 2024
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Plated open faced tuna melt.
Credit: Kristina Razon

I will endorse just about any creamy, mayo-based salad situation, whether it’s potato salad, egg salad, or tuna salad. So it should come as no surprise that I love a good tuna melt. It’s basically an amped-up version of a simple tuna salad sandwich, complete with toasty bread and melty cheese. 

During a recent stint of sad desk lunches, I came across Ina Garten’s version, which she dubs the “ultimate tuna melt.” Ina never lets me down, and her tuna melt did not disappoint. It was absolutely delicious and came together in less than 15 minutes with ingredients I already had kicking around my kitchen. It’s one of the few lunches I never get tired of and the one I turn to when I don’t want to eat leftovers (again). 

Why I Love Ina Garten’s Ultimate Tuna Melts 

Ina’s recipe calls for making an open-faced tuna melt, which I adore. This way, you have a more equal ratio of tuna salad to melty cheese to toasted bread (typically, I find that tuna melts needs more tuna and more cheese). Ina’s version also adds in anchovy paste, which amplifies the flavor and adds a bit of umami. Swiss cheese adds a sweet, slightly nutty flavor that doesn’t overwhelm the tuna. 

These tuna melts are really the ultimate weekday lunch. You can throw it together quickly before hustling back to your desk. If you like to plan ahead, you can make the tuna salad the night before and then simply assemble and broil the tuna melts the next day whenever it’s time for lunch. 

How to Make Ina Garten’s Ultimate Tuna Melts

  1. Make the tuna salad. Drain the tuna well and fluff it with a fork, then add the rest of the ingredients, and mix until combined. 
  2. Assemble the tuna melts. Slather the tuna salad onto slices of sturdy toasted bread, and sprinkle grated cheese over the top. 
  3. Broil then serve hot. All it needs is just a minute or two under the broiler until the cheese melts and starts to barely brown. 

If You’re Making Ina Garten’s Ultimate Tuna Melts, a Few Tips 

  • Don’t skip the anchovy paste. Although it’s optional, you don’t want to skip this! Just a mere teaspoon of anchovy paste adds depth to the tuna salad and really drives home its fishy (in a good way) flavor. 
  • Use thick, hearty slices of bread. Between the tuna salad and the cheese, these melts aren’t skimpy, so it’s best to use a sturdy slice of bread that will stand up to the sheer amount of toppings. My go-to is a slice of toasted sourdough bread that’s at least 3/4-inch thick. 
  • Use whatever melty cheese you like. While I appreciate that Ina calls out Swiss cheese specifically, it’s rare that I have a block of it in my fridge for grating. So go ahead and use that individually wrapped slice of American cheese or grate that sharp cheddar — it’s all good here!