Try bagna cauda, which literally means “hot bath”. No, not for you but for the crunchy vegetables you’re going to dip into it. Just four great ingredients, olive oil, butter, garlic and anchovies, meld to form this delectable dish.
Italy’s Piedmont region, in the northwest part of the country, gave birth to this classic dish , also known as bagna caôda. Piedmont is also known for its splendid red wines, including the big 3 Bs: Barolo, Barbaresca and Barbera. And there’s the celebrated, pricey white truffle from Alba. Like the other 19 regions of Italy, boy do these people know how to eat.
Though bagna cauda can be associated with harvest season, the Piedmontese enjoy it year round. The cardoon, a local edible thistle, has traditionally been the most popular vegetable for dipping into a bagna cauda. If you don’t have cardoons, and I know I don’t, feel free to clean and trim carrots, celery, fennel, cauliflower, mushrooms, any vegetable you like. The Piedmontese also dip their treasured white truffles into the “bath”. I’m fresh out of those as well.
Bagna cauda is primarily meant to be enjoyed communally. Provided you don’t double dip. But it’s okay to serve it in individual heated bowls.
Bagna Cauda: A Hot Bath for Cold Stuff
You can serve it with a medley of cut vegetables like you see above.
Eccolo, the four ingredients that make up this lovely dish. I photographed them on a sunny day and kept the shadows and bright light, so happy was I to finally see the sun.
I’ve seen bagna cauda recipes that include cream instead of oil but I prefer the butter/olive oil combination. Particularly since one of the rituals is to have a piece of bread in your hand to catch the sauce as it drips. On your chin. So, along with your vegetables, make sure you have plenty of crusty bread for drippage and dunking and chasing anchovy pieces that have fled to the bottom of the pot.
There are some hard and fast rules associated with the communal heating and eating of bagna cauda:
don’t boil the oil
don’t burn the garlic
don’t bogart the pot, i.e. share
You can read about Italy’s Piedmont region here. If you can’t get there, buy a bottle of one of the region’s great reds, Dolcetto, which goes particularly well with bagna cauda. So then, here’s the bagna cauda drill: dip, crunch, swill. Nothing wrong with that.
Yield: Serves 4
Total Time: 20 minutes
- one cup of extra-virgin olive oil
- one 1/2 cup of unsalted butter
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 8 anchovy fillets, rinsed and chopped
- cut strips of raw vegetables and a loaf of crusty Italian bread
- Melt the oil and the butter in a heavy saucepan or earthenware pot over low heat.
- Add the garlic and gently sauté, for 1-2 minutes, careful not to burn it.
- Add the anchovies and stir until they dissolve.
- Serve in a fondue pot or a heavy earthenware pot or individual heated bowls.
- Serve with cut, raw vegetables and Italian bread.
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