The below-freezing temps of this past week have me craving something warm and comforting, but will still keep me within the technical boundaries of my New Year’s resolution to eat healthier. The answer? The classic Piemontese winter warmer, Bagna Cauda—a hot, garlicky, savory dip for winter vegetables.
This is a dish best enjoyed with friends gathered around a central pot on the table, in the same style as fondue. Marcella Hazan’s recipe in Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking is my go-to recipe for this simple yet satisfying dish.
Marcella recommends enjoying this with this year’s recently-racked Piemontese wine—not something readily available in Portland, so we’re going with a 2011 Vietti Dolcetto D’Alba.
In Piemontese dialect, Bagna Cauda translates to ‘hot bath’, and a hot bath of olive oil, butter, garlic and anchovies are what your veggies are in for. Prep is easy—just peel and cut the vegetables into manageable dipping pieces. While winter vegetables are the tradition with Bagna Cauda, there are no hard-and-fast rules; if something looks tasty in the produce section, go for it! We are having artichokes, radicchio, sunchokes, scallions, bell peppers, carrots and fennel.
- 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 teaspoons garlic, chopped very fine
- 8-10 anchovy fillets, chopped fine
1. Choose a pot over which you will subsequently be able to rest, double-boiler fashion, the saucepan in which you are making the Bagna Cauda. Put water in it and bring it to a lively simmer.
2. Put the oil and butter in the pot for Bagna Cauda, turn on the heat to medium-low, and heat the butter until it is thoroughly liquefied and just barely begins to foam. If you let it get past this stage, it will become too hot.
3. Add the garlic and sauté very briefly. It must not take on any color.
4. Place the Bagna Cauda pot over the pan with simmering water. Add the chopped anchovies and cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon while using the back of it to mash the anchovies, until they dissolve into a paste. Add salt, stir, and bring to the table over a warming apparatus. (Fondue pots, chafing dish, or candle-lit butter warmers all do a great job)