The Pastoral Pleasure of Bagna Càuda

The name comes from bagno caldo which is Italian for "hot bath."  It originated as a seasonal dish of the harvest season; a snack for vineyard workers during the harvesting of grapes and pruning of vines. Bagna càuda is designed to be eaten in large company.

A dish for a community celebration just before the off-season for farm laborers began that was rustic and hearty, in contrast to the meals of the estate owners. The cold and even the frost, was a necessary requirement to have perfect tenderness of the vegetables for the dip.

We had bagna càuda with friends on New Year’s Eve. Our favorite was dipping romaine lettuce leaves in the warm sauce. We tossed the leftover sauce with boiled potatoes for a decadent complement to flat iron steaks!

  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup half & half (or light cream)
  • 1 2-oz. can of anchovies packed in olive oil
  • Dash of Hot pepper sauce (optional)
  • Variety of crudité (especially scallions, cardoons, celery, romaine lettuce)

Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over low heat. Once heated, add the minced garlic and salt to the pan and cook slowly until the garlic is translucent. Do not allow the garlic to brown as it will turn bitter. In a separate bowl, mash the anchovy with a fork. You can add a little of the half and half to help dissolve the anchovies. When the garlic is ready, add the anchovy mixture and half & half to the pan and simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes until the mixture thickens and mellows. Add hot sauce if desired. When the bagna càuda coats the back of a wooden spoon, move the sauce to a ceramic butter warmer and serve with crisp fresh vegetables. Enjoy the fragrant aroma of the sauce and enjoy the warm depth of the sauce. It is a true taste sensation that evokes indulgence and comfort.