Bagna Caoda: A Warm Bath for My Crudite Please, Waiter

bagna caôda

And, while you’re at it, good fellow, I’ll have a warm bath with virtually anything you’ve got on the menu: pasta, potatoes, fish, chicken, soup, bread…

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…

A man goes to the doctor complaining of neck ache. The doctor gives him some painkillers telling him to take two after a warm bath every evening for a week. When the man returns, the doctor asks him if he’s feeling better. “No,” replies the man, “my neck still hurts and it’s getting worse.” “Really? Did you not take two painkillers after a warm bath every night like I told you to?” asks the doctor. “I tried,” says the patient, “but I couldn’t swallow the pills after drinking the whole bath…”

No, dear readers, (and apologies for the excruciating “joke”), we’re not talking about any old warm bath, and certainly not the kind with bubbles and floating soap-dishes, no we’re talking about bagna caôda, the famed “warm bath” of the Piemonte and Liguria regions of northern Italy, that, as much as you might want to, you don’t actually climb into yourself.

Also spelled bagna càuda, this garlic, anchovy, oil and butter dipping sauce is to these parts of Italy what fondue is to the Swiss, and is typically consumed communally from a large central pot into which sharers dip their bread or raw, boiled or roasted vegetables. Like fondue, bagna caôda is always served hot, as it’s name suggests, and is usually eaten in the autumn and winter as an appetizer, starter or, even, a main course.

Quite apart from being phenomenally good and easy to make, it’s the ultimate combination of land and sea in the world of condiments. Combine anchovies fished off the Ligurian coasts with bright green and fruity Ligurian olive oil, tangy Piemontese garlic and sweet butter from the head of the Po Valley and you’ve got an awesome sauce that might be paired with anything. It’s not traditional – and you should try it the original way first – but we see no reason why bagna caôda couldn’t be made into a delicious pasta sauce with some tonno (Italian oil-cured tuna), spread on a fresh loaf for an amazing garlic bread, over grilled fish or chicken as an enhancing sauce, or mixed with mashed potatoes for a wonderfully flavorful side dish. Just be careful, it really is so damn good, you’ll be putting it your coffee next…

**I’d like to dedicate this post to Dana at Dana Treat for reminding me that a bit of  meat-free posts could be ok sometimes! I, like a carnivorous idiot, commented on her vegetarian blog post about brussel sprouts asking her to “just add pancetta” for a tasty twist (something cheesy like that). I was quickly reminded that that would be a great idea if she wasn’t a veggie. Anyways, although this isn’t purely vegetarian, it sure as hell does not contain meat. Thanks, Dana!**

Bagna Caôda con Verdure Miste Cotte (anchovy, garlic sauce with grilled mixed vegetables)

bagna caôda

Ingredients (serves 4-5 as an appetizer)

  • 20-40 pieces of your favorite veggies, cut into bite sizes (cauliflower, broccoli, fennel, carrots, mushrooms, potatoes, green beans and asparagus work well)
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tsp good olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4 1/2 oz anchovy fillets, minced finely
  • 2 1/2 oz unsalted butter
  • ground black pepper


bagna caôda
  • Over medium-low heat, gently cook garlic, anchovy and 3/4 cup olive oil in a saucepan until garlic softens and anchovy has pretty much dissolved, stirring occasionally. Do not brown garlic at all.
  • Season with black pepper to taste.
  • Stir in butter and allow to melt. Combine thoroughly and keep warm, do not allow to boil or cook anymore.
  • Parboil root (and cauliflower/broccoli/fennel types)vegetables until beginning to soften. Remove to a ice bath and allow to cool thoroughly.
  • Toss the cooled + still raw veggies with coarse sea salt, pepper and remaining olive oil , and grill over a hot fire until blistered and crunchy.
  • Serve immediately with a warm bowl of bagna caôda and lots of fresh bread to catch the drips. Enjoy!

26 thoughts on “Bagna Caoda: A Warm Bath for My Crudite Please, Waiter

  1. Hey guys.
    Happy Thanksgiving. Had the pleasure of meeting Peter from Greece in NYC last week, he told everyone he had dinner with you 2! Too bad we missed eachother once again.

    My mother in law, whose family is from Piemonte region of Italy, always serves bagna cauda, however, she adds milk to hers.
    Have you ever seen that before?
    Stacey Snacks

  2. Stacey – We had a lot of fun with Peter and it sounds like you did too. We must meet someday! And, that’s really interesting that your mother-in-law adds milk – sounds like a really good addition. I read that sometimes cream is added, most often in the Val d’Aosta and other alpine areas of Piemonte, but never about milk. We’ve actually got some of the sauce leftover, so we should take your tip and reheat it + blend it with some milk.

  3. I’d never heard of bagna before, but I love the sound of it. I’ll have to that to the to-do list for sure. Sounds like a great small gathering item.

  4. YUM. It’s like a warm anchoïade, one of my favorite dips. And like Marc said, good call on the grilling the vedge. I want to sit with a bowl of this and a loaf of crusty bread and just hurt myself on it.

  5. Now this is a finer way to serve crudite…garlic butter for dunking! Who needs meat here? lol

    Amy & Jonny, I urge you to meet Stacey…a fine lady, sense of humour and good company.

  6. A boy arrives home from school and tells his mom: Mom, everybody ignores me at school, kids don’t talk to me, don’t play with me… mom! mom! MOM!!!! mom?

    I know it’s horrible but it also goes with my comment ;D Love that dip, have to try it yet… but I will!

  7. I always see bagna cauda and think it’s going to be wonderful. I see oil…garlic…BUTTER…and then…anchovies! It does make me wish I liked them.

    Too bad you guys couldn’t join Stacey and Peter and me and the rest of the gang at our lunch in NY. That needs to be remedied in the future!

  8. ts – you’re not the first to wonder about the creaminess. Research suggests that cream does play a role in some bagna caoda recipes, and why not?
    claudia/chefoctomy/maybellesmom – delivery would have to be quick as it doesn’t look nearly so good when it’s cooled (think congealed fat), still tastes pretty good though!
    mark/heather – quite apart from the taste, grilled veggies look better too, plus my British sensibilities (even after years of enjoying salads) still prefer cooked vegetables. And, bagna is similar to anchoiade (no surprise given proximity of Piemonte and Provence), but slightly looser/thinner maybe. I feel like anchoiade is more the consistency of tapenade.
    rachel – such a shame we missed you, but we were leaving for UK! next time definitely. and you have to get on board with anchovies. Amy used not to like them and now she’s all over ’em. A taste definitely worth acquiring!

  9. Put it in your coffee… *giggle.*
    I’ve seen numerous recipes for Bagna Cauda out there, but I’ve never really been drawn to make it… mainly because I don’t have the sort of table setting where everyone could sit around and dunk things. (My dinner parties take place on the floor of my apartment, picnic style.
    However, the idea of using the sauce to make garlic bread or pasta is really appealing… I may have to try it!

  10. Never heard that joke before – very cute.
    Love the whole veggie grill and a great way to keep it simple, keep it flavourful, keep it light – whew…now I want some pumpkin pie or something decadent 🙂

  11. As weird as this might sound, I’ve kinda been wanting to try this for several years because of a tv show. Bagna Cauda was featured on Babylon 5 ages ago. A main character spent, essentially, an entire episode getting the ingredients for it smuggled onto a space station so that he could make Bagna on his birthday, just the way his father used to. It was really sweet, and there was a nice comic relief moment when someone mistook the dish for a new alien delegation (“When will the new delegation be arriving?” “What delegation, Ambassador?” “I heard Mr Garabaldi say they would be arriving soon. I believe they are called the ‘Bagna Cauda’?”).

    That aside, it’s nearly Christmas. It might not be all that cold here, but damnit I think Christmas is excuse enough to try this out. Thanks for the reciepe! 🙂

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