Bagna càuda, pronounced ‘banya cawda’, is a hot and delicious dip or sauce popular in Piedmont cuisine, reigning from Italy’s Piedmont region. This Italian dipping sauce, made with anchovies, butter, olive oil, garlic, and herbs, loosely translates from the Piedmontese dialect to mean ‘hot bath’ or ‘hot sauce’. The salted anchovies are the secret to this flavorful recipe; the saltiness of the anchovy fillets brings out all the flavors in the butter, garlic, and extra virgin olive oil.
Bagna càuda is best as an entertaining centerpiece on the table, surrounded by toasted bread and fresh raw sliced vegetables. You’ll recognize bagna cauda by its glossy finish, almost liquid texture, and deep, earthy hue. And of course, you’ll smell its intoxicating aromas from far away. If you adore anchovies, butter, and garlic, bagna cauda is for you.
Chef Nancy Silverton likes to prepare bagna cauda in a copper pot, which also doubles as a beautiful serving dish and table centerpiece. Why a pot? Since bagna cauda is generally served as an appetizer, if guests slowly arrive or arrive late, the anchovy dip can be promptly reheated on low heat without using other dishes. Just make sure to place it on a heat-insulating surface when serving, similar to a fondue pot.
As for the preparation process, for a rustic, hands-on experience, take out a mortar and pestle, warm up your wrists, and get ready to smash the garlic and anchovies together until the anchovies melt and garlic is pounded.
This simple yet delicious warm sauce can be served with vegetables or bread. A bubbly, fragrant dip for crunchy, raw vegetables is, of course, the leading most traditional recipe to serve bagna cauda. Anything goes for this anchovy dip in terms of crudités: radishes, sliced fennel, cauliflower florets, celery, and baby carrots. Cooked vegetables like Jerusalem artichokes and boiled potatoes with extra virgin olive oil are also great for dipping purposes.
While traditional recipes for preparing bagna cauda call for both raw and cooked vegetables, Chef Nancy Silverton also loves serving her recipe for this hot dip as a sauce, alongside beautiful roasted potatoes, which is an instant flavor boost.