Just in time for autumn
By Lara Statham
In Piedmont, bagna càuda or bagna caôda, as it is sometimes written, is traditionally eaten in the colder months of the year and is served hot, as its name ‘càuda’ (‘hot’ in Italian) suggests. It can be an acquired taste…Aromatic and richly indulgent, this thick sauce is made from a clash of smooth, boisterous flavours: olive oil, butter, anchovies, garlic and sometimes milk or cream, bubble away gently over a low heat to create a dip that is ideal as a shared dish.
It is sometimes common for families and friends to share the warm garlicky sauce from a huge pan ‘peila’ placed at the centre of the table. Alternatively, individual portions are served up in a ‘fojòt’ or ‘fujòt’ made from terracotta, which has a small flame underneath to keep the dip warm. Eaten in the same way as a fondue, you will need to neatly chop up a variety of different types of vegetables for dipping: choose from fennel, carrots, cauliflower, artichoke, celery, endive, roast peppers, cabbage, onions or anything else that takes your fancy…
Held dear by the Piedmontese, who have claimed it as one of their most popular regional specialities, bagna càuda is however rumoured to have originated in nearby Liguria, a coastal region of northern Italy where olive groves nestle, and anchovies are harvested and salted in the summer by Ligurian fishermen. Wherever its true origins lie, there are numerous local variations of the recipe…
Here is a bagna càuda recipe passed down through the generations of a family in Piedmont…
Bagna Càuda (4-5 people)
1 litre of olive oil
400g salted anchovy fillets
First, prepare the vegetables. Clean, wash, and then chop them lengthways, putting them to one side in a separate bowl.
Then, prepare the anchovies. Wash them quickly so that they don’t lose their distinctive taste.
Next, peel the garlic and cut it into very small pieces.
Now you are ready to cook.
Take a shallow terracotta pan. Put the garlic into the pan and cover with milk. Simmer on a low heat for 10-15 minutes until the pieces of garlic have been completely absorbed into the milk. Then, add the olive oil and the anchovies and cook for about 25-30 minutes on a very low heat, stirring continuously.
The Bagnacàuda is ready!
When your guests arrive, arrange the chopped pieces of raw vegetables onto dishes. Spoon the Bagnacàuda into a terracotta fojòt’ and light the small flame to keep the dip warm.