Bagna Cauda – Italian for Hot Bath


There is a false rumor about to the effect that I don’t like Italian food. That is untrue. I do like mostly Northern Italian food. What I don’t like is the overly tomato-ed and heavily pasta-ed Chef Boyardee Americanized junk.

This is about as Northern Italian as it gets. As in from the Piedmont – Northwest top corner of Italy. As in right up at the Alps. Which is logical since this is philosophically related to fondue. In concept, anyway. Who knows how old this stuff is. I suspect that it goes back to ancient times.

I know you never heard of it – but trust me – I wouldn’t mislead you about something as important as food. This is REALLY good stuff.

1/2 cup olive oil plus a little more
6 cloves garlic, minced
12 anchovies preserved in oil, drained
1 stick unsalted butter, chunked

Warm enough olive oil to coat your anchovies. As the oil heats up add the anchovies and mash them with the back of a spoon. When the anchovies are well mashed and dissolved then add the olive oil and garlic and keep whisking until things begin to blend together. Keep the heat low, you want to heat and blend. You do NOT want to fry it at all. When things are nicely together add in the butter a chunk or two at a time whisking the whole way.

Decant into a fondue pot and keep it somewhere between warm and hot, but not hot enough to fry the food you dip in.

That’s all there is to it. Simple ingredients and simple preparation. Traditionally you would eat this stuff only in fall and winter, and eat the vegetables available.

So, think about broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, bell pepper, celery, onions {Herself sez: or even fennel}. Mostly you can cook or serve raw, but the onions need to be cooked. You can roast or boil as you like.

However, what we really like is French bread chunks and sautéed shrimp and scallops. Mushrooms are also good.

Try it – you’ll like it. I mean – how can you possibly go wrong with olive oil, butter, and garlic.

Oh yeah – a word about anchovies. Mostly Americans are exposed to anchovies in pizza or salad and they are not usually the best grade. So many learn to dislike the little fishes. But really, they are quite good to use in your cooking. Anchovies come preserved a couple of ways, salt and oil. The traditional is salt cured and then you soak them for a couple of weeks. Do so if you prefer. But if you do use the salty variety soak the excess salt out or you will think that they are totally horrible. Improperly soaked salt cured is probably why many people learn to hate them. We like the oil preserved variety, just drain them well and go. If your anchovies have not been filleted be sure to remove the backbone. Some of the oil preserved types are rolled around capers. That is fine, just toss the capers.


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2 Responses to “Bagna Cauda – Italian for Hot Bath”

  1. turtlemom3 Says:

    [This is Herself commenting under Himself’s login ID] I remember the night at a Pizza King (that dates me!) when we managed to convince the waitress that anchovies were a vegetable that grew on trees on the slopes of Salerno! We were pretty adolescent at the time, and we laughed excessively over this. Poor girl! To my knowledge none of us (2 GA Tech students and their dates) ever went back to disabuse the poor child of the falsehood. We weren’t very nice that night!

  2. Cooking With Anchovies | jovinacooksitalian Says:

    […] Bagna Cauda – Italian for Hot Bath ( […]

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