Sauces & Dips
The bagna caoda or bagna cauda is a typical preparation of Piedmont prepared with anchovies, oil and garlic and used as a sauce for fresh autumn vegetables. Being a substantial dish, it is usually considered a single dish but sometimes it can also be served as an appetizer for a dinner with friends... In fact, in ancient times, it was precisely during get-togethers and dinners with friends that this dish was prepared and over time it has become the symbol of friendship and happiness. The origins of bagna caoda are actually half shrouded in mystery since it is not known exactly when, where and who invented this dish, which in fact does not even have a city of residence, but it is known instead that the winemakers of the late Middle Ages adopted this recipe to celebrate a very important event such as the tapping of new wine. For a very long time, bagna caoda remained only the dish of the poor and peasants as the aristocrats abhorred it for the abundance of garlic. Over time, this dish has instead been re-evaluated and, nowadays, there are many trattorias and restaurants, especially in Piedmont, which offer bagna caoda on their menus. As regards the origin of the name, we know that bagna caoda derives from the two terms, "bagna" which in Piedmontese means sauce or gravy, and "caoda" which stands for hot: therefore hot sauce. And it is precisely for this reason that bagna caoda is served in a "fujot", a terracotta or copper containers with a flame underneath which keeps the sauce warm. We present here the classic recipe deposited at the Italian Academy of Cuisine. Accompany the bagna caoda with the autumn vegetables typical of the region, among which the famous hunchback cardoon of Nizza Monferrato stands out, to be eaten raw.
The Bagna Caoda
Peel the garlic cloves (1), with a pairing knife remove the shoot (2), then finely slice each clove (3).
Keep the garlic aside and take care of the desalination of the salted anchovies: place the anchovies in a bowl 4 and cover them with cold water 5, leave them to soak for 2-3 hours, changing the water often to remove the salt. Carry out this operation very delicately to prevent the anchovies from falling apart. When the anchovies have softened, drain them 6
open them halfway 7 and extract the innards with the central bone 8 and rinse them under running water 9.
Then line a small tray or baking sheet with paper towels and place the open fillets on it. Dry the fillets 10 then place them in a baking dish and wash them with red wine, stirring them gently (11-12). Transfer the anchovies back to a platter
and dry them with absorbent paper 13. Place the garlic in a pan and pour 100 g of olive oil 14, start cooking over a very low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon and making sure it does not brown. Add the anchovies 15, stirring gently.
Cover with the remaining oil 16 and cook the gravy over low heat for half an hour, taking care that the syrup does not fry 17. Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables to accompany the bagna caoda, take care of the cooked ones: roast the unpeeled onions, then cut them into wedges (18)
Cook the potatoes in boiling water, they must not be too soft so that they can be cut into wedges 19 finally cook the beetroot in the oven and cut it like the other vegetables 20. Roast the peppers in the oven and cut them into wedges too 21.
Now move on to the raw vegetables: wash the cardoons, remove the ends 22 and the external filaments and cut them in half lengthwise. Wash the spring onions and dip them in wine, preferably Barbera, as tradition dictates 23. Once the anchovies have melted, your bagna caoda will be ready to serve on the table, possibly in the characteristic "fujot" 24.
It is preferable to consume the bagna caoda immediately. If there is any leftover, place it in the refrigerator in an airtight container for a couple of days at most.
To keep the bagna cauda warm, tradition has it that an earthenware warmer, called s-cionfetta, is used and filled with embers and ashes from the fireplace. The warmer is placed in the center of the table and the terracotta pan with the bagna caoda is placed on top of it in order to keep it warm for the duration of the dinner.
The bagna caoda is a tempting sauce, luckily to be enjoyed in autumn, when the winter season is approaching and brings with it large sweaters… Try it with boiled potatoes, cardoons from Nizza, cabbage, celery, onions and inevitable peppers, but also with meat: you will not forget it! To discover all the secrets of this exquisite dish, I took part in the first Bagna Cauda Day, a party entirely dedicated to bagna caoda which brought together all the fans of this traditional dish.