I recently attended a dinner party that centered around this traditional Italian sauce and once I tried it, I knew I had to share my friend Chip Primoli’s recipe. Bagna cauda originated in the Piedmont region of Italy and it takes hours to make. All that work is worth it, though. Raw veggies and bread are most often dipped into the warm garlicky, salty, savory sauce. You can also simmer meat and fish in the sauce, much like fondue. Open some Chianti or Prosecco and gather your friends for this rich treat.
1 pint olive oil
1 cup whole garlic cloves
13-oz. can oil-packed anchovies
¾ lb. butter
½ pint whipping cream
Freshly ground black pepper
Chopped vegetables, sliced French bread, and cubed beef, chicken or fish for dipping*
• Pour the oil and garlic cloves in a large, heavy frying pan (cast iron is best) on low heat. Keep the heat on low throughout the cooking process so that the garlic will slowly poach. Stirring constantly with a potato masher, cook the oil and occasionally mash the garlic until the garlic has broken down in the oil. This will take about 2 hours. Do not let the oil simmer or you risk burning the garlic.
• Once the garlic is in tiny soft pieces in the warm oil, add the anchovies and resume stirring and mashing. The anchovies will melt into the oil and the sauce will begin looking like gravy. You should not see chunks of garlic or anchovies before proceeding to the next step; it should look more like an emulsion.
• Slowly stir in the butter and once it’s fully incorporated into the sauce, slowly stir in the cream. Add freshly ground pepper to taste.
• Pour the bagna cauda into an electric skillet or fondue pot and keep the sauce warm on low heat.
*Bagna cauda is traditionally served with raw vegetables like cardoons, peppers, onions, cabbage and cauliflower. Sliced bread and meat or fish poached in the sauce are also tasty.