Literally translated as “hot bath” this dipping sauce for vegetables often appears in many Italian homes as part of the Christmas Eve appetizers. It’s a hot dish made from garlic and anchovies, originating in the South of Piedmont, during the 16th century.
Traditionally it is a typical dish of the harvest period, therefore to be consumed mainly in autumn and winter: one of the “legends” about its birth really wants it to be prepared to reward the harvesters for their work. The dish is served and consumed in a manner similar to fondue with raw or cooked vegetables typically used to dip into it.
Our favorite variant is the one with cooked bell peppers!
• 6 bell peppers (3 yellow and 3 red)
• 2 heads of garlic (about 50 g each)
• 100 g of salted and cleaned anchovies in salt
• 200 ml of extra virgin olive oil
• 150 ml of milk
1. Wash the bell peppers well and place them on a baking tray covered with parchment paper.
2. Put them in a preheated static oven at 200° C (392° F) for about 30-40 minutes and turn them every 10 minutes so that they cook evenly on all sides. The skin must brown.
3. In the meantime, start preparing the bagna cauda. Clean the garlic cloves: remove the skin, cut them in half and remove the sprout inside (in order to reduce the strong taste of garlic).
4. Heat 100 ml of milk in a saucepan and cook the garlic cloves for about 20 minutes. Alternatively, and if you have time, infuse the garlic cloves in cold milk for a whole night (seal the container with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator). Drain the garlic cloves and throw in the cooking (or infusion) milk.
5. In a pot, preferably terracotta or steel with a thick bottom, pour the remaining 50 ml of milk and add the garlic. Cook over low heat for another 30 minutes, then blend the milk and the garlic cloves.
6. Remove the bell peppers from the oven and put them in a paper bag (those for bread) or plastic and close it. Let the peppers rest for about half an hour, in this way the skin will come off very easily.
7. In the meantime, clean the anchovies: pass them under running water to remove the excess salt, open them in half and remove the bone. Put them in a bowl with cold water.
8. Drain the anchovies and pour them into the pan with the garlic and oil and start stirring with a wooden spoon so that they melt completely and form a thick sauce. The fire must always remain at a minimum so that the oil does not boil and the anchovies do not become bitter.
9. Let the bagna cauda cook for about 20-30 minutes always over very low heat and stirring. Then turn off the heat and let it cool. When the sauce is cold, you can also emulsify it for a few seconds with an immersion blender.
10. Take the bell peppers back, completely remove the outer skin, pulling it gently with your fingers. Also remove the stem, cut them into 3-4 parts (lengthwise) and remove the internal seeds with a small knife.
11. Arrange the pieces of pepper in a baking tray covered with parchment paper, pour a generous spoonful of bagna cauda on each and pass the peppers under the preheated grill for 4 ‘until the edges are toasted.
Serve the bell peppers with bagna cauda hot and enjoy with a good glass of wine!