Foods of the World: Bagna Càuda

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This dish takes Italian comfort food to new heights. My grandmother would prepare this dish most often on New Year’s Eve, when celebratory familial groups would convene. The dish itself is somewhat like the Italian version of a fondue. My family has made the tradition of eating it while standing around the table.

While my grandmother may never try to cook the recipe that I have developed over the years, that doesn’t mean she’d disagree with it either. Every generation has been putting their own spirit into the dish since its origin back in the 16th century, and here is mine:

Before you start, you should know, this dish is best served while maintaining heat. You can use an electric hot plate or use chafer fuel canisters. If the dish is not kept hot, it will congeal over time and won’t maintain the proper viscosity.

Serves 4-6


  • 1-1.25 lbs of butter
  • 4-6 cans of flat anchovies (ideally in olive oil)
  • 1-1.25 large heads of garlic
  • 1 head of crisp green/red cabbage
  • 1 loaf of your favorite Italian table bread
  • Your choice of vegetables each finely diced such as:
    • Onions
    • Peppers
    • Tomato
    • Carrot
    • Celery
    • Zucchini
  • Optional (but done by many): Seafood protein, such as shrimp, crab, or even lobster, so long as it can separate into smaller pieces for the dip
  • 1-2 of your favorite bottles of Italian red wine


  • Finely dice all the garlic and vegetables. (A food processor would be particularly convenient for this. If you’re using vegetables that produce a lot of water you may want to let your diced medley strain.)
  • Season the diced garlic and vegetables to taste with your favorite Italian herbs and spices
  • Separate the cabbage leaves into crisp wedges that can be used for scooping and dipping into the Bagna. Serve family style.
  • Slice and toast your table bread to be used for scooping and dipping into the Bagna. Serve family style.
  • Season or marinate the seafood prior to cooking with your favorite Italian herbs and spices.


  • On a stove, on low-medium heat, in a medium sauce pan, begin melting all the butter until it is liquified.
  • Increase to medium heat so the butter is hot enough to cook the vegetables and seafood.
  • Add the vegetable medley and anchovies. Let cook while stirring regularly for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Add your other seafood selections. Let cook for 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Remove from stove and move to a heat-maintained vessel and serve as it continues cooking. Over time the dish will continue to brown and get even more rich and delicious.

John Risdon is General Manager at University of Washington Club.

One Thought on “Foods of the World: Bagna Càuda”

On December 19, 2018 at 1:51 PM, cyndy williams said:

We have been eating Bagna Càuda our entire life with family and friends. 97 percent of the people we introduce to this dish like it. There is that 3 % that gets freaked out by telling them about the ingredients. Our recipe is very close to yours, except through the years we have found that mincing the garlic gives it much more flavor. We do not mince vegetables small. We leave vegtables in an appropriate size to place on a slice of bread. (example: 1 green pepper give you 3 large slices) We always eat it in a fondue. We find there are two groups of eaters. Those that cook their vegetables in the fondue until it falls apart, and those that almost nearly just dip and eat. For this reason we always have 2 fondues at the table, one for dippers and one for long cookers. Putting the dipped vegetable on a slice of bread is the preferred way to be “less messy”, but using bread fills you up quite quickly so, some of us eat the veggies dripping in our plate. We enjoy using the “fondue” that is dishwasher safe because after eating this everything is full of oil. It is a must to have a plastic table cloth on your table for easy clean up. The fondue goes in the dishwasher. We drink lots of favorite beer while eating this dish but have taken to trying wines recently. We never eat this unless we have 4 or more people, it is a family affair meal that lasts for hours. We have prepared and eaten this several times when camping and with 1 hour the entire campground is walking past, asking what we are eating. . Quite funny…. John, you do know this is exclusively from the Piedmont area of Italy. (northern Italy). When we visited relative some years ago, there was a but tour in Tornio that had audio with the tour and mentioned the Bagna Cauda birth place, area. For weddings, it is very appropriate to give the newly weds 2 dishwasher safe fondues for their Bagna Cauda parties they will have in the future. Enjoy.

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