I think I was first introduced to Bagna càuda a little over 20 years ago when my dad was helping me move from Monterey to Portland. We stopped for dinner at the Stinking Rose in San Francisco and ordered it as an appetizer. Turns out, Bagna càuda has a bit of history in my family. With a last name like Ferrero, you figure I gotta have a little Italian in my blood (a whole 1/8 by my geneology math). I often get asked if I’m related to the Ferrero-Rocher (Nutella, Tic Tacs) empire. If I was, I’d be paying someone to write this blog.
My dad and aunt have told me stories about going to high school in Mammoth, California and often going to school wreaking of garlic. My aunt told me my grandmother used to make it when they had friends come up to visit from La Puente. It must have been delicious because my grandmother was a fantastic cook.
I decided to take a stab at making it years ago and I feel like I’ve got a version that works well. I have the feeling it’s a lot like salsa-no wrong way to make it. I peel 2 or 3 heads of garlic (depending on how many people) and place the cloves in a sauté pan. Add a generous amount of chili flakes and black pepper. Crack open a can of anchovies and criss-cross them across the top. Add some fresh herbs if you have them then fill with olive oil until the cloves are about half way submerged. Slow roast the entire pan in the oven until the cloves are fairly soft. Remove from the oven and smash everything with a fork. My favorite accompaniment is a great loaf of bread and a bottle of red wine. Raw chopped veggies are also a good companion. Dip into the mixture and enjoy the garlic trip you are about to take.
Like we say in the old country, “Succhiarsi, Giardino olivato!” (while flicking our top front teeth with our thumb) which loosely translates to, “Suck it, Olive Garden!”