The Bagna Càuda or Càoda (Italian hot sauce) is a typical product of Piedmontese gastronomy made with butter, oil, garlic and anchovies in salt. It is traditionally served with special earthenware pans that rest small cookers that hold the sauce, in fact, warm.

A dish with a long history that, although it may seem, from the ingredients, poor and daily, is actually a dish for special occasions, for conviviality. It is the dish of fraternity and of joy that, according to tradition, is prepared for joyful moments (the end of the harvest was, for example, one of these). A collective dish that serves to bring together, to be consumed together to celebrate, together, the history and the land of the enchanting places that Piedmont can offer.

The origins of the Piedmontese bagna cauda
Although it is usually considered a typically Piedmontese dish, Bagna Càuda is, more specifically from the territory of Asti, the Langhe, Monferrato, Roero, the provinces of Cuneo, Alessandria and the territory that extends south of the city of Turin. Many localities in the region are competing for the authorship of this true symbol of its gastronomy. In reality, however, it seems that the origins of Bagna Cauda are to be found in France, on the coasts of Provence, with the name of “Anchoiade”.

It was in the Middle Ages that the merchants of Asti, during the voyages they made to stock up on salt and anchovies, met this extraordinary product and brought it home, and along the routes of their trades that touched the whole territory of what is now Piedmont. southern and north-western. The transition to Italian soil naturally involved an adaptation of the Provencal recipe that was modified for example with the use of vegetables.

The ingredients and the recipe of the bagna cauda
The Bagna Càuda is today one of the most famous and appreciated traditional Piedmontese recipes. Although there are many variations of course, a “canonical” recipe was filed with a notary in 2005 by the Italian Academy of Cuisine, whose ingredients, per person, are:

a head of garlic
half a glass of extra virgin olive oil
50g of red anchovies from Spain
In a piece of butter to add at the end of cooking.
Other ingredients such as butter, cream, nuts or milk are added in some variations.

All these ingredients, through a slow and patient cooking are reduced to a sauce that is then served accompanied by cooked or raw seasonal vegetables (baked onions, thistles, cabbage leaves, peppers, beets, cauliflower, potatoes, turnips, etc.) they are eaten after being dipped in the sauce.

Tradition and Bagna Cauda Day
The Bagna Càuda is not just a traditional dish but also a true convivial ritual. In fact it is brought to the table in its terracotta baking pan (dian), which is kept warm by a small heater on which it rests. Originally the stove, called s-cionfetta, was a warmer made of earthenware full of live embers. All diners at this point eat together dipping the vegetables in the sauce and sharing together, a time of tradition and conviviality.

Bagna Càuda, however, did not always live the celebrity that today belongs to her. The wealthier and noble classes rejected this food which, even for the large presence of garlic, considered rude and unrefined. Today they may have changed their minds and the Bagna Càuda has become a symbol of the whole Piedmont and a Bagna Càuda day cheers the streets of Asti every year for a weekend.

(L.V. 2015)


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