Bagna Cauda (The Butter Garlic Anchovy Sauce of Your Dreams)

When a significant other goes out of town, most people use that opportunity to watch bad movies, to pig out on ice cream, and to spread out gratuitously in bed while sleeping. Me? I make risky foods. No, I don’t mean risky in a danger sense–I’m not eating supermarket ground beef tartar–I mean in a “will this be good?” sense. I take bigger chances when Craig’s not here because if I screw up, no one’s there to scrunch up their nose. So on Saturday morning, when I woke up and wanted breakfast, I opened Nancy Silverton’s Sandwich Book and studied the recipe for a sandwich that she says is Mari Batali’s favorite. It’s basically boiled eggs on arugula doused in Bagna Cauda. I didn’t have any bread and I didn’t have any arugula, but I did have the ingredients to make Bagna Cauda. And eggs. And, also–somewhat weirdly–farmer’s market Brussels Sprouts. An idea was born.

If you’ve read my cookbook (and by now, you really should have…what’s your excuse?) you’ll recall that I first learned how to make Bagna Cauda from Gina DePalma, Babbo’s extraordinary pastry chef (observation: everyone with a Bagna Cauda recipe is somehow connected to Mario Batali). It’s such a simple concept, there’s really no excuse for you not to try it. You grind up anchovies (Nancy Silverton heartily endorses the salted kind, which I’m lucky enough to have; the flavor’s way more intense than anchovies packed in olive oil, though you do have to fillet them yourself which isn’t so hard once you get the hang of it (just cut a slit along the backbone, peel off the flesh and lift off the bones in one piece))….


…along with garlic in a mortar and pestle.


If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, no problem: Gina taught me how to grind garlic and anchovies into a paste on the cutting board. Just sprinkle with a little salt, chop vigorously, then smear with your knife, chop again and keep going until it’s pasty.

After that, you add the mixture to a skillet with olive oil and butter:


You bring to a simmer and cook for five minutes until the anchovies basically melt and the garlic gives up all of its flavor to the fat. Then, and this is a Nancy Silverton step I love, you add lemon zest, lemon juice and salt to taste. Before I added the lemon juice and salt, I thought: “Hmmm, this tastes pretty nice.” When I added lemon juice (a lot of it) and salt and tasted, I thought: “HOLY CRAP THAT IS THE BEST THING I HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED IN MY ENTIRE LIFE AND I’M COUNTING THE TIME I SANG ‘HEY JUDE’ AT A HIGH SCHOOL PEP RALLY IN FRONT OF 3,000 PEOPLE.”


That’s your Bagna Cauda. Most people consider it a dip. Pour it, hot, into a bowl and surround it with vegetables and you’ve got a great party dish. Gina recommends endive for this because you can scoop up a good amount in each bite; with carrots, etc., it slips off. Which is why I prefer to think of Bagna Cauda as a sauce: you can douse it, shamelessly, over anything you’re eating.

Which is why I took some Brussels sprouts I had from the farmer’s market, sliced them into shreds and fried them up in hot olive oil with a dash of salt, dousing everything in Bagna Cauda at the end:


I cooked eggs the Nancy Silverton way (the way she does for Mario’s sandwich), putting them cold into cold water, bringing it to a boil, lowering it to a simmer and cooking for 5 minutes, then shocking the eggs in ice water. You slice off the tops and scoop out the insides. I thought the yolks would be runny, but they were cooked. Still: a good method for bright yellow insides.


You can see the finished plate in the lead photo. Everything about that dish was amplified to 11 with the Bagna Cauda. I still get goosebumps when I think about it.

That was Bagna Cauda Adventure Day 1. On Bagna Cauda Adventure Day 2, I decided to make Mario Batali’s favorite sandwich.


There’s really not much to it. Slice a baguette. Add arugula (I had butter lettuce, so used that). Douse everything in Bagna Cauda. Then add scooped out eggs and douse with more Bagna Cauda.


No wonder this is Mario Batali’s favorite sandwich: it’s basically garlic bread with way more flavor (see: anchovies! lemon zest! lemon juice!), tender eggs and crunchy lettuce. If the yolks had oozed, I would have been even happier, but maybe that’s not what Nancy’s going for with her cooking method.

Doesn’t matter. Bagna Cauda is the best and the coolest part is if you have leftover Bagna Cauda, you can put it in a jar and refrigerate overnight. The next day you’ll have a solid lump of Bagna Cauda butter which you can probably spread on bread as a flavored butter or just add to a skillet and heat up again (like I did). The stuff is liquid (or solid, depending on its state) gold. The next time your loved ones go out of town, treat yourself to bad breath and good times and then sprawl out on the bed in a Bagna Cauda coma. That’s the good life.

Recipe: Nancy Silverton’s Bagna Cauda

Summary: A killer recipe from her famous sandwich book.


  • 2 to 3 fat garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 4 3-inch-long salt-packed anchovies, rinsed well (that’s important!), backbones removed, finely chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter [Note: for my purposes, I used half this amount…felt like too much for just me. But now I regret it because it would’ve made more.]
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil [I used 1/4 cup, same reasons]
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped lemon zest
  • 3 to 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, or to tastes
  • Kosher salt, to taste


  1. Using a mortar and pestle, pulverize the garlic and anchovies until a smooth paste.
  2. Transfer the paste to a small saucepan. Add the butter and olive oil and bring to a simmer over low heat. Continue simmering for about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lemon zest and lemon juice. Taste and season with salt and more lemon juice until you’re like “holy crap, there’s nothing left to live for.”

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 5 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 6

My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

41 thoughts on “Bagna Cauda (The Butter Garlic Anchovy Sauce of Your Dreams)”

    1. Funny that you said that… growing up my Italian grandma made it for us… when my sister and I got married… the guys left when we made it! I LOVE IT!!!

  1. I have greenmarket eggs, all the ingredients for the bagna cauda, and a cauliflower. Sounds like I’m going to have a fabulous dinner!

  2. Wow! Don’t have the anchovies handy but I do have another small dark fish….skinless, boneless sardines. Going to try this even though the thought of squishing garlic into fish goo isn’t an esthetic one. But you have inspired me to blunder boldly!

  3. This looks amazing, but I have to say, I am squeamish when it comes to anchovies. Is there anything you’d sub here for those. If not, I think I’ll try it without anchovies and perhaps add some garlic. I know it won’t be the same, but..

    1. Be brave. Start with a little anchovy at a time. I was afraid of them too, until I had the most stellar Caesar salad I ever ate at an Italian place in Portland. The waiter swore the secret was real anchovies and with experimentation at home, I found he was right. Try the anchovy paste in a tube if the whole ones bother you.

  4. Looks great, can’t wait to try. When my husband is out of town I break out the kimchi. He isn’t a fan of the smell, especially when I cook with it. So for me, it all about the kimchi soup, kimchi fried rice, kimchi anything while he is gone.

  5. DROOL. And that’s all I have to say about that. Nope, wait, there’s more: how have I never thought to pair bagna with eggs??? Mind is blown. Stomach is growling. Thank you!

  6. I just made this- with tinned sprats instead of anchovies, as I couldn’t find any in my (Berlin) grocery store. I added a little too much extra salt to make up for the less-salty sprats, so it wound up a bit too salty overall, but otherwise incredibly tasty! I look forward to trying it with anchovies, as well.

  7. I love how excited you are about this recipe! I love salty anchovies and garlic. I can’t wait to try this recipe! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Holy moley. I’m afraid I’d take a spoon and eat it like soup. Or just soak it up with baguettes until it was gone. I’d fall into a carb coma that way, but die with a beatific garlic smile on my face.

  9. I just did it, and dip my home made french country sourdough bread. It is fabulous. I used Season rolled anchovies with capers. I am cooking some Brussels sprouts and will add sunny side up eggs and a glass of wine. This is for lunch…

  10. I was first introduced to bagna cauda by Nigella Bites. Her recipe suggests dipping endive which is divine. But I can already tell yummy boiled eggs and brussel sprouts are gonna take it over the edge! its 1:30am now and I can’t wait for daybreak so I can dash to the store and get a fresh baguette and some brussels, bang this out. Brilliant!!

  11. WOW…I am thinking of crossing over the happy side and obtaining a husband , hoping that he goes away quickly so I can get to WORK !! that sandwich sounds like heaven and hell on your plate or badass goodness !

  12. Thank you!! This recipe literally blew my socks off, but the way you write is amazing… it draws you in and makes you (& your stomach) yearn to find out what the next paragraph holds. I am so glad I stumbled across your site today, I know it will be a staple for me, another amateur chef, for a long time to come. <3 !

  13. I made a combo of both your posts: sauteed up some thinly sliced brussels sprouts, placed them in a toasted ciabatta roll, topped with hard boiled eggs and the yummy bagna cauda sauce drizzled over everything. This may be my new favorite sandwich.


  14. Here awhile back, I used to treat the guys down at the homeless shelter to broiled steaks about once a month. One night they asked if I knew how to cook Italian and would I do spaghetti for them sometime. I did spaghetti with meat balls, Caesar salad, and bagna cauda. You have never seen so many supremely happy faces! To make the bagna the easy way, I do it in the oven at 300 while everything else cooks and use anchovie paste and thinly sliced garlic.

  15. Giada De Laurentiis does a variant on this bagna cauda sauce for dressing tilapia. I have made it for so-called “not-fish-lovers” and they have licked the plate clean! The variation I like is to add some herbaceousness… Giada adds finely chopped basil. I like fresh thyme. You can also vary the citrus to include some orange zest and juice (if you prefer it sweeter). I also prefer to emulsify the sauce by whisking in a blob of mayonaisse, that way it doesn’t separate.

  16. My grandparents all hailed from Piedmont. Bagna Cauda was (and remains) a wintertime tradition in my family. Just wait for a very cold and snowy night…the perfect atmosphere to enjoy the hot bath! In addition to raw veggies, we cook small cubes of steak in the concoction. Might as well get some protein while you’re at it!

  17. Incredible recipe!! I served it just as you did, with shredded brussels and hard boiled eggs. And then again later with veggies (it went SO well with radicchio). Thanks for such an awesome recipe!

  18. For those who do not care for anchovies or who are vegetarian an equal portion (for this recipe 1 tablespoon) of ‘mashed’ pitted Kalamata olives :-)

  19. My Italian family bypassed the mortar and pestle because itl breaks up in the saucepan
    Love your presentation and Will try soon.

  20. I have smoked sprat pâté which has a bold fishy flavor, and I’ve been looking everywhere for a way to utilize it without just making it into a dip for crackers. This may be ittt… Thanks!

  21. This sauce is really good on a cutlet or Milanese. Last night I made a pork cutlet and topped it with a fried egg and this sauce. One of the best dishes I’ve made.

  22. If you don’t want to mash the fish and garlic you can do it my way. I warm the oil in the skillet and add the filets. With a spat you can mash them up. I like to let them cook for a bit so they break down and change flavor. Don’t let the smell frighten you, it won’t taste the same. I grate the garlic and lemon rind and add to filets when the have broken down and let cook about 30-60 seconds. I add lemon juice and salt to taste. Adding a teaspoon of dry vermouth after the aromatics is a fun twist . I will most always add a hit of red pepper flake with the aromatics as well. That’s a taste preference. This recipe can be taken and changed up to a variety of flavor choices. Sometimes I’ll add fresh parsley or capers as well. It all depends what I have on hand!

  23. We rarely go to any restaurants any longer since I started to cook which I embraced as others like to, let’s say, canvas painting. I’m so grateful and thankful to you for sharing this recipe. This recipe saves me a lot of dishes to wash. Every time I prepare this Bagna everyone, I mean “everyone” lick off their plates :) Cheers !

  24. I came upon this site and recipe, specifically, when searching for bagna cauda with butter. I have made this three times in 2017 and am making a 4th time tomorrow. I am obsessed!!! This is more than delicious as a dip for toasted bread the sandwich is phenomenal. Thank you so much for sharing!!!

Let's dish!

Scroll to Top