The Most Brilliant Hors d’Oeuvre You’ve Never Heard of

Bagna Cauda in all its olive-oily-garlicky glory. Recipe and photo by Stephanie Valentine.

Truly, and just when you need it—an easy do-ahead hors d’oeuvre or appetizer that is delicious and different and everyone loves it. It’s even healthy, but don’t let that stop you. Drum roll please…

Bagna Cauda, or “hot bath” in Italian. Oh I know some of you have heard of it… Traditionally served in Piedmontese households on Christmas Eve, the rich, warm, buttery-garlicky dip is typical of the Piedmont region, but I think I first had it in the fall in the South of France, maybe in an Italian restaurant in the South of France. Beats me why it’s never caught on in the States–until now perhaps;)

You can serve this fondue-style to a group, but at the ranch we like to serve it individually as a first course, with small bowls of the warm dip surrounded by chopped raw and blanched vegetables and a crusty loaf of great bread. 

You will note there are anchovies. Don’t freak out. They dissolve completely, and their rich, salty flavor gives the dish its non so che cosa that makes it so good. No one will know.

Here is Rancho la Zaca Chef Stephanie Valentine’s take on this rustic classic, with her added kicks of smoked paprika red pepper flakes that take it somewhere new.

Bagna Cauda
Serves: 6
A brilliant, do-ahead dip for vegetables and bread combining the savory earthiness of butter, olive oil, and garlic with the rich saltiness of of the sea. If you're worried about the anchovies, don't: They disappear completely leaving only a mysterious deliciousness that will have everyone asking for the recipe.
  1. ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  2. ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  3. 1 3.2 ounce jar Rustichella d’Abruzzi anchovies (or equivalent amount high quality anchovy), chopped
  4. 10 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  5. ½ teaspoon smoked paprika, optional
  6. Big pinch red child flakes, optional
  7. Assorted raw and blanched vegetables at room temperature, eg., broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, fennel, peppers, mushrooms
  8. A great loaf of bread
  1. Place the butter, olive oil, anchovies, garlic, paprika and chili flakes in a small saucepan.
  2. Heat slowly to a simmer, cooking and stirring over very low heat for 15 minutes.
  3. Let cool and blend by hand, blender, or food processor.
  4. Re-heat when ready to serve.
  1. Serve with chunks of bread and plenty of vegetables. Be sure the vegetables are at room temperature.
  2. Can be made several days ahead and kept in the refrigerator.
  3. May be served in a fondue pot to keep the oil mixture warm, or served individually in saucers.
Frances Schultz




  1. This recipe is truly a big hit – and keeps the conversation and conviviality alive at the table… truly a festive addition to the menu.

    1. Hi Peggy! And yes, alas, it HAS been a while. Nice to be back, however briefly. You on the other hand, are carrying on and inspiring and challenging us all. Brava, and thank you for writing. I look forward to the new direction of your own wonderful blog. X Frances

  2. Listening to La Mer and reading your great post. Best wishes for a great holiday. Just writing about Italy and France in WW1. So much to say about the vacillations of Italy, but their ultimate bravery won out overall.

  3. Met Frances when she was in Montgomery, Al. The Bee Cottage book lives on an easel in my family room. I’m interested in her visit to Charlotte as I have many friends there. One is my God Daughter that has an interior design shop. She worked for Laura Bush in The White House as one of her 4 social secretaries.

  4. Perfect timing! I forgot about my plan to buy good quality anchovies for my anchovy-loving neighbor. She’s coming for Xmas dinner so I shall serve Bagna Cauda in my new Emile Henry fondue pot and gift her with a jar of Rustichella d’ Abruzzi anchovies and your recipe – Merry Christmas F.S. & S. L.

    P.S. On the ranch…do your guests use forks or fingers for this appetizer?

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