Zippy bagna cauda sauce for pasta and sandwiches

Do you like anchovies? People seem to be radically divided on these salty little guys. Either you love ’em, or you have to run screaming from any room containing anchovies and flush your mouth and sinuses, or at least your brain, until the very idea that you have shared the planet with anchovies has been washed away.

My favorite pizza is red sauce and cheese on a limp New-York-style crust with anchovies, smashed raw garlic cloves, and a couple of tablespoons of melted butter brushed or poured on the exposed bits of pizza. (There now, go panic somewhere else. Because it’s about to get anchovy in here.)

Bagna cauda
means “hot bath” in Portugese. An oilier, no-avocado, no-basil version of this is traditional as a hot dip or as a schmear for a scrambled egg sandwich on a baguette with veggies and cheese.

This version mixes up in the blender. The avocado has a mild, olive-oil-friendly flavor, and especially provides bulk and a fluffy, oily texture to the sauce. The bulk part is important for me, because my blender holds half a gallon. This means that I have to make at least 2 cups of bagna cauda if I want the darned blender to work. Probably should get one of those immersion blenders.

But with more volume, you can schmear this sauce on bread, toss it with pasta or steamed vegetables like cauliflower, or, yes, dollop it on pizza under the cheese layer. Boil up some ramen noodles without using that nasty little flavor packet, drain them, and toss them with bagna cauda for a Portugese version of pad thai. Dip fingers of ripe pears into it for a head-twisting rush of mild sweet pear and salty, garlicky sauce.

Bagna Cauda, Jenniferstyle

15 salty anchovies
1/3 cup capers with 1 T liquid
6 fat cloves of garlic, smashed a bit
1/2 cup strong-flavored olive oil, like a Spanish manzanilla (Goya brand)
2 cups ripe avocado
2 cups fresh basil leaves, washed and drained

Blend that, but good.

That is all.

You can refrigerate this, perhaps with a teaspoon of lime juice or caper juice floated over the top to prevent the avocado from oxidizing (turning brown), for up to a week. The flavors start getting a bit, um, assertive after that point.

I’m mixing it with mushroom raviolis tomorrow.


The last scene of Fools Paradise features a giant picnic of Chicago stagehands and their many blended (and broken) families. My heroine is pretty worried about it, since her sweetheart will be facing a potential political firestorm at the picnic. She stays up all night cooking foods of all nations to appeal to the Local’s diverse population. Read a sample of Fools Paradise here.

About Cat Eldridge

I’m the publisher of Green Man Review and Sleeping Hedgehog.

My current novels are listening to Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds, and reading Naomi Kritzer’s Catfishing on Cat-net and Anthony Boucher’s Murder in the Morgue My current graphic novel is Spider-Gwen: Most Wanted..

I’m listening to a whole bunch of new Celtic and Nordic new releases but I’ll dip in my music collection for such artists as Blowzabella, Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, and Frifot as the weather goes colder.