I’m not sure how the subject of garlic bread came up over ‘Build-your-own burgers’ but it was quickly made clear that whatever garlic bread Marc’s brother had been making was too offensive to his wife. Too strong! Too much garlic breath that lingered for hours!

Oh, that’s an easy fix, I thought. Just use roasted garlic, I proudly suggested.

A head of garlic for Bagna Cauda Bucatini

No, no definitely not an easy fix. Can’t use roasted garlic because he wasn’t using fresh garlic to begin with. The “recipe” is ciabatta slathered in margarine with a dusting of garlic powder. I’m not sure if this gets heated up.

This recipe lived in my brain for days after and I wanted to present Matthew with a garlic bread that would knock the garlic powder out of his kitchen cabinet. So I fussed at my counter roasting garlic, softening butter, and grating cheese. Then spreading the cheesy garlic butter on rolls and baking it in the oven before opening the rolls wide open and running them under the broiler. This took an hour and in the meantime I made turkey meatballs and tomato sauce to heap on the garlic bread so I could consider this buttery adventure a meal. The sandwich was delicious but made a million dishes. It probably wouldn’t be an easy jump for a quick after-work meal if your garlic bread dreams are currently made of margarine and garlic powder.

Something I could give that was one step from dinner was what I was in search of.

I refocused my efforts and turned my eye to the bowl of pasta that the garlic bread is usually nestled next to. Noodles coated with roasted garlic and olive oil is never bad. I wondered what could punch that up to make a sauce that is welcome tossed with pasta but also delicious smeared on good bread. Google led me to The Amateur Gourmet and his recipe for Bagna Cauda. The heap of anchovies and lemon zest to brighten the sauce called out to me.

I increased the garlic by 4 times but tamed the sharpness of raw cloves by letting them roast in a shallow bath of olive oil. I meant to let this hot bath go on for a half hour but got distracted by an episode of “Real Housewives of New York City”, so next time I’ll keep a closer eye on a timer instead of Andy Cohen’s riveting reunion questions. The shorter roast will mean your cloves will be less golden brown than mine and melt easier into the anchovy sauce. 

Chopped anchovies for bagna cauda bucatini

Oh yes, the anchovy sauce. Actual whole anchovies was a new experience. My caesar dressing features a punch of anchovy paste but other than pulling the bones from the tiny fish it was just as easy as squeezing a tube of anchovy mush. If a tin of anchovies is much then you can substitute two tablespoons or so of anchovy paste. The paste or chopped anchovies melt into the oil you roasted the garlic in. The garlic and anchovies are brightened with lemon zest and juice, a splash of starchy pasta water helps the sauce come together. And so the lemon isn’t stuck brightening the whole dish, a handful of parsley leaves gets stirred in at the end and keeps it all light.

Finishing Bagna Cauda Bucatini with parsley

Unfortunately once I cracked open the tin of anchovies, I realized Matthew and his garlic powder wouldn’t be coming anywhere near this dish but maybe I can bring him the sauce and keep its contents a secret. The anchovies don’t register on your tongue as fishy. It’s a briny taste that slips into the bucatini holes and I guess it isn’t a totally bad thing if I’m left with a giant bowl of this and no one to share with.

Finished bowl of Bagna Cauda Bucatini

Bagna Cauda Bucatini
Heads up: This sauce is fairly thin. Your pasta won't drown in a puddle of sauce, the pungent garlic and anchovy mix doesn't need quantity to announce its presence.
  1. 1/2 cup olive oil
  2. 1 medium sized lemon
  3. 1 head of garlic, I got 13 cloves out of my head
  4. 4 anchovies, rinsed well
  5. 1 bunch of parsley, roughly chopped
  6. salt
  7. 1lb of bucatini
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Crack open a head of garlic and peel the cloves
  3. Pour the 1/2 cup of olive oil in the smallest oven safe dish you have and drop the cloves in. Cover the dish you foil and roast in the oven for a half hour. (You can also do this on the stovetop over medium low heat, just check the garlic every few minutes to make sure nothing is burning)
  4. Rinse the anchovies and remove the thin backbones, coarsely chop the fish
  5. Once the garlic is roasted, preheat a large saute pan over medium heat and starting boiling water for the pasta.
  6. Add the garlic infused oil and chopped anchovies to the saute pan and further break up the anchovies with a wooden spoon
  7. Chop the reserved garlic that you roasted into a chunky paste and add it to the pan
  8. Zest and juice a lemon, and add all of the zest to the sauce. Add juice to taste.
  9. Lower the heat to low and let it stay warm while your pasta cooks
  10. Boil your pasta until a minute or two from done, you'll finish cooking the pasta in the sauce.
  11. Once the pasta is almost ready, reserve a cup of starchy water before draining your noodles
  12. Add the pasta to the sauce and stir together
  13. If the noodles seem dry add some of the pasta water, I start with a half cup and see if I need more
  14. Once the pasta looks adequately saucy, add the parsley and serve
Adapted from Nancy Silverton via The Amateur Gourmet
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