Bagna Caoda has been a traditional dish in Piedmont for hundreds of years. The name means "warm sauce" and was originally a dish prepared by farmers, made from simple ingredients that stored well and whatever vegetables they had on hand at the time. Today, it's a beloved favorite, shared by family and friends to start a festive meal.

Serves four as an Antipasti Ingredients:

8 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup anchovy filets in salt, cleaned under running water
4 ounces salted butter
1 cup olive oil
optional: 1 cup whole milk

Smash the garlic cloves with the flat side of a heavy knife, or chop finely. Place the garlic in a small, heavy bottomed sauce pan and add the remaining ingredients. Place over the lowest heat possible on your stove and cook until the anchovies have melted and the garlic is soft enough to crush with the back of a spoon. This should take about an hour. Stir and smash the garlic with a spoon until the sauce is smooth (or use a food processor, if you don't mind having to clean it), then transfer the sauce to a ceramic dish over a small flame. A fondue set would work perfectly. Surround with your chosen vegetables and enjoy!

While the Bagna Caoda cooks you can prepare crudite to dip in the warm sauce. Slices of red bell pepper, fennel, carrots and celery are all good choices. In Piedmont, cooked artichokes, roasted onions or cardoons would be added. A loaf of crusty Ciabatta bread helps your guests catch the drips from the vegetables and is equally delicious with the sauce.

If you would like to reduce the sharpness of the garlic, simmer the smashed cloves in the optional cup of milk for 15 minutes before you add the remaining ingredients.

If you cannot find anchovies in salt, buy good quality anchovies packed in oil and soak them in milk for 30 minutes before adding to the sauce.