Bagnet vert is a traditional herb sauce from Northern Italy. It does look like pesto genovese, doesn’t it? Well, while the look may be similar the taste couldn’t be more different. Bagnet vert is in fact made with parsley, while pesto genovese is made with basil -c’mon you can’t possibly confuse one for the other- and here the flavor is intensified by red vinegar, anchovies and capers instead of being enriched by cheese and pine nuts like in pesto genovese.
This sauce is often used to accompany boiled or roasted meats, but it also makes a great accompaniment to fatty fish like mackerel or herring. It goes great with raw vegetables, too, making for a dip with an intense flavor that is simply divine when served as an appetizer. What I particularly like of bagnet vert, besides the tangy taste, is that it can be made with ingredients I already have at hand, such as day old bread, fresh parsley that generally stays in my fridge unused for days, and those old anchovies and capers leftover from previous recipes. Needless to say that this simple and scrumptious sauce is also packed with nutrients, being parsley possibly the healthiest herb on earth, and with all the good fatty acids of the olive oil and anchovies.
Inspiration comes from… I wish I could say that I inherited the recipe from my great grandmother, who was indeed from Northern Italy but no, nothing like that. Inspiration comes from one of my favorite bread bibles, Tartine Bread. The author is an embarrassingly handsome Californian man, who always shows a great tan and knows how to surf. I am talking of Chad Robertson, of course, a modern bread icon. Have to admit that his looks initially scared me away and I resisted to buy the book for a while. He just seemed too “cool” for my reach. Alas, in the end I had to get Tartine Bread, and was immediately hooked by the personality of the writer (yes ‘mam this guy has the look AND the brain). I was particularly enchanted by the foreword of the volume, where the baker tells how he started to dream about his country loaf just by looking at a French painting, where a old-time peasant meal was represented. His loaves are indeed very similar to my own idea of what a loaf of bread should look like, and this because I grew up with the rustic sourdough from Genzano and surrounding areas. What puzzles me even more, cause I am not tanned nor Californian and I absolutely can’t surf, is that Chad and I (allow me the familiarity) not only both venerate rustic bread, but also share the same love for earthy and simple accompaniments. So, if you have or plan to get the book, don’t forget to dig into the last section, all dedicated to the “companatico”, i.e. what goes well with bread or is made of bread, like this luscious and yet so simple bagnet vert.
2 cups day old bread
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon capers
4 olive oil-packed anchovy fillets
1/2 teaspoon marine salt
Take the bread and either toss it with water and vinegar and let it soften for 10 minutes OR crumble it finely while still dry in a food processor and put it aside.
Put the other ingredients in the food processor and blend to a smooth puree.
Add the bread at the end and use more water if the sauce gets too thick.
And this is how we had it the first night, with pan-fried mackerel and baked sweet potatoes/root sellery
This is instead as I had it the day after… sometimes pleasure is better enjoyed alone
Thank you for reading!
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