Romesco sauce is one of my favorites of all time. It’s so good and I haven’t found anything it hasn’t gone well with yet! I first learned about this recipe as a young line cook working in the hotel business. I was lucky enough to make it for a party we had that night and I was so stoked I actually got to do something other than chop vegetables I jumped at the opportunity. After carefully producing this sauce to the specifications requested of me, I gave it one final taste before passing it on. It was truly love at first taste! From then on, the Romesco sauce was a tool on my tool belt.
History of Romesco Sauce
Romesco sauce originates from Tarragona, Spain; located in the Catalonia region. More specifically, Romesco hails from a small neighborhood called El Serrallo. This sauce was originally created by fisherman in the area, so its safe to say that its primary use if to accompany fish! The fishermen would mix together whatever they had laying around. These ingredients would include tomatoes, dried peppers, almonds, stale bread, oil, and vinegar. This sauce was traditionally made with a mortar and pestle.
Over the years this sauce was tweaked by multiple people and cultures. The Romesco sauce adopted the use of red bell peppers. This sauce was served along side of many different vegetables and meats. One dish the region is known is grilled Calcots (Indigenous spring onion) with salsa Romesco.
What is Romesco Sauce
There is a lot of misconception of what a Romesco sauce actually is. Traditionally, an authentic Romesco sauce is made from tomatoes, garlic, and is thickened with stale bread or toasted nuts(usually almonds). This sauce is flavored with some good olive oil, sherry vinegar, and other spices.
Another version of Romesco sauce is floating around out there as well. Actually, you will find this recipe more that you will find the REAL one. This pseudo Romesco sauce recipe calls for roasted red peppers rather than tomatoes, and the rest of the ingredients are usually the same. There is nothing wrong with either recipe, one I just traditional and one is more of a “new age” recipe.
Luckily for you guys, I’m going to give you a recipe for both and you can decide which is better!
How Do You Make a Romesco Sauce?
Conjuring up a Romesco sauce is very simple. It doesn’t take much time and it packs huge flavor if done correctly.
To start off you need to pick your base. What I mean by that is, you need to choose whether you are going to use tomatoes or roasted red peppers. You could even do a hybrid that utilizes both tomatoes and peppers. Once you make that decision, the rest is a two step process.
First you need to char your vegetable(s). Char your peppers over a flame to achieve the best flavor, then place them in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. This will make the skin easy to remove. For tomatoes, You can either char the tomato over a flame or you can char in the oven at 500 F – 550 F.
Once your vegetables are roasted to your desired doneness, the harder the roast the better in my opinion. It is time to get your flavorings together. The typical flavorings include: Garlic, almonds or Stale bread, sherry vinegar, olive oil, and paprika. You may add other spices or ingredients if you like, its your sauce! I like a little heat so I add some reconstituted arbol chiles to mine!
Finally, you blend everything together! That is really all you got to do! Easy right? Ill get into more detail in a bit. Lets look at how to use this sauce!
Uses for Romesco Sauce
Use this sauce and a sauce on any sandwich you please. I especially does well with mushrooms, squash, cucumbers and many other vegetables. This sauce will elevate your sandwich game!
Now that we know Romesco goes well with a lot of different fruits and vegetables, we can use it as a dip for crudité. You can use the sauce its self as a base or if you want to add a creamy effect to it just fold it in with some vegan mayonnaise!
Skip the traditional marinara and use Romesco on your favorite pastas! I has a hint of that familiar tomato flavor and an extra punch of flavor from the peppers and nuts. Its truly a delicious vegan pasta sauce.
Toss your favorite meat substitutes or vegetables with some Romesco and enjoy it as a unique taco. Now all you have to do is figure out your toppings. Ill give you a tip, avocado and Romesco is a killer combo!
If you so please, you can thin out some left over Romesco sauce into a delicious soup. You can eat it straight like that or you can add some more of your favorite vegetables to take it to the next level!
If you are a pizza lover like me, then this is the right use for you! Replace your traditional tomato based pizza sauce with a little of the Romesco sauce and transform your pizzas into something to remember.
This sauce is so good, let it be the star of your side dishes. Simply roast your vegetables in the oven, or grill them, or sauté.
Romesco Sauce Tricks and Tips
Play around with consistency a bit until you find the right thickness for your needs. For example, if you are going to be using this sauce as a dip, then you are going to want it to be thick. On the other hand, if you are using it as a sauce the you are going to want your Romesco to be thinner so it fits the application better. It doesn’t take much skill just follow the recipes to get a thicker end result, and then thin it out if you deem necessary.
The consistency of Romesco sauce is affected by two main factors: they type of tomatoes used, and the amount of olive oil emulsified into it. Just remember you can always incorporate more oil but you cannot take it out so proceed with caution!
Acid is what makes the Romesco sauce so delicious. It is important to obtain little bits of acid from different sources. You get acid from your olive oil (Slight), tomatoes ( moderate), and vinegar (high). A proper balance of all of these acids with leave you with a beautiful product. You can even play around with the acidic ingredients, maybe incorporate some fresh citrus at the end to give your sauce a bright pop of flavor.
Play around with the different types of tomatoes available to you and find out what sauce you like best. You can use any variety of tomato, you can also used canned tomatoes, or sundried tomatoes. There are many different possibilities.
Most Romesco sauce recipes call for a toasted white bread. Its very important you buy a nice country style white bread or French baguette. The reason being, is that you want to have a studier bread with a dense center. In the Romesco recipe, the bread is used as a thickening agent, the denser the bread the thicker the sauce. The typical sliced white bread you find in your local supermarket wont offer much to the consistency of your Romesco.
There are a good bit of different varieties of paprika out there. I’m sure everyone has at least one type paprika in the cupboard right now. The most beneficial paprika for this particular sauce is the Spanish smoked paprika. Makes sense right? Spanish sauce, Spanish paprika. This product is often referred to as “pimentón” or “pimentón de la Vera”. This spice has a little kick, so if your not into spicy then there are sweet varieties available.
If you end up choosing a recipe with dried peppers, it is important on how you reconstitute them. Sure you can soak them in hot water and reconstitute them that way. Using this method, you lose a lot of flavor in the water itself. I recommend frying the peppers in oil to rehydrate them. This keeps most of the flavor in the pepper and offers a slightly toasted flavor. This method takes a little finesse though, they can easily burn if the pan is too hot.
Another alternative to toasting the peppers, is placing them on a sheet tray and into a 350F oven for 6 minutes or until fragrant. This method is easier to pull of and has a very similar effect.
To get the best flavor from your ingredients, you need to toast your bread and nuts (if using). You can toast both in the oven, which is what I recommend. Simply put the nuts and bread on trays and toast them in the oven and a low temperature(275-350F) . Make sure they are on separate trays, because they toast at different speeds. Keep an eye on them in the oven. You will know they are done when they are golden brown in color and fragrant.
For the bread, you can easily use a toaster or let it sit out uncovered for a few hours to dry out.
Store this sauce in an air tight container and keep in the fridge for up to 1 week!
- 1 cutting board
- 1 chef knife
- 3 sheet tray
- 1 food processor or blender
- 2 mixing bowl
- 1 whisk
- 1 kitchen scale
- Storage vessels
Traditional Romesco Sauce
Yield: 12 Servings
Prep Time: 5 Minutes
Cook Time: 45 Minutes
- 4 Medium Dried Nora Peppers or Ancho Chiles,seeds and stem removed
- 3 Slices White Bread, toasted
- 1 Head Garlic
- 1 Lb Tomatoes, about 5-8 medium sized roma
- ¾ Cup Almonds, toasted
- 1 ¼ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- ¼ Cup Sherry Vinegar
- 1 Tbsp Pimenton
- Preheat your oven to 450 F. White the oven is preheating, cut and X on the bottom of the tomatoes. The slits just need to break the skin, you don’t need to cut all the way through.
- Combine tomatoes and garlic in a mixing bowl and toss with 2 Tbsp of olive oil until just coated. Then lay out on a sheet tray. Once oven is heated, roast for 35 minutes.
- Once roasted, cool down the garlic and tomatoes. After they are cooled, peel off the skins from both vegetables. ( If you haven’t toasted your bread or almonds yet, now is the time to do so.)
- Once everything is toasted/ cooked, It is time to combine everything. You will need to do so in batches, depending on the size of your food processor or blender.
- For a smoother sauce, use a blender and blend all ingredients together. You may need to add more olive oil, vinegar, or water to get a thinner consistency. For a thicker chunky sauce, use a food processor using the pulse function. I recommend starting with the tomatoes and garlic, so you can get those chopped more fine. Slowly add the oil as the tomatoes and garlic are spinning. This way you can have the almonds as your chunky aspect.
- Once all is combined, season with salt and pepper and enjoy!!
Delicious Romesco Sauce
Yields: 3 Cups
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Idle Time: 1 Hour
- 8 oz Roasted Red Pepper
- 1 Lb Plum Tomatoes
- 3 oz White Bread, toasted
- 3 Clove Garlic
- 1/3 Cup Almonds, toasted
- 2 tsp Chile Powder
- 2 tsp Pimenton
- 3 Tbsp Sherry Vinegar
- ¼ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Preheat your oven using the broiler function on the highest setting. While oven is getting hot, cut and X on the bottom of the tomatoes. The slits just need to break the skin, you don’t need to cut all the way through. The transfer the tomatoes to a sheet tray and into the broiler.
- Roast the tomatoes on both sides for about 3-4 minutes each, the outside should be charred. Remove from heat and transfer the tomatoes to a mixing bowl. Allow to cool, then peel and core them.
- In a food processor, add garlic, almonds, bread, and chile powders and process until chopped small. This mixture should be paste-like. For a chunkier sauce, remove this paste and transfer to a mixing bowl.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add tomatoes, sherry vinegar, salt and pepper. Process this mixture until smooth. While the machine is spinning, slowly drizzle olive oil into the mixture to combine well.
- Once combined, transfer to a mixing bowl. Taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking.
- Can you freeze Romesco Sauce
Yes, you can! Store in an airtight container and keep in freezer for up to 3 months!
- Can you roast your own peppers?
Absolutely, depending on the time of year canned peppers with have the best flavor. Considering peppers are more of a hot climate vegetable.
- Do you have to use almonds?
No, you don’t have to use the almonds. Hazelnuts are commonly found in Romesco. You can use any nut you want, just be sure you are toasting and blending appropriately. All nuts toast differently and some are more oily than others.
- I’m allergic to nuts, but I really want to try this sauce. Is there anything I can do?
Yes, just double up on the bread to thicken the sauce up. You can add pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds to get the chunky aspect. Just be mindful of how much bread you add, if you do decide to use seeds.
- Can I use a mortar and pestle? Immersion blender?
Sure you can. A mortar and pestle is the most traditional way to make Romesco actually. Using an immersion blender could work, if it is strong enough.