Updated: Oct 6, 2020
SOMETIMES A sauce is more than, well, just a sauce. It looks ordinary enough, but in one bite such a sauce transforms the dish, then the meal, then the diner. If you think I’m overstating then you’ve never experienced a good romesco sauce.
And I love it; it’s one of my favourite sauces. It works well with almost anything, including meat, fish, pasta and cheese, and works well as a dip too. Super quick to make it adds dimension and texture to anything you add it to. You will see me use it time and time again in my Pintxo.
Romesco has its origins in a town just south of Barcelona called Tarragona, but now it’s found across of whole of Catalan and beyond. As more and more chefs are discovering its allure, so should more home cooks. Making it the traditional way however is not for the faint hearted; watch this local cook their version of the infamous romesco sauce.
What is a traditional romesco sauce?
Well, it’s a thick sauce made from a base of roasted tomatoes and garlic. To this base you add toasted almonds and hazelnuts (most recipes use both, not just almonds), ñora pepper (more on that below), sherry vinegar, stale toasted bread and a copious amount of olive oil. Like any Spanish recipe, every cook will prepare their romesco sauce differently. This usually means varying the proportions of the above mentioned basic ingredients. Furthermore, some recipes call for a very small amount of a mildly spicy chili pepper called guindilla (or bitxo in Catalán) and/or a touch of smoked paprika.
It’s important to note that romesco sauce is not meant to be super spicy. Even though some recipes call for a guindilla, I personally don’t think I’ve ever had a spicy romesco sauce in any restaurant or from the supermarket. If you do want to put chilli in it, make sure that it’s just a touch.
What are ñora peppers?
Well, it’s a thick sauce made from a base of roasted tomatoes and garlic. To this base you add toasted almonds and hazelnuts (most recipes use both, not just almonds), ñora pepper (more on that below), sherry vinegar, stale toasted bread and a copious amount of olive oil. Like any Spanish recipe, every cook will prepare their romesco sauce differently. This usually means varying the proportions of the above mentioned basic ingredients. Furthermore, some recipes call for a very small amount of a mildly spicy chilli pepper
If you were wondering where you can get ñora peppers, you can buy them online here on Amazon. If not, you can substitute another dried mild sweet chilli pepper like a cascabel or an ancho. As a very last resort, if you can’t get any small dried pepper, you can use a small slice of red bell pepper – about a quarter of a pepper – and roast it along with the tomatoes until soft, watching that it doesn’t burn.
I was first introduced to it by Marcus Wareing through his “Marcus Everyday” cookbook. It’s no surprise that Romesco, one of the Spanish cuisine’s classic sauces, is reaching a wider audience; but I have to say I have made my own modifications to Marcus’s suggested recipe. Each person makes Romesco differently, and each insists that theirs is the authentic one. I am not claiming mine to be authentic just jolly tasty and versatile.
There is no standard recipe or even an ingredient list for Romesco. It invariably includes ripe tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, almonds and/or hazelnuts, bread and mild chillis, but the proportions can vary. It is not particularly spicy unless you want it to be. The nuts and bread thicken it and give it texture.
Here is Marcus’s suggested recipe and my house modifications in red to make this romesco pesto or with a little more tomato juice, a sauce. It last in the fridge in pesto form for three months easily in Kilner jars; I can’t say beyond that as there is never any left.
100g Jarred/tinned HOT piquillo peppers
100g Jarred roasted red pepers
50g flaked almonds, toasted
50g Pine nuts, roasted
50g Hazlenuts, roasted
3 tbsp Olive oil
½ tsp Smoked paprika
2 tbsp Chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tbsp Tomato puree
Splash of dry sherry, sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
Put all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and blitz until you have a slightly chunky paste, or put them in a jug and blitz with a stick blender. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
If all this seems like far too much effort, I have reviewed three Romesco sauces available online watch here.
BTW: To save time roasting the nuts each time you want to make a batch of Romesco. Take a whole fresh packet of nuts, open and roast the lot in one go and store in an airtight container and you will have much more flavoursome nuts on demand.
Thanks for reading. I'd love to know if you gave it a try and what you thought, leave us a message in the comments below.
I blog/vlog about everything PintxoTapas, the past and the future trends from San Sabastian being driven by Michelin starred chefs.
I am a self-taught semi-professional chef working in a 300 cover restaurant in Surrey UK. I love trying new things and testing them out with my family. Each recipe is tried and true, family-tested and approved, or sometimes not but you've got to push the boundaries. Inspired by cookbooks, other food blogs, TV chefs, and family recipes.
I try to make practical PintxoTapas recipes available on this site that can bring your family and friends together for an informal, but an amazing adventure into the world of Pintxo. As well as writing, I work on my YouTube channel and with suppliers to produce all sorts of video content, from interviews, how-to guides and recipe guides.
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