What is Romesco sauce?
If you are not familiar with Romesco sauce, you don’t know what you’re missing… Originating in Catalonia, Spain, it is traditionally made of blended roasted red peppers, roasted tomatoes, almonds, garlic, chili pepper, Sherry vinegar, olive oil, and thickened with rustic bread.
It is a quintessential Mediterranean Diet staple, loaded with vitamins A and C and antioxidants from bell peppers, good fats from olive oil and almonds, as well as fiber.
Romesco sauce is a close relative of the Middle Eastern muhammara sauce made with bell peppers, walnuts and pomegranate molasses.
But more importantly, it has a delicious sweet, smoky and slightly tangy taste. My version may not be completely authentic, but there is not one single way to make it and it lends itself well to interpretation.
I personally prefer to roast my own bell peppers. The recipe below explains the process and for a more complete guide, see Tori Avey’s excellent blog article. If you are pressed for time or intimidated by the process, you can use a jar of roasted peppers and drain it well. Freshly roasted peppers provide more flavor, in my humble opinion, and avoid any added preservatives and salt used in most commercial brands. You will need 2 large or 3 medium bell peppers, or about one cup of peeled and drained roasted peppers.
Since their quality and taste varies so much from one season to another, I find using tomato paste a better solution that gives me consistent results.
Raw or roasted almonds work fine. I like to use slivered almonds in this recipe. If all you have is salted almonds, just reduce the amount of salt in the recipe.
If you have some leftover rustic bread, sourdough or similar, feel free to use that to make your own breadcrumbs (toast them a bit for best flavor). I always keep in my pantry some whole wheat panko breadcrumbs, so that’s usually what I reach for and it works great in this recipe.
Aka: Vinagre de Jeres, is made in Spain from Sherry wine. It has a lot more complexity than your average wine vinegar. Its acidity is nicely balanced with notes of caramel and nuttiness. I get mine on Amazon since my local store doesn’t carry any. Note that Sherry vinegar is not the same thing as Sherry cooking wine!
You can use regular paprika, but smoked paprika makes up for the shortcut of using tomato paste and raw garlic instead of roasted tomatoes and roasted garlic… It adds a great smokiness.
Use as much or as little as you want. 1/4 tsp is medium spicy, at my house I use 1/2 tsp as we like it hotter… I suggest you start with 1/8 or less (or none, up to you…) and add to your taste. You can always add more at the end. It’s harder to remove if you’ve added too much… You can also use chili pepper.
There are so many stronger flavors in this sauce that the olive oil you use doesn’t matter that much, as long as it is a good first cold pressed extra virgin olive oil. My personal go-to is Partanna Sicilan Olive Oil.
Start by roasting the bell peppers on a parchment lined baking sheet for 40 minutes at 400F, turning them periodically. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap. Let stand until cool enough to handle, then peel and core.
Next, put all ingredients except the olive oil in the bowl of your food processor (or blender).
Process until smooth, stopping to scrape sides as needed.
Finally add the olive oil slowly with the motor running and process until combined.
Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Transfer to a bowl. For best results, if you have the time, let the sauce stand for an hour at room temperature before serving, allowing the flavors to mingle…
This sauce is a fantastic dip or spread and is also delicious with grilled vegetables, seafood or poultry.
Other recipes you might like:
- 2 red bell peppers large (or 3 medium, or one 16 oz jar of roasted peppers)
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds
- 1/2 cup whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
- 2 tbsp Sherry vinegar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
- 1/4 cup olive oil extra virgin
- Roast bell peppers on a parchment lined baking sheet for 40 minutes at 400F, turning them every 10 minutes so they get evenly roasted. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap. Let stand until cool enough to handle, then peel and core.
- Place red peppers, tomato paste, garlic, almonds, breadcrumbs, vinegar, paprika, cayenne, salt, pepper in a food processor. Pulse until smooth, stopping to scrape sides as needed.
- Add olive oil slowly with motor running and process until combined.
- Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
- Transfer sauce to bowl and set aside for serving. (Sauce can be refrigerated for a few days or frozen.)