Romesco Sauce is a polyvalent sauce that goes well with any grilled meat, fish or vegetable. It’s main ingredients are roasted tomatoes, garlic, hazelnut, almond, a red pepper pulp with a touch of paprika. A perfect condiment for BBQ season!
A Catalan ritual
The orange and nutty sauce originates from Tarragona, about an hour south of Barcelona, Spain. The chances are… if you come visit and try any restaurant in the outskirts of the city you’ll end up with romesco sauce in your plate. It’s especially eaten with grilled meat, fish or veggies but also on their famous papas bravas with some aioli. The Catalan rural houses often have a grilling spot in their backyard where in the winter month they do calçotadas. The equivalent of a sunday brunch… for Catalans though, the ritual consist of grilling those special green onions they call calçots which resembles leeks (but taste nothing like it) and then grill some meats and veggies while sipping on good wine all afternoon long. This special onion appetizer is eaten with romesco sauce or a similar sauce called salvitxada (more liquid by adding tomatoes and less pepper pulp).
Those laborious to grow onions are the pride of Catalans and with reason! The technique consist of dumping the onions directly over the fire and burning them completely and don’t think about cleaning them up before…. no! no! no! they need this layer of dirt to protect them from the flame and keep the inside moist. Once the calçots blackened, they envelope them in a few layers of newspapers and let them rest for about 30 minutes to let the residual heat do the rest of the work. You end up with a delectable tender and melting core but to get there… you’ll need to use your hand to pull down the burned layer and then dump the onion directly in the romesco sauce. After all those steps you’ll get the reward you deserve a tender and delicious onion with a nutty romesco sauce that brings it to another level. The whole process is quite a messy one… meaning your hands are going to get dirty and if you are lucky you won’t stain anything else… On a personal note… my first calçotada was on my wedding day… white is definitely not the best color to wear at those events guys!
A great alternative
This nutty and rich sauce is the ketchup of the Catalans, they put it on everything and believe me I’ve converted too. I personally love it with green asparagus, or you could give it a try as your new ketchup in a burger. (Check my Spanish Burger recipe here). This romesco recipe version is adapted for anyone, meaning you won’t need that special pepper from Spain to make it, although I recommend to search it up because it does give the sauce a special flair. For those worried about the whole head of garlic in there…don’t! It’s a roasted garlic that will melt like butter and become sweet, it won’t give you this bad breath so.. No worries!
So let’s get those veggies roasted!
- 5 riped tomatoes
- ±150ml of extra-virgin olive oil
- 80g almonds (roasted and skinless)
- 50g hazelnuts (roasted and skinless)
- 1 garlic head
- 1 small sweet red pepper or 2 ñoras pulp (or 1 tbsp of pasta de ñora or choricero)
- 50ml of white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp of sweet and/or spicy paprika
- 1 small slice of dry bread
- salt and pepper
- Start by cutting the garlic head into two (see picture below) and fold it in aluminium paper, add the tomatoes and pepper in the oven to max temperature and cook for 20 minutes, turning mid-way
- Leave the garlic head in the oven for an extra 10-15 minutes while the tomato and pepper chill
- During that time, blend the nuts and the dry bread in a food processor, add in a bowl and reserve
- Discard the skin and the stem from the tomatoes and add them to the blended nuts bowl
- With the help of a knife, scrape the inside of the pepper, discard the skin, stem and seeds and add the pulp to the mix
- By now the garlic is tender so unwrap it and let it cool a few minutes before squeezing it with your hands into the mix (see picture above)
- Add the salt, pepper, paprika, and the olive oil
- Blend with an immersion blender until smooth
- Add the vinegar (to taste) and more olive oil until right consistency
- Check the seasonning and serve (conserve in the fridge for a few days)