Catalan Romesco Sauce is a Spanish dip with any grilled poultry, fish, egg or vegetable. It is made of roasted tomatoes, garlic, hazelnut, almond and red pepper with a touch of paprika. A perfect condiment for BBQ season!
A Catalan Ritual
This nutty sauce originates from Tarragona, about an hour south of Barcelona, Spain. The chances are… if you visit and try any restaurant on the city outskirts, you’ll end up with romesco sauce on your plate. It’s generally eaten with grilled meat, fish or veggies but also on their famous patatas bravas with some aioli. The Catalan rural houses often have a grilling spot in their backyard where in winter months, they do Calçotadas.
The equivalent of a Sunday brunch… Catalans have this ritual of grilling these special long onions called calçots. They are usually served with barbecued meat and veggies while sipping good wine all afternoon. This special onion, Calçot, is an appetizer with Catalan Romesco Sauce or a similar sauce called Salvitxada.
These onions are laborious to grow and the pride of Catalonia for a reason! The technique involves dumping the onions directly over the fire and burning them entirely. Don’t think about cleaning them up beforehand…. no! no! no! They need this layer of dirt to protect them from the flames and keep the inside moist.
Once the calçots blackened, they are wrapped up in a few layers of newspapers and put to 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 to that core… you’ll need to use your hand to pull down the burned layer off and then plop 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 messy, meaning your hands will get dirty, and if you are lucky, you won’t stain anything else… On a personal note… my first calçotada was a surprise from my friend on my wedding day! White was not the colour for the occasion! Well, it was like a ‘trash the dress’ event, the Catalan way. Who knows… maybe it’s the secret to a happy marriage.
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. I love it with green asparagus, or you could try it 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 this particular pepper from Spain to make it.
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 bad breath, so.. No worries!
Other Recipes with Romesco
So let’s get those veggies roasted!
Catalan Romesco Sauce
- 5 tomatoes (ripe)
- 150 ml olive oil (extra virgin, approx.)
- 80 g almonds (roasted and skinless)
- 50 g hazelnuts (roasted and skinless)
- 50 ml white wine vinegar
- 1 small slice of dry bread (or 25g of breadcrumbs)
- 1 garlic (the whole head)
- 1 small sweet red pepper (or bell)
- 1 tsp sweet and/or spicy paprika
- salt and pepper
- Cut the garlic head into two and fold it onto the aluminum paper.
- Add the tomatoes and pepper in the oven to max temperature and cook for 20 minutes, or until skin burns, turning mid-way.
- Leave the garlic head in the oven for 10-15 minutes while the tomato and pepper cool off.
- Blend the nuts and the dry bread in a food processor, add in a bowl and reserve.
- Discard the burned skin of the tomatoes and add them to the blended nuts.
- 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.
- The garlic is tender, so unwrap it and let it cool for a few minutes before squeezing it with your hands into the mix.
- Add the salt, pepper, paprika, and olive oil.
- Blend until smooth.
- Add the vinegar (to taste) and more olive oil until the right consistency.
- Check the seasoning and serve.
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Lovely! That is what I have been waiting for haha (:
Haha! I m such a teaser, sorry about that;)
Sounds very good 🙂
This sauce is new to me, but I’d really like to try it. With that roasted garlic in there, I’m sure it must be amazing!
It’s the ketchup of Spanish guys! I’ve converted in seconds! A must try for sure!
I love romesco but had completely forgotten about it. I think it may need to be on my weekend “to make” list
It s a great addition to anything grilled!
Great recipe. Is there a nut you could substitute for hazelnuts? My husband is allergic to them (only hazelnuts and brazil nuts – weird, I know!) Gorgeous colour.
Simply add some almonds that should taste great also!
I always wondered what exactly was in Romesco sauce. I know it’s delicious! (And oddly enough, I’m the opposite of the husband of the person who commented about him being allergic to hazelnuts. I’m allergic to almonds! But I’ll sub in another nut instead. 🙂 )
I m sure you ll find a nice substitute for almonds. Enjoy!
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