What is Romesco sauce?
Creamy Spanish red pepper Romesco sauce gets its full flavor from a combination of roasted red peppers, tomatoes and garlic with a splash of red wine vinegar and smoked paprika. Ground hazelnuts and almonds for thickening and flavor and well, there you have it. Is it a sauce, dip, spread? Yes, yes and yes. Romesco sauce at your service!
A brief history
Romesco sauce (salasa Romesco) comes to us from Catalonia, Tarragona specifically. The accepted history is that it was created in the fifteenth century by the fisherman of the region. Like all good sauces, the recipe has numerous iterations. My favorite, healthed-up variation starts with roasted red peppers, tomatoes and garlic.
If you’re going to create a great red pepper sauce, start with great ingredients, perfectly prepared. To me, this means not opting for the easy, heavily oil-laden jarred roasted red peppers. No need here, thank you very much. I find it easiest to cut the tops of my red peppers, then pulling out the core and splitting them into quarters. I also use the flesh left at the top if possible. Waste not, want not.
How to roast red peppers
I’m a huge fan of roasting peppers and whole cloves of garlic. I use the same method when I make spicy pepper sauce for burritos and soups. For our Romesco sauce, we’ll put everything in the oven to roast – the peppers, garlic and a few tomatoes. Depending on your oven size and temperature accuracy, this will take about 20 minutes. Be sure to line your baking tray with parchment paper or foil. This is a bit of a messy process and who wants to spend time cleaning up when you have sauce to eat?
Ground hazelnuts and almonds are not just thickeners. They create a creamy, smooth texture and a deep flavor that you won’t get anywhere else. For this recipe, I’ve used ¼ cup of each kind of nut; however, you could dispense with the combination and only use almonds or hazelnuts. Your choice. Just throw your nuts into a spice grinder or food processor and reduce them to a powder. There is no need to peel the nuts (remove the skins). Your resulting ground nuts will be slightly moist due to the natural fat content.
Prepare to blend
You’ll know when the peppers are ready because the skins have gone dark brown or a bit black. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool before you attempt peeling the skins. One more hack here: wrap the hot peppers in plastic wrap. It makes them easier to peel. The skins of the tomatoes will fall off, so you don’t need the same process. The garlic just gets thrown into the blender.
Go forth, blend!
Ready with the peeled peppers? Toss everything, including the vinegar, smoked paprika and ground nuts into your blender. Go to town. Make it as smooth as you like. Be sure to taste it, to adjust the spices. Right. It’s a good excuse. It should turn the loveliest color of auburn, think sunset.
What can I put Romesco on?
The answer – you are only limited by your imagination. Romesco is often served in Spain as a dipping sauce with grilled vegetables. You can serve it hot or cold. Warm a bit in the microwave or on the stove. Store extra in the freezer (like there’s going to be extra).
Think Romesco, not cheese sauce
Let’s all admit – giving up cheese is difficult. I’m still experimenting to create the ‘perfect’ cheese sauce. My endeavors considerably slowed down when red pepper Romesco arrived. It’s fantastic over vegetables. A sophisticated plant-based cheese sauce, if you will.
Tried chickpeas Romesco? Plate of yum! Rinse and drain 2 cans of chickpeas and sauté them with a small diced onion. Add 2 cups of red pepper Romesco sauce. Serve as is over greens, rice and of course, pasta. Genuinely decadent.
What isn’t good with toast?
You can fancy up any meal with Romesco bruschetta. It pairs well with olives and arugula (rocket). If you want to go all out, whip up sweet potato flatbread and create Spanish pizzas. Thank goodness this recipe yields around 5-6 cups.
When I think Romesco sauce, I think flavor, decadence and versatility. Having given up cheese for a few years now, I don’t often miss it. I’m in a lull of trying to recreate it, because I’ve yet to taste a relevant replacement. Romesco provides a great option for veggies and pasta (and of course toast). The plant-based approach in my humble opinion, is not about replacing what you think you can’t ‘give up’. It’s about not being stuck in past habits. That void you think you’re experiencing is just opportunity knocking. Run toward it with spoon in hand. Peace.Print
Creamy, versatile red pepper Romesco sauce is easy to make, full of flavor and oil free. Romesco is a dip, spread and sauce all in one simple recipe.
- 6 red bell peppers, cleaned and quartered
- 2 medium ripe tomatoes (or 4 small), washed with the stem at the top cut out
- 3 cloves garlic peeled
- ¼ cup raw (or lightly roasted, no salt added) almonds
- ¼ cup raw (or lightly roasted, no salt added) hazelnuts
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1 ½ tbsp. red wine vinegar (sherry vinegar will work here too)
- ½ tsp. salt (optional)
Bonus recipe: Chickpeas Romesco
- 2- 15 oz. cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 small onion diced
- 2 cups red pepper Romesco sauce
- Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C).
- Prepared the red peppers, by cleaning them and cutting them into quarters. Peel the garlic and leave whole. Wash the tomatoes and cut the brown core out.
- Place the peppers, tomatoes and garlic on a baking tray lined with parchment paper or foil. Start the peppers skin side up. Roast and turn the peppers as needed until the peppers have charred and the skins are blistered. Turn the peppers as needed and consider rotating the tray for even roasting. This should take about 20 minutes.
- Remove the peppers and allow them to cool. You can cover the peppers tightly in plastic wrap and let them sit for 10 minutes. This loosen the skins and make them easier to peel.
- While the peppers cool, grind the almonds and hazelnuts in a spice grinder or blender. This ensures that all the nuts will be ground before you finish the sauce.
- When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel and discard the skins and any leftover seeds. Peel the tomatoes as well.
- Add the peppers, tomatoes, garlic, ground nuts (1/2 cup), smoked paprika (1 tsp.), red wine vinegar (1 ½ Tbsp.) and ½ tsp. salt (optional).
- Blend until smooth. Taste and adjust the paprika or salt.
- Serve sauce warm, hot or cold.
- In a medium skillet, add the sauté the onions for about 5 minutes until they start to soften.
- Add the chickpeas and keep them moving in the pan until they start to brown.
- Add 2 cups of the romesco sauce and heat through.
- Serve over pasta, greens or roasted vegetables.
- This sauce is super nice with just peppers and garlic. If you don’t roast tomatoes and want to substitute canned tomatoes, be sure to drain them. Otherwise your sauce may be too thin for your liking.
- Smoked paprika provides a spicy kick, but it you want something a bit more mellow, consider using a sweet paprika. If you want it even spicier, try 1 tsp. red chili flakes.
- Other spice options for this sauce include fresh or dried basil or oregano. If you add fresh, just blend them toward the end our use as a garnish for the finished dish.
- Romesco sauce will keep in the refrigerator for several days. It can also be frozen (be sure to heat frozen sauce so it can thicken back up).
- Category: Main Courses
- Method: Roast/Blend
- Cuisine: Spanish
Keywords: red pepper Romesco sauce