Romesco sauce is possibly the most famous of all the Spanish sauces. A classic Catalonian sauce, its rich, smoky flavor brings a touch of Spanish magic to everything it touches.
Romesco sauce is certainly enjoying it's moment in the international spotlight, and it's easy to see why. There's something so deep and complex about the flavor profile of this classic Spanish sauce.
The first time I had Romesco sauce was in Barcelona, where the food is, of course, phenomenal. It was creamy and rich and topped a hot plateful of crunchy patatas bravas. So perfectly partnered were the crispy potatoes and the smoky sauce, that I knew I had to create this sauce at home.
Every chef and home cook that has recreated this classic sauce will swear that their version is the most authentic. A Romesco sauce recipe is the equivalent of grandma's secret recipe - we all remember it differently , but indeed, we all remember it!
What is Romesco Sauce?
Romesco sauce comes from Tarragona, a Catalonian city just south of Bracelona on Spain's northeast coast. The fishermen in this area made it to eat with fish.
Typically it's made with base of peppers, almonds and tomatoes. Thickeners such as breadcrumbs or flour are generally added, sometimes just for the texture they provide. You'll find chunky, textured varieties as well as smooth and creamy versions of this classic Spanish sauce. More on that later...
What's in Romesco Sauce?
- Roasted Red Peppers: In Spain romesco sauce is normally made with nora peppers, but elsewhere, where nora peppers are not readily available, we can substitute roasted red peppers which have that same sweet, smoky taste this sauce is famous for. You can roast your own peppers (here is my tutorial), or you can use roasted red peppers from a jar.
- Almonds: Choose slivered almonds. We'll toast them on the stove top.
- Bread: Choose a crusty bread like baguette. If you can leave a few pieces out overnight, that's perfect! If not, don't worry, it will still taste good. Bread features heavily in Spanish sauces, and once you try it, you'll begin adding it to other sauces as well.
- Garlic: Some romesco sauce recipes call for the addition of raw garlic for that bold, bite that only garlic can provide. I, however, prefer the milder smoother taste of garlic that has been briefly sauteed.
- Tomato paste: We're using tomato paste here. Tomato paste consists of tomatoes that have been cooked over a long period of time and reduced to a concentrate. I love the mild, concentrated punch that tomato paste brings to this sauce.
- Paprika: Choose smoked paprika, which is widely available at well stocked grocers.
- Cayenne: Cayenne pepper has a Scoville rating of 30,000-50,000 units, making it 10 times hotter than a jalapeno pepper! But, cayenne has more to offer than heat, it's also a natural flavor enhancer. My top tip for cooking with this staple spice is to add it slowly as it tends to intensify as it cooks. Please adjust the amount in the recipe according to your own preference for heat!
- Olive Oil: As always, a good extra virigin variety is recommended.
- Thyme: Sharp, floral and mintry, thyme is the perfect foil to spicy cayenne and paprika.
- Vinegar: If you can find sherry vinegar, that's ideal. If not, red wine vinegar makes a good stand in.
Let's Make it!
Time needed: 45 minutes.
How To Make Romesco Sauce
- Roast your red peppers.
If you're roasting your red peppers at home, preheat your oven to 220 C (430 F) and follow my simple tutorial for roasting red peppers. You'll simply need to cut two peppers in half, remove the seeds and white membrane and place them cut side down of a baking sheet. Roast them for 30-35 minutes. If you're using roasted red peppers from a jar, skip this step.
- Toast the bread and almonds on the stove top.
While your peppers are roasting (if you're making them from scratch), heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan. Cut your bread into rough crouton size pieces, and toast for about two minutes over low heat. Now add the almonds and garlic and toast for a further minute or two, until the almonds release their fragrance and everything is nice and golden.
- Blend everything together!
Transfer the toasted croutons and almonds to a blender. If you have a high speed blender (like I do), it's fine to add in all the ingredients and pulse until a creamy consistency is achieved. If your blender isn't a Vitamix or similar high speed variety, you're best to first blend the croutons and almonds to a fine, sand like consistency before adding the other ingredients. Add a bit of water to get things moving if you need to.
All Your Questions Answered
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week
Yes, you can! Freeze two tablespoons of sauce in each compartment of an ice cube tray until frozen. Remove from the tray and transfer to a freezer bag and store for up to three months. Alternatively, store in an airtight container.
While it won't necessarily be an authentic romesco sauce, you can easily make a great roasted red pepper sauce without using the almonds in this recipe. You could also try substituting sunflower seeds.
Yes, you can add less oil. I've written the recipe with a range of oil that will work (¼- ½ cup), but if you prefer to only use a few tablespoons, you can loose the sauce by adding water 1 tablespoon at a time until you reach the consistency you prefer.
Sure, no problem! Choose sweet paprika for a milder version.
Easy Spanish Romesco Sauce
- 2 red pepper or 465 g jar (16 oz)
- 2 slices crusty bread cut into rough crouton sized pieces
- ½ cup almonds, toasted
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 2 teaspoon sherry vinegar *or red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon cayenne
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ - ½ cup olive oil (60-120 ml) *plus a few tbs for sauteing the bread and almonds
- Preheat the oven to 220 C (430F) if you are going to make your own roasted red peppers. Cut the peppers in half and place cut side down on a parchment lined baking sheet. Roast until charred and blistered, about 30-35 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a bowl, cover with a tea towel and allow the peppers to sweat for 10 minutes . Now, peel off the charred skins. If you are using roasted red peppers from a jar, skip this step.
- Heat 2 tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan. Cut the bread into rough crouton sized pieces and toast over low heat for two minutes.
- Add the almonds and chopped garlic to the pan and continue sauteing until the almonds are fragrant. Remove from the heat and transfer to a blender. Pulse until a fine, sand like mixture is achieved.
- Now add the roasted red peppers, spices, vinegar, olive oil and salt and blend until a smooth consistency is reached. If you prefer a less chunky sauce, add more olive oil (or water) until you reach the consistency you prefer.