A gluten-free version of the famous Catalan tomato-and-red-pepper sauce
Romesco sauce originated in the Catalan region of northeastern Spain. No two recipes seem to be quite the same, but virtually all of them include red chile pepper (both fresh and dried), tomato, garlic, and nuts.
Traditionally, this sauce is served with seafood. It’s also terrific with grilled meat and poultry, or when used as a dip with chips or crudités. Or as a sauce on vegetables.
Versatile and delicious. Two of our faves.
Recipe: Romesco Sauce (or Dip)
Romesco sauce is traditionally made with dried ñora chile peppers, and often with piquillo peppers as well. Both can be hard to find in the US (they’re mostly available through online sources).
Fortunately, some good substitutes are commonly available. Our version of the recipe uses roasted red bell peppers and ancho chile powder, both of which can be found in almost any supermarket (see Notes for other substitutions).
Many Romesco recipes use dried breadcrumbs as a thickener. But we’ve opted to add extra nuts instead because we think they provide better flavor and texture (as a bonus, this substitution also makes the dish gluten free).
We’ve made numerous versions of this sauce and have sampled several ingredient combinations. The version we discuss here (which is heavily influenced by Martha Rose Shulman’s recipe in Mediterranean Harvest) is our favorite. It yields excellent flavor and is easy to prepare.
You can make this dish from start to finish in about 30 minutes (much of that time involves waiting for the roasted peppers to cool off enough to be handled). The sauce tastes best if you let it sit at room temperature for about an hour before serving it.
This recipe makes about 2 to 3 cups of sauce.
Leftovers keep for about a week if refrigerated in an airtight container.
- 1 large red bell pepper (8 or more ounces)
- 2 to 4 garlic cloves (to taste)
- ½ cup peeled almonds (or a mix of almonds and hazelnuts)
- 1 14-ounce can of fire-roasted tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons ancho chile powder (or another chile powder of your choice; see Notes)
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste; see Notes)
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (may substitute wine vinegar)
- 3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (to taste; we prefer 4)
- First, roast the red bell pepper (you can do this in advance of making the sauce; once you’ve completed this step, just refrigerate the roasted pepper in an airtight container until you’re ready to finish the recipe): Wash and dry the red bell pepper, then place it on the highest rack under the oven broiler. Broil the pepper, turning it every few minutes, until the skin of the pepper is blistered and blackened. Then remove the pepper from the oven and place it in a bowl to cool (cover the bowl with plastic wrap). When the pepper is cool enough to handle, use a knife to scrape off the skin. Then cut the pepper in half lengthwise. Core and stem the pepper, then remove the seeds and membrane.
- Meanwhile, peel the garlic cloves and set them aside.
- After you’ve completed Step 1, add the garlic cloves and nuts to a food processor, then process until they’re finely ground. Add the roasted red bell pepper and process until the mixture is smooth. Add the tomatoes, chile powder, smoked paprika, salt, and sherry vinegar. Process until smooth. With the food processor running, slowly add the olive oil. Taste, then adjust the seasoning if necessary.
- Serve the Romesco sauce at room temperature. (As the sauce rests, its flavor will intensify.)
- We’ve made this sauce using almonds alone, hazelnuts alone, and a mix of the two. We slightly prefer the mix. Our second favorite is almonds alone.
- We generally use peeled, slivered nuts in this recipe. When using almonds, it doesn’t matter much whether the nuts are skinless. But with hazelnuts, skinless is definitely preferable.
- We don’t roast the almonds or hazelnuts, but you may prefer to do this (roasting adds some depth of flavor).
- You can also use pine nuts in this dish.
- Ancho chile powder is fairly mild, but has good flavor. You can substitute another chile powder if you prefer (we often use a medium Hatch chile powder).
- Many cooks use sweet paprika in this dish, but we prefer the flavor of smoked paprika.
- Canned fire-roasted tomatoes are usually of excellent quality. And we like their slightly smoky flavor.
- Don’t have fire-roasted tomatoes on hand? You can substitute fresh tomatoes (roast them with the red bell pepper in Step 1).
- Some recipes suggest using jarred pimento instead of roasted red bell pepper. This is easier, but the flavor of the sauce will be much diminished.
- We use kosher salt in cooking. It’s less salty by volume than regular table salt. (The crystals are larger and more irregular, so they pack a measure less tightly.) If using table salt, start with about half the amount we suggest. But always season to your taste, not ours.
“Yummacious,” said Mrs Kitchen Riffs. “Reminds me why I love Barcelona.”
“Where we won’t be going this year,” I said.
“Yeah, bummer,” said Mrs K R. “We won’t get to hear them boast about their soccer team.”
“Which is the best in the world!” I said. “As they always helpfully point out to us.”
“If you’ve got it, flaunt it,” said Mrs K R. “Though I’d brag about Romesco instead. And their wonderful Crema Catalana.”
Priorities, you know.
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