Romesco Sauce

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  • My first experience with romesco sauce was with Jose Andres in my early foodie days at one of his restaurants down in DC. Little did I know that years later I’d be traveling with him and other greats (ahem, Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert) to Puerto Rico for a culinary adventure.

    overhead angle of romesco sauce recipe in a glass jar

    At first glance it appeared to be a thick tomato based sauce sauce with coarse texture, but first bite was pure love. The vinegar and sweet undertones with vinegar and almond were delightful. I wanted to put this sauce on everything!

    What is Romesco Sauce?

    Romesco is a Spanish sauce that was historically made by fisherman to be enjoyed with fish and as a dip for spring onions. The traditional base is tomato and roasted red pepper, but it always has almonds that give a unique crunchy texture.

    Heat can range from mild and acidic to spicy with sweat beads forming on your brow. This can come from using ancho chile powder, a smoky chile, crushed red pepper flakes or sometimes even fresh chiles.

    gold spoon with tomato based sauce

    it is usually spiked with sherry or vinegar and thickened with stale, leftover bread. A technique also used i many soups like gazpacho.

    Romesco Sauce Recipes

    Romesco recipes vary greatly in ingredients and preparation from simple with a bunch of kitchen hacks to long, lengthy and laborious. I wanted to keep some of the authenticity of the sauce, so I found my blend being somewhere in the middle.

    It keeps some heady flavors from roasted, but also cuts a few corners so the process is still desirable and not too time consuming. It is just a red pepper sauce, afterall.

    head on view of homemade romesco in a glass jar

    Ingredients

    The ingredients for making an easy romesco sauce recipe vary, so know that amounts can be scaled to your personal preference and in many cases swapped or omitted.

    • Olive oil – Spaniards swear by using a good quality Spanish olive oil. I would say use a first press Virgin oil that is certified from Italy, Spain or made in the US. Many imported oils are actually blended with vegetable oil and taste bland in comparison to the authentic stuff.
    • Plum tomatoes- The ultimate tomato for making sauces, it is sweet and doesn’t contain as much grainy pulp or seeds. The skin is also thin and blends into the sauce without the need for steaming and peeling. I do not like using tomato paste, as it is too flavor-forward and drowns out the other profiles.
    • Garlic– Some recipes use fresh garlic, but I love the caramelization of roasted garlic.
    • Yellow onion- Or sweet onion. While it flavors the dish, it is not the flavor of the dish.
    • Bread- Old school recipes used stale bread, but fresh is fine too. I like just plain old white or wheat sandwich bread. Get fancy and use other varieties. Why use bread? It helps to thicken and stablize the sauce.
    • Roasted red bell peppers– You can roast your own red peppers or grab a jar. This is one of the corners I cut by using jarred peppers. I really hate peeling the skins off!
    • Slivered almonds- Blanched almonds that are slivered give me the texture I crave in romesco blends. They don’t have skins and can easily be plopped right into the food processor. Whole almonds will need to be shelled and the papery skin removed. Pine nuts are a good swap, but can be costly for this volume.
    • Ancho chile powder– Made from ancho chiles, mild and smoky flavor, it is seen mostly in Mexican food, but does this dish a world of good. Jose uses dehydrated ancho chiles, but I found this to be another one of those corners I was willing to cut. Other recipes use ñora peppers, but these are hard to find.
    • Sweet paprika– Smoked or spicy can also be swapped.
    • Sherry vinegar- Robust and heady, this splash of acid makes the sauce. Use red wine vinegar if you don’t have sherry on hand.
    • Coarse Kosher salt– Salt helps to accentuate the others flavors and brightens.
    • Sugar- With all of these bold flavors, many of them being acidic, they also need to be balanced and a small amount of sugar helps to accomplish that goal.
    angle view of romesco in a glass jar

    How to Make Homemade Romesco

    1. The first step to getting amazing flavor is roasting. Slice up the onion and quarter the tomatoes, pushing out pulp and seeds with your fingers, and toss with the garlic and olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast in the oven, turning once during the process.
    2. Remove the roasted vegetables and place everything, including the juices into a large food processor. This is one recipe where a food processor is critical. It would take oodles of time to chop this all by hand and the consistency would still probably be a little off.
    3. When the tomato blend is coming into a sauce (it won’t be fully smooth), add the rest of the ingredients and continue to blend for 3-4 minutes. The blend will be toothy and aromatic.
    4. You can serve straight from the food processor or heat on the stove in a medium saucepan for 5 minutes.
    step by step of how to make romesco sauce

    My Favorite Shortcut

    Sometimes I am low on time, but still want an amazing sauce. While there is no doubt that roasting gives maximum flavor, you can use this shortcut.

    1. Place the onion and garlic into a medium skillet and saute with olive oil for 4-5 minutes to soften and lightly brown.
    2. Swap the fresh tomatoes with a 14-ounce can of fire roasted tomatoes.
    3. Continue with the rest of the instructions as written.

    Romesco Uses

    Romesco is a versatile sauce that can be used on lamb, chicken, seafood or beef. Romesco sauce is popular for vegetable trays and good as a spread or dip!

    I serve it over pan fried lamb chops, meatballs and sometimes just on a cheese platter.

    Storage & Freezing

    Romesco sauce can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight container for up to a week in the refrigerator. Like many chilled sauces and soups, give a good stir and also taste test for seasoning before serving. Many sauces became a little dull and need a tad more salt and or chile powder to revive them to their original glory.

    This is also a freezer friendly sauce. Place in an airtight container or plastic bag with the air removed and freeze for up to 6 months.

    romesco recipe for pinterest

    More easy sauce recipes:

    Beurre Blanc Sauce
    jar of beurre blanc sauce with a spoon
    Beurre Blanc is a classic French sauce translated as "white butter"- which is an emulsified lemon butter sauce.
    Yum Yum Sauce Recipe
    whisking ingredients for yum yum sauce
    Yum Yum Sauce is an easy sauce for seafood and vegetables.  Now you can make your favorite pink sauce at home!
    Homemade Ranchero Sauce
    close up of ranchero sauce with limes
    Perfect for topping your favorite Mexican dishes like burritos and enchiladas, this Homemade Ranchero Sauce recipe is packed full of flavor!
    close up of romesco in a glass jar

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    Print Recipe
    5 from 2 votes

    Romesco Sauce

    Romesco is a hearty, thick and smoky tomato-based sauce that uses nuts and bread for flavor and texture. Serve it over lamb, beef or even vegetables.
    Prep Time10 mins
    Cook Time1 hr
    Total Time1 hr 10 mins
    Course: Condiment
    Cuisine: Spanish
    Keyword: romesco recipe, romesco sauce, romesco sauce recipe
    Servings: 2 cups
    Calories: 394kcal
    Author: Jessica Formicola

    Ingredients

    Instructions

    • Preheat the oven to 400°F degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Set aside.
    • Trim any woody stems from the tomatoes. Quarter and press out pulp and/or seeds using your fingers. Some remaining is fine. Place the tomatoes, garlic and onion onto the baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, tossing to coat.
    • Roast the vegetables for 30 minutes, turning once. Remove and transfer all of the vegetables and juices to a large food processor.
    • Pulse until a paste forms. Add the bread, red peppers, almonds, chile powder, paprika, sherry vinegar, sugar and salt. Blend on high until mixture is combined and coarse.
    • Serve immediately or heat in a saucepan over low heat for 5 minutes.
    • If you've tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was in the comments or star ratings.

    Notes

    Shortcut:
    • Place the onion and garlic into a medium skillet and saute with olive oil for 4-5 minutes to soften and lightly brown.
    • Swap the fresh tomatoes with a 14-ounce can of fire roasted tomatoes.
    • Continue with the rest of the instructions as written.
    Storage & Freezing
    Romesco sauce can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight container for up to a week in the refrigerator. Like many chilled sauces and soups, give a good stir and also taste test for seasoning before serving. Many sauces became a little dull and need a tad more salt and or chile powder to revive them to their original glory.
    Romesco sauce is freezer friendly. 

    Nutrition

    Calories: 394kcal | Carbohydrates: 43g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 1427mg | Potassium: 1132mg | Fiber: 13g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 5780IU | Vitamin C: 45.8mg | Calcium: 218mg | Iron: 5.5mg

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