Romesco Sauce

Heavily influenced by the Moorish rule of the Iberian Peninsula from 711ad to 1492AD, the cuisine of Spain incorporates many influences from both the Arab world as well as the new world.  Moors (a collective term for both the Arabs and Berbers that invaded and ruled the Iberian peninsula) are credited with introducing many of characteristic ingredients to this region including: citrus, dates, eggplant, zucchini, rice, almonds, sugar, and the use of exotic spices such as saffron, cinnamon, and cumin.  The discovery of the new world by Christopher Columbus and other explorers contributed a great many new ingredients such as peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, and chocolate.

Spanish regional map Romesco sauce bears some similarities to Gazpacho in that it blends Moorish influence with New World ingredients.  Romesco however is from the region of Catalonia in the northeast and Gazpacho originated in the region of Andalusia, at the very southern end of the peninsula.   The modern food processor makes easy and quick work of what would have traditionally been a bit more cumbersome to prepare.  Romesco is a blending of ground nuts (often hazelnuts and/or almonds), toasted bread, pureed tomatoes and/or peppers, vinegar, spices and garlic.  Romesco could also be considered a cousin to Syrian Muhumarra, a very similar style sauce which traditionally uses pine nuts.

                       Romesco Sauce ingredients in processor          Finished Romesco in Processor

If “variety is the spice of life” then Romesco is one of the condiments and sauces everyone should learn to make.  Romesco can be used for anything from a dipping sauce for bread and vegetables to a pasta sauce, sandwich spread, and salad dressing.  Use it on its own or mix it with mayonnaise, sour cream, yogurt and other ingredients and let your mind and tastebuds go wild!

Romesco Sauce & Grilled Potatoes 2

Many variations abound, some relying more on roasted peppers as the base and other using tomatoes and tomato paste combined with dried chilies but all are very similar.  Adjust the nuts and combination of ingredients to suit your taste.  This is a recipe I recently concocted:

Spanish-Style Romesco Sauce

Yield: About 3 cups

3 red bell peppers
1 tomato
1 piece of country-style bread (any type of firm artisan type bread will do)
1/2 cup olive oil, divided use
1/2 cup toasted almonds
3 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Preheat a charcoal or gas grill.  If a grill isn’t available, then preheat broiler.

Roast peppers on the grill or in the broiler until charred.   Cut the tomato in half at the equator.  Rub both sides of the tomato and the bread with a little of the olive oil.  Place tomatoes cut side down on the grill along with the bread.  Grill until toasted and slightly charred on both sides.

Remove core and peel roasted peppers.  Place all ingredients except olive oil into the workbowl of a food processor.  Grind until mixture comes together into a paste.  Scrape sides of bowl and while processor is running, drizzle in remaining olive oil to form an emulsion.  Taste and adjust seasoning with additional garlic, vinegar, salt or pepper as desired.  Use as desired or refrigerate for future use.  The sauce should be fine for 1-2 weeks refrigerated.  Freeze for longer storage and return to processor to re-emulsify if necessary after thawing.