Classic Romesco sauce is an easy, aromatic, and versatile condiment you can serve as a dip, in sandwiches, or with grilled meat or fish.
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Romesco is probably my favorite sauce, so it’s a wonder I’ve never shared a recipe for it on this site. I’ve created a riff on classic Romesco sauce for my cookbook French Appetizers, and written different versions of the recipe for clients. So here today, I want to let you benefit from my years of making Romesco sauce for any and all occasions.
So is Romesco sauce really a sauce? It has a thick consistency and can be quite chunky, which in my mind, makes it closer to a dip than a sauce. According to the Oxford Companion to Food, classic Romesco sauce is “an important Catalan sauce, whose ingredients are normally a pounded mixture of fried bread, garlic, grilled tomato, almonds, and hazelnuts, plus paprika and chili powder, all made into a smooth paste with wine (…) and wine vinegar.” The use of stale bread or breadcrumbs thickens Romesco sauce further, adding to my dip theory.
Regardless of whether you call Romesco a sauce or a dip, I think we can all agree on one thing: its versatility. In Catalonia, the sauce is usually served with fish, but it is equally delicious with chicken, lamb, and roasted vegetables. I like to serve it as a dip with crunchy vegetables and crackers—my homemade savory crackers are just perfect with Romesco!—or spread over toasted baguette slices or in sandwiches.
In other words, in my mind, Romesco basically goes with anything. Try a spoonful and I’ll bet you’ll want to keep a jar of Romesco sauce on hand at all times, just like I do.
Helpful Tips for Making Classic Romesco Sauce
Play with consistency: Romesco sauce can be served thick and chunky, or smooth and looser. Although traditional recipes used stale bread or breadcrumbs to thicken Romesco, I’ve never found it necessary to use either. When you first blend it, this Romesco will be thick, so you can adjust its consistency as you please. When I serve Romesco as a dip, I like it to hold on crudités and crackers, so I keep it thicker (as pictured in this post.) If you serve Romesco as a sauce with fish, chicken, or roasted vegetables, you might want it to be looser. The consistency of Romesco depends largely on two ingredients: the type of tomatoes you use, and the amount of olive oil you incorporate. For a thicker, more assertive Romesco dip, I like to use sun-dried tomatoes and about half the olive oil indicated in the recipe. To create a sauce you can drizzle, use fresh tomatoes (which contain more water) and the full amount of olive oil. If the sauce is still a bit thick for your liking, add a tablespoon or two of water to process it to a really smooth consistency.
Get acidity from different sources: The reason Romesco sauce is so delicious, in my opinion, is because it so elegantly balances out the nutty, earthy flavors of roasted red peppers, toasted almonds, and smoked paprika, with the bright acidity of tomatoes and red wine vinegar. You may only use a spoonful of vinegar in the recipe, but it makes the biggest difference in terms of flavor. Red wine vinegar is traditional in Romesco sauce, but because I love citrus fruits so much, I can’t resist using it instead of the vinegar. Try both and then decide which one is your favorite!
Use the right variety of paprika: The intriguing, slightly smoky flavor of Romesco sauce comes from smoked paprika. There are several varieties of paprika, and the one you should be using is Spanish smoked paprika, not sweet Hungarian paprika. Spanish smoked paprika is often labeled as “pimentón” or “pimentón de la Vera” and the heat and sweetness levels depend on the blend of peppers used. Use a sweeter variety if you don’t want your Romesco sauce to be spicy at all, or go for a hot variety to add a little kick to the sauce.
Can Romesco Sauce Be Frozen?
Romesco is a fresh sauce that is emulsified with olive oil, a bit like a mayonnaise would be. Such sauces do not react well to freezing and thawing. Moreover, the bold flavors of Romesco sauce would be muted by a visit to the freezer, so no, I would not recommend freezing Romesco sauce. It’s so quick and easy to make, you can simply blend a batch when a craving arises!
Is Romesco Sauce Vegan?
Yes, I’m happy to report Romesco sauce is vegan! And I can’t think of a better sauce to serve with a large tray of chunky roasted vegetables.
Add all the ingredients to the bowl of a food processor. Blend to a smooth consistency, scraping the bowl down a few times along the way. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if needed. If the Romesco sauce is a bit thick to your liking, you can loosen it further by adding a few tablespoons of water or vegetable broth and blend again until incorporated and smooth.
SERVING: Serve Romesco sauce over grilled meat, fish, or roasted vegetables, as a spread in sandwiches or over toasted baguette slices, or as a dip with crunchy vegetables and crackers or pita chips.
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