Say hello to Red Pepper Romesco Sauce, one of the most versatile sauces you have ever met. This Spanish sauce brightens and enhances vegetables and main dishes, doubles as a dip (or spread) for all of your favorite dunkables (packed lunch: simplified!), is a breeze to prepare, and is potent with power ingredients.
In one of my last years of graduate school, my husband and I traveled to Barcelona to visit friends who were living and teaching in the city for two terms. My most memorable experiences of the trip? (1) My car breaking down on the way to the airport (followed by a frantic scramble to get to the airport on time), and (2) reveling in romesco sauce.
I won’t make you relive the car angst, so on to romesco sauce. Oh my goodness. Roasted peppers, tomatoes, garlic, almonds, and a faint tangy zing from sherry vinegar, all blended into velvety luxury. It was spooned onto vegetables, served as a condiment for dunking bread, and presented with a variety of tapas options for savoring on, well, anything.
That’s the best way to consider romesco: good with everything.
Like other iconic recipes, variations are countless, so consider this one of many. But this one is darn good, if I do say so myself! One irrefutable ingredient. however, is roasted peppers, but I also add roasted Roma tomatoes and a bit of roasted onion, too. Simply toss everything on a sheet pan with olive oil, salt and pepper, slide into the oven, and walk away until roasted.
You can make romesco from jarred roasted peppers, but right now, as summer wanes, tomatoes and peppers are at their sweetest, and made even more so when roasted.
The finally assembly of the sauce is merely a matter of blending and seasoning. Along with the peppers, the other key ingredients are toasted almonds (which add a mellow, nutty base flavor, as well as body to the sauce), olive oil, paprika (ideally, smoked, known in Spain as pimenton), a splash of vinegar, and some garlic. Into the blender they go!
Many traditional recipes include day-old bread as a thickening agent, but some experimentation revealed that it was not necessary, so I’ve left it out (which makes the sauce easier to share with friends, no matter their diet).
Spicy, yet mellow, savory, yet with a caramelized vegetable sweetness, and versatile to the extreme. That’s romesco. Feel good about using generous dollops and taking large dunks, as it is beneficial to the heart (healthy fats from the almonds and olive oil) and great for the complexion (high in vitamin C).
1/2 cup roasted, lightly salted almonds (or toast your own)
Preheat oven to 425F.
Spread the bell peppers, tomatoes, and onion pieces on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes until vegetables are very soft. Cool completely on baking sheet.
In a blender, process the cooled vegetables, garlic, vinegar, paprika, and remaining olive oil until smooth. Add the almonds and process until blended and very smooth. If too thick, add a bit of water, a tablespoon at a time, until blend-able.
Transfer sauce to a container and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with your favorite entrees, on pasta, as a dip, or as s spread.