Learn How to Make the Catalan Romesco Sauce

Romesco sauce with grilled beef tri-tip

One of the two great sauces from Catalonia is romesco sauce, originally from Tarragona. The other famous sauce is allioli more commonly known by its Provençal name aïoli. In Tarragona this preparation is as typical of the region as is paella in Valencia.  Anton Gelabert, a painter from Barcelona wrote a book of romesco sauce called Llibre dels romescos.  It is not important as a dish but is the sauce that goes with suquet, a fish stew, although the dish is called romescoSuquet is a class of fish sauces, and means, literally, culinary preparation.  Romesco is a vinegary-almondy sauce that begins with a sofregit of onions, garlic and tomatoes.  Romesco sauce is also the famous accompaniment to the spring Calçotada, the name of the open-air festival where calçots, young spring onions or leeks that are large but that have not yet formed a bulb, are grilled and eaten with romesco sauce and lots of wine is drunk. This particular recipe I saw demonstrated at the now defunct Florian restaurant at Bertrand i Serra 20 in the Sant Gervasi section of Barcelona.   The demonstration was held by the chef and owner Rosa Grau and her sous-chef Enrique Martin.  I have adapted the recipe to be more suitable to an American home kitchen.  Guindilla chiles are a mild chile and the chile you almost always find as a garnish on top of tapas in Barcelona bars.  They can be replaced with any finger-type chile that’s not too piquant, such as Italian peperoncino chiles or Anaheim (California or Hatch) chiles. This recipe makes a good amount of romesco sauce, which can be stored in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.

Romesco Sauce
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Sauce
Cuisine: Catalan
Serves: 3 cups
  • 1 large slice Italian or French country bread, crust removed (about 2 ounces)
  • ¾ cup whole blanched almonds, toasted in an oven until light golden
  • 4 medium onions, finely chopped
  • ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more if necessary
  • 2 heads garlic, cloves separated
  • 9 large plum tomatoes (about 1¾ pounds), cut in half, seeds squeezed out, and grated against the largest holes of a grater
  • 2 roasted guindilla (finger) peppers, peeled, cored, and seeded
  • 4 large roasted red bell peppers, peeled, cored, and seeded
  • ¾ cup red and white wine vinegar (mixed)
  1. In a small skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat, then cook the bread until golden on both sides. Remove and place in the food processor with the almonds. Process until fine. Remove and set aside.
  2. Put the cut-up onions in the food processor. Pull 6 cloves off one of the heads of garlic, peel, and chop and place in the processor with the onions. Process both until very fine.
  3. In a earthenware casserole (preferably), heat about 6 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat, then cook, stirring occasionally, the sofrito of onions, remaining whole garlic cloves, and tomatoes until quite dense, about 1½ hours. (If using earthenware and it is not flameproof, or if you don't know, you will need to use a heat diffuser. Earthenware heats up slower but retains its heat, longer than non-earthenware casseroles. When using earthenware, food may cook slower at first and then cook very quickly while retaining its heat, so adjust accordingly). This is the romesco.
  4. Place the bell peppers and chiles in a saucepan or skillet with the wine vinegar and reduce the vinegar by three-quarters over high heat. Pour the peppers, along with the almonds and bread, into the casserole with the onion and tomatoes and cook until thick, about another 30 minutes.
  5. Transfer the romesco to the food processor again, in batches if necessary, and process as you drizzle in 4 to 6 tablespoons of the remaining olive oil, making sure that you do not process for more than 20 seconds.


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