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Quick and Easy Romesco Sauce (Spanish red pepper sauce)

9 October 2019 | Last Updated: 10 October 2019

Romesco sauce is a Spanish sauce made from tomatoes, peppers, nuts, vinegar, and olive oil. It’s most commonly served with fish and seafood or as a dipping sauce for vegetables but can also be used to season or to thicken seafood stews. It’s thick and creamy (thanks to nuts and bread) but naturally vegan and healthy. It’s packed with flavor, and easy (my recipe uses only easy-to-get ingredients). You could call it Spanish pesto. My favorite way to serve it is with roasted cauliflower (roasted cauliflower steaks). It’s so good, you’ll be blown away!!

romesco sauce in a blue bowl

WHERE DOES ROMESCO SAUCE ORIGINATE?

This is a Spanish sauce originated in a city of Tarragona, which is located in the Catalonia province. The fishermen in this area made this sauce to be eaten with fish.

romesco sauce ingredients

ROMESCO SAUCE INGREDIENTS:

  • Red bell peppers – I wanted this recipe to be quick and easy recipe so I’ve used jarred grilled/roasted peppers. Make sure that you read the ingredients list before buying the peppers. They shouldn’t contain any preservatives or vinegar (don’t use marinated peppers, they should be roasted or grilled, in oil or water). You can also roast the red bell peppers yourself (tastes the same). Authentic romesco sauce is rather a tomato-based sauce and is made with ñora peppers, which are unfortunately hard to buy outside of Spain. Roasted red bell peppers and smoked paprika powder make a great substitute though. Purely authentic or not, once you try my recipe, you won’t care, I promise! This thing is so good you’ll want to spoon it over everything!
  • Tomatoes – I used canned tomatoes. You can also use fresh tomatoes, but they need to be roasted (instructions are included in the recipe card below).
  • Spices – I used smoked Spanish paprika (Pimenton de la Vera) and cayenne pepper for a hint of heat (don’t use much as this sauce shouldn’t be very hot). The smoked flavor works so great with this sauce. It’s a must since we’re not using ñora peppers, which add an earthy, slightly smoked flavor to the sauce. You can add a little less smoked paprika at the beginning if you’re not sure if you’ll like it. The intensity of this spice can also vary, depending on the brand. I used sweet smoked paprika, but also semi-sweet and hot smoked paprika are available. If you don’t like smoked paprika you can try to substitute it for regular paprika powder.
  • Nuts – some recipes use only almond or only hazelnuts. I found that the mixture of both is perfect and if I had to choose only one nut variety it would be hazelnuts. Almonds are too mild-flavored for this sauce. Hazelnuts add extra nuttiness and a more complex flavor to it. As for the almonds, you can use flaked almonds or whole skinless almonds. Hazelnuts: whole hazelnuts or already roasted and grounded hazelnuts.
  • Bread – it is used to thicken the sauce. Use good quality sourdough bread for the best results. Stale bread should be used, you can toast it or like I, pan-fry it with olive oil in a pan for extra flavor!
  • Vinegar – traditionally, sherry vinegar is rather used but I found its taste a little too strong, so I prefer to use red wine vinegar. It adds a nice sharp taste to the sauce. Some acidity is necessary.
  • Olive oil – extra-virgin olive oil, preferably fruity oil. It’s important to not blend it with other ingredients, as it can become bitter. Whisk it in slowly by hand until combined.
  • Brown sugar – not a traditional ingredient at all and maybe a little controversial, but I’m adding really just a 1/2 teaspoon. Such a small amount makes a difference though, it rounds up all the sharp tastes of the sauce. You can also skip it.
romesco sauce with cauliflower steaks and poached egg

HOW TO MAKE QUICK 10-Minute BLENDER ROMESCO SAUCE – step by step:

romesco sauce preparation steps

STEPS 1+2: Toast the hazelnuts and almonds on a dry pan until golden and fragrant (toast them separately, as hazelnuts need to be toasted a little longer). Take off the pan immediately. Wrap the hazelnuts into a clean kitchen cloth and rub to remove as much skin as possible (you can also buy already roasted, skinless and ground nuts).

STEP 3: Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and pan-fry the bread on both sides until golden.

romesco sauce preparation steps

STEP 4: Add all the ingredients for the sauce (except the olive oil) into a big bowl.

STEP 5: Puree with a hand (immersion) blender until smooth (it can be a little chunky, as you like). You can also puree it in a food processor or in a blender. If you’re not sure if you like smoked paprika powder, add a little less at the beginning and then season more to taste.
STEP 6: Whisk in olive oil by hand until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

HOW TO MAKE ROMESCO SAUCE FROM SCRATCH:

Making romesco sauce from scratch is easy but more time-consuming (but it’s still quick!). Surprisingly, I couldn’t taste a significant difference in flavor between this sauce and the sauce made with canned tomatoes and jarred peppers. The sauce is really well-seasoned so it doesn’t matter that much. I like to roast the vegetables when I have a lot on hand and need to use them up! On the other hand, toasting the nuts in the oven yields much better results as toasting on a dry pan. Nuts are more evenly toasted and taste better.

  1. Roast the tomatoes and bell paprika. You can also add two cloves garlic (roasted garlic is delicious and has a mellow taste).
  2. Peel the tomatoes and bell paprika (you don’t have to peel the bell paprika very thoroughly, the sauce will be pureed).
  3. Toast the bread and nuts in the oven.
  4. Puree with all the other ingredients until smooth or slightly chunky.

AUTHENTIC ROMESCO SAUCE RECIPE

Romesco sauce is also called salsa romesco. It’s most commonly served with fish and seafood, as a dipping sauce for vegetables but can also be used to season or to thicken seafood stews. The key ingredient of this sauce are nora peppers. They are unfortunately not easy to buy outside of Spain. I know substituting the main ingredient may sound surprising, but roasted red peppers and smoked paprika make a really great substitution. Nora peppers’ heat is very mild. It has a rich sweet flavor and an earthy and slightly smoky taste.
Catalan salsa romesco is very similar to another Spanish sauce Salvitxada, which is served as a dip with grilled Spanish spring onions called calçots (they are typical to the Catalonia region). They are a part of “calçotades”, which are springtime barbecue parties.

CLASSIC ROMESCO SAUCE USES:

  • romesco sauce is served cold
  • my absolute favorite way to serve romesco sauce is with roasted cauliflower/cauliflower steaks, this flavor combination is just divine, I just can’t think of a better way to eat it
  • the most well-known use for romesco sauce is fish with romesco sauce, it goes really well with any fish or seafood
  • you can use it just like you would use Italian pesto
  • as a dipping sauce for raw / grilled veggies
  • potato salad dressing
  • sauce to serve with chicken or steak
  • spoon over eggs or just about everything
  • as a dip – scoop it with crackers or a crunchy baguette.

Storage and freezing tips:

  • Keep the sauce in the fridge for up to 5 days. To make sure it won’t spoil you can cover its surface with a thin layer of olive oil.
  • This sauce freezes well.

Quick and Easy Romesco Sauce (Spanish red pepper sauce)

The best romesco sauce recipe. Packed with flavor, quick and easy. My favorite way to serve it is with roasted cauliflower (roasted cauliflower steaks). This sauce is so good you’ll want to spoon it over everything!
Prep Time 8 minutes
Cook Time 2 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 5 cups
Calories 2811kcal
Author Aleksandra

Ingredients

  • 1 16 oz jar roasted bell peppers 450g jar, this is 12oz/340g without the liquid, OR 4 fresh red bell peppers
  • 1 14 oz can tomatoes 400ml, OR 1 kg fresh tomatoes
  • 2/3 cup flaked almonds 1.8 oz/50g
  • 1 cup hazelnuts 4.6oz/130g
  • 2 small slices bread + 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon smoked sweet paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons chopped parsley
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
  • 4 cloves garlic it won’t be too garlicky
  • 2/3 cup olive oil 160ml
  • 1/2 teaspoon light brown sugar optional
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

quick romesco sauce (with canned tomatoes and jarred bell paprika):

  • Toast the hazelnuts and almonds on a dry pan until golden and fragrant (toast them separately, as hazelnuts need to be toasted a little longer). Take off the pan immediately. Wrap the hazelnuts into a clean kitchen cloth and rub to remove as much skin as possible (you can also buy already roasted, skinless and ground nuts).
  • Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and pan-fry the bread on both sides until golden.
  • Add all the ingredients for the sauce (except the olive oil) into a big bowl. Puree with a hand (immersion) blender until smooth (it can be a little chunky, as you like). You can also puree it in a food processor or in a blender.
  • Whisk in olive oil by hand until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

romesco sauce from scratch (we’re roasting vegetables in the oven):

  • Cut the bell paprika in half and remove the seeds. Cut the tomatoes in half. Season with salt and pepper and toss with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. Place the vegetables skin-side down on a baking tray. Bake at 425°F/220°C/Gas Mark 7 for about 20-30 minutes or until soft and browned at the edges. Take out of the oven. When cool enough to handle, peel the vegetables (bell paprikas don't have to be peeled thoroughly).
  • Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the bread slices on both sides. Place the bread and hazelnuts on the same baking tray. Bake for about 5-7 minutes. The bread slices should be golden and the hazelnuts dark brown (they should be almost burned – it will be easier to peel them). Wrap the hazelnuts into a clean kitchen towel and rub to remove as much skin as possible.
  • Spread the flaked almonds on the tray in an even layer. Bake for 1-2 minutes until golden. Keep an eye on the almonds all the time and don’t walk away. They can burn in any second. Take them off the tray immediately.
  • Add all the ingredients for the sauce (except the olive oil) into a big bowl. Puree with a hand (immersion) blender until smooth (it can be a little chunky, as you like). You can also puree it in a food processor or in a blender.
  • Whisk in olive oil by hand until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

  • If you’re not sure if you like smoked paprika powder, add a little less at the beginning and then season more to taste.
  • Romesco sauce uses: roasted cauliflower/cauliflower steaks, with fish/seafood, as a dipping sauce for raw / grilled veggies, potato salad dressing, sauce to serve with chicken or steak, is great with eggs, as a dip – scoop it with cracers or crunchy baguette.
  • Storage and freezing tips: Keep the sauce in the fridge for up to 5 days. To make sure it won’t spoil you can cover its surface with a thin layer of olive oil. This sauce freezes well.
  • Calories count = whole recipe (5 cups of sauce). This is only an estimate!

Nutrition

Calories: 2811kcal
Course Appetizer, dip, sauce
Cuisine Spanish
Keyword easy romesco sauce, romesco sauce, spanish red pepper sauce

Did you make this recipe? Let me know how you liked it and give it a star rating in the comments below! You can also add a photo of your creation!

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