The taste of Romesco instantly transports me back to a fiery hot summer in the Penedès in Catalonia. It was a trip where I was learning and writing about cava and over the course of three weeks, visiting bodegas and tasting cava, my palette developed and discovered a whole new world.
During that trip I spent a couple of days in Tarragona where on the terrace of a little restaurant in the old town, I had my first taste of the classic Catalan sauce, Romesco.
Folklore has it that Romesco was created by fishermen around Tarragona, using ingredients they had to hand – garlic, dry bread, peppers and was served with fish. Although it’s a classic, it doesn’t come with a fool proof standard recipe; every household will have their own recipe. This is what I like best about it. It’s adaptable. You use what you have. You adapt it to your palette.
I’ve been making it quite regularly as we transition from winter to spring. The vibrant red hue of the sauce psychologically signalling that the warmth of the sun is on its way. I mix up the ratios of ingredients, a hit more of sherry vinegar if I was to ramp up the tangy sourness, a sprinkle more of smoked paprika if I want an earthiness. The ratios always depend on how I feel, but they never override the sweet undertones of the peppers. I like a recipe you can adapt to your mood. I don’t add tomatoes. Not in the winter. That is a treat for summer.
I usually make it in small batches, for one or two meals. I like it stirred through fresh pasta for a quick after work meal or spread over a slab of sourdough topped with a crumbly goat’s cheese and a few rocket leaves.
200g roasted red peppers (I use a jar)
1 large tablespoon panko breadcrumbs
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
½ tsp sweet paprika
½ tsp smoked paprika
Pinch of chilli flakes
Salt to season
Toast the nuts in an oven or a dry pan until golden. In another pan, add a tablespoon of olive oil and fry the breadcrumbs and garlic until golden.
In a food processor, add the peppers, breadcrumb mix, nuts, chilli, paprika and pulse until you have a rough texture. Place into a bowl. Season with salt and stir in the olive oil and sherry, adding more of either to get the taste and texture you like.