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What is Romesco Sauce?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 November 2016
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Romesco sauce is a rich, dense, powerful sauce which originated in the Catalan region of Spain. This sauce is paired with a variety of traditional Catalonian foods, including fish, roasted meats, and vegetables, and it is often on offer at Spanish restaurants. Packaged romesco sauce can be found in some markets, and this sauce can also be made at home. The ingredients and preparation are simple, and in this case, a little bit of effort goes a long way, as romesco sauce is usually a big hit at parties.

In this case, the term “sauce” is a bit of a misnomer for people who think of “sauce” as something which goes over pasta. Romesco sauce is more like a dip, chutney, or side, with a powerful texture and flavor. A small amount of this piquant sauce is usually all that is needed to fire up a dish. It is typically served on the side so that people can decide how much of the sauce they want to use, as individual taste sensitivities vary.

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The primary component of romesco sauce is roasted nuts. Traditionally almonds, hazelnuts, or both are used, along with garlic, dried red peppers, salt, and enough red pepper to moisten the mix and pull it together. Cooks may also add ingredients such as roasted tomatoes, vinegar, onions, fennel, and mint. Fennel is especially common in romesco sauce served with seafood. While red peppers are included in romesco sauce, the sauce is not intended to be painfully spicy.

The flavor of romesco sauce is slightly earthy and almost musky, with a rich, buttery feel courtesy of the nuts. Many people describe romesco as loamy, earthy, or mossy, thanks to the included nuts, and the garlic and chilies add a hint of a fiery kick at the end of a mouthful. Because the sauce is so hearty, it pairs well with bold, assertive dishes like roasted meats and seafood, and less well with weak dishes, which may be overwhelmed.

Romesco sauce also makes an excellent spread for bread. Romesco sauce on bread can be a great filling and healthy snack, or it can be served in more modest portions as a taster or appetizer. Crudites and crackers also pair well with romesco, especially in the case of nutty crackers which echo the flavors of the sauce. The sauce is also included in some traditional Spanish stews as a flavor base. Seafood stews in particular can become much more flavorful and interesting with the addition of romesco.

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Acracadabra
Post 6

My Spanish friend pronounces this as romescu sauce, which I suppose must be the technically correct way. I use the o ending sound in general though, otherwise people correct me!

It's a core dish on my monthly buffet event menu. Besides being versatile and delicious it's suitable for vegetarians and vegans. I tend to make double quantity to avoid complaints that the meat eaters have stolen all their food!

Now if it was possible to make it without any heat at all I'd be able to please my grandmother too!

orangey03
Post 5

Ever since I tried romesco sauce on spaghetti, I have been unable to go back to regular tomato sauce. I did not know when I tried it that it was made from nuts, but I could tell it had a distinctive flavor like nothing else I had ever tasted.

I like to make romesco sauce and use it as a marinade for chicken. I set some of it aside to pour into the skillet, and I bring it to a boil along with the chicken cutlets. The meat absorbs the flavor, and no one can guess what it is if I don’t tell them.

wavy58
Post 4

Romesco sauce sounds delicious. I have never tried it, but the description makes my mouth water, especially when I think about dipping shrimp in it.

I often use red peppers, chili powder, onion, and garlic as seasonings or soup bases. I think I have probably made a variation of romesco sauce without knowing it. I have never used fennel, though, and that would make a big difference.

whiteplane
Post 3

Romesco is primarily thought of as a seafood sauce, particularly a shrimp sauce. But in my experience it tastes great on almost any kind of meat.

I have tried romesco on shrimp and squid but also on lots of different kinds of fish. I remember one particularly delicious dish that used romesco as a salmon sauce. It also tastes great on chicken and grilled beef. In fact, I can't ever remember eating romesco sauce and thinking that it was the wrong flavor for the dish. This incredible sauce is just so versatile.

chivebasil
Post 2

@backdraft - I agree that the romesoc you find in stores is usually not up to par. Our situations are very similar. I tried romesco in Spain and now I feel almost snobby about it. Only the best romesco or no romesco at all.

I was able to find a great romesco recipe online that reminds me so much of the romesco that I tried in Spain. It is now a feature of our family meals and backyard BBQs. I usually only make it for special occasions, but everyone has come to expect that it will be sitting on the table. A little piece of Spain right here in Ohio.

backdraft
Post 1

I absolutely love the flavor of romesco sauce. I first had when my husband and I took a trip to Spain about 10 years ago.

Up until then I had never seen, tasted or heard of romesco sauce. But it was served to us out very first night at a little restaurant by the hotel. I have never tried anything with the same distinct range of flavors. It is savory, spicy, crunchy and vinegary. And there is lots of variation possible. We tried it some places where it was spicier, others that played up the vinegar flavor.

I have seen romesco prepackaged in some nicer grocery stores but I have never been pleased with the results. For my money you really have to make it yourself.

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