How to Make Romesco Sauce the Catalonian Way

Serious Eats


June 13, 2019

Daniel Gritzer

Romesco is a bold Spanish sauce that's delicious and incredibly versatile, as good on roasted meats as it is on raw vegetables. Here's how to get closer to the original flavor of the sauce than many English-language recipes will allow.

Most people who know romesco know that it contains pepper, but many mistakenly think that pepper is a roasted red bell pepper. It's not. The pepper used for romesco is a dried one, either the ñora pepper or, according to some sources, the choricero pepper.

Of course, those Spanish pepper varieties aren't easy to get here, which is why the bell pepper became a popular substitute. Roasting a bell pepper does add some of the darker notes that the dried peppers offer, and romesco sauces made with bell peppers can taste good. But anyone who knows what the original sauce, made with those dried peppers, tastes like, knows that bell pepper doesn't really play the part well enough. A better route is to use some kind of dried pepper.

You can buy ñora peppers at Spanish specialty stores, or online at sites like La Tienda. I think it's worth it. The ñoras add a depth that the red bell pepper simply can't. They taste molasses-y, but without a strong sweetness, and there's a bitterness that cuts through everything else. It's a complex flavor that brings the romesco fully into focus.

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