The easiest romesco recipe – and 4 delicious ways to use it

I’m clinging to summer like a pool float in the deep end. I love fresh produce, minimalist cooking and dining alfresco, but if I’m being entirely honest, a small amount of culinary ennui from too many breezy brat-and-beer meals has set in, too. So this month, I’m toe-dipping into next season’s fare with homemade romesco sauce. 

Hailing from the Catalonia region of Spain, romesco is made from your favorite summer veggies, roasted for flavor that is deep, rich and savory. Put down your flamingo raft and prepare this smoky sauce right now – transforming everything from fish to beef to poultry, romesco is worth your full attention.

Roasted red bell peppers are the foundation of romesco. Because I’m not emotionally prepared to run my oven longer than a firefly flash, I shoved the pepper under my broiler and tossed roma tomatoes onto the pan next to them to temper their acidic taste.

Roasted garlic adds flavorful buttery notes to romesco. When you make this game-changer recipe, you’ll also learn how to “roast” fresh garlic on the stovetop. This will change your life (or at least the way you cook garlic). Instead of soaking a whole head in olive oil and cooking it in a hot oven for the better part of an hour, I saved time and calories with this technique.

Just separate the garlic into cloves (leaving their skins on) and drop them into a hot, dry skillet. After 15 minutes, peel away the blackened skins and behold soft, creamy garlic that is every bit as delicious as the more demanding version. If you want to earn your efficient cooking badge, toast your almonds in the same pan during the last few minutes. Working around a nut allergy? Substitute a handful of pumpkin or sunflower seeds for protein and heft.

Mix all the ingredients in a food processor or blender. (If you’re using a blender, let everything cool to room temperature first. Hot ingredients will literally blow the top off a blender, and the only thing romesco doesn’t go with is a white ceiling.) 

Romesco adds round flavor notes to any dish that plays well with tomatoes. In panzanella? Divine. With mozzarella? Crave-worthy. Over fish and chicken? New again. But my favorite way to enjoy romesco is as a poolside dip for carrots and crusty bread. It’s simple and comforting, just like these last hazy days of summer.

Romesco Sauce
About 1¼ cups

2 Roma tomatoes, halved
1 large red bell pepper, halved with seeds and stems removed
4 garlic cloves, skin on
¹∕³ cup almonds
1 Tbsp. olive oil
½ tsp. kosher salt
¼ cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 Tbsp. sherry vinegar
½ tsp. smoked paprika
1∕8 tsp. chile powder

• Preheat the broiler and cover a broiler pan with aluminum foil.

• Place the tomato halves and bell pepper cut-side down on the pan, pressing the peppers so that they flatten. Broil 5 inches from the heat source until the tomato is charred, about 5 minutes. Use tongs to transfer the tomatoes to a bowl. Broil the pepper an additional 3 to 5 minutes, then add to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the vegetables to rest 15 minutes, then uncover, peel and discard the charred skins. Set aside. 

• Place a dry skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook 10 minutes, shaking the skillet so the garlic browns evenly. Add the almonds and cook 5 more minutes, stirring frequently. When both garlic and almonds are browned, remove from heat and allow to cool. Remove and discard the garlic skins. 

• Add the garlic, almonds, olive oil and salt to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the S blade attachment. Pulse until the ingredients are minced. Scrape down the bowl, then add the roasted tomatoes and bell pepper, parsley, tomato paste, vinegar, paprika and chile powder. Run the food processor until the romesco is mostly smooth, 10 to 15 seconds. Taste and add more chile powder if desired. Refrigerate in an airtight container up to 5 days, or freeze up to 3 months.

Savory Caprese Panini
Spread 2 thick country bread slices with ½ teaspoon butter each. Spread 2 teaspoons romesco sauce on the dry side of 1 piece and 1 teaspoon pesto on the other. Layer ¼ cup spring mix lettuce and 1½-ounce fresh mozzarella slices over the romesco and top with the other slice of bread, pesto side-down. Place on a panini press or griddle pan over medium-high heat and cook until toasted, 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Grilled Broccolini
Toss ½ pound trimmed broccolini with 2 teaspoons olive oil, ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes and 1∕8 teaspoon kosher salt. Grill over medium heat until charred, about 4 minutes per side. Serve drizzled with 2 tablespoons romesco sauce.

Baked Tilapia
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place 2 tilapia fillets in a baking dish prepared with cooking spray. Brush the fillets with 2 tablespoons romesco sauce and top with thin slices of lemon. Sprinkle with 1∕8 teaspoon kosher salt. Bake until the fish flakes, 10 to 15 minutes. Garnish with fresh cilantro or parsley.

Shrimp Linguini
Cook 1 pound linguine in salted water according to package directions. Drain, reserving ½ cup cooking water. Add the cooking water to 2½ cups romesco sauce and toss with cooked pasta. Stir in 1 pound cooked shrimp and ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes. Garnish with ¼ cup shredded Parmesan and 2 tablespoons chopped basil.

Kellie Hynes is a longtime contributor to Sauce Magazine. 

Tags : Recipes