The romesco sauce could well be the queen of Catalan sauces. Of course there is the allioli, the samfaina and a couple more that could deserve that title too. But in my view, no other sauce is more versatile encapsulating the essence of the traditional Catalan cuisine.
The Romesco sauce is a gastronomical treasure that some even regard as a symbol for Catalan national identity. Despite the countless theories about its origins, what we know for sure is that it was first prepared in its most basic form somewhere along the coast of Tarragona.
However, the recipe we know today contains a type of dry sweet pepper, the ñoras, that was only exported from the Americas to Catalonia during the XVIth century. Whatever the theory, we know that Romesco sauce was already a popular preparation by the end of the XIXth century, in the same form and shape we can find it all around Catalonia these days.
Perhaps the best known use for this sauce is to serve it as a dip for calçots, a type of scallion or bigger-size spring onion which is very popular in Catalonia during the early months of the year. And it’s perhaps due to that condition of loyal squire for the calçots, that the Romesco enjoys its popularity peak every year during the last Sunday of January, when the people from the farming town of Valls flood the streets to celebrate their traditional calçotada.
But this is not the only use for this resourceful sauce. Prepared with a sofrito base made of tomato, ñora, pimenton and pulverized almonds and hazelnuts, the Romesco sauce goes well with pretty much every food, from veggie crudités and salads to white fish, meat or even rice-based dishes. Also, being such a popular sauce, there is no lack of professionals experimenting with new applications. For instance chef Jordi Cruz has created a delicious Romesco ice-cream for Abbac, his Michelin-starred restaurant in Barcelona.
The one that follows aims to recreate the original classic recipe. However, this doesn’t mean that there are not other very valid versions. This is just the one we use at home. In fact this is a simple sauce yet every household in Catalonia has its very own secret recipe for it. And that’s the beauty of it! So go on and make some Romesco sauce, create your very own version and let us know about it please!