Romesco Sauce

Native to the Catalonia region in Spain, romesco sauce was one of my pleasant surprises when visiting Barcelona a few months ago. I have heard the name before but never tasted the sauce. So it required a trip to Spain to get familiarized with this delicious and very unique sauce. Doron, my husband, and I first had it in a neighborhood café in one of the less touristy neighborhoods in Barcelona. We ordered all kinds of tapas and one of them was the famous patatas bravas, a Spanish version of French fries served with romesco sauce. We enjoyed all the other tapas immensely , but the romesco sauce was the highlight of our meal. We were blown away by the complexity of the flavors in the sauce and how much it complemented the potatoes. Of course, I had to get the recipe (I didn’t even know the name of the sauce), but unfortunately, the waiter was reluctant to share it with us. Which only made me more determined to find the recipe for this amazing sauce. We had patatas bravas with romesco sauce in other restaurants while in Barcelona (where I got introduced to the name of the sauce), but none of them was as good as the sauce we had at that small neighborhood café.

So I resorted to looking online, and I found a recipe that I really like. The recipe below is my adaptation of that recipe, and is a great version of romesco, if I do say so myself. It is supposedly close to the old, original recipe. Regrettably though, it does not exactly replicate the flavor of the divine romesco sauce we had in that neighborhood café.

3 red bell peppers
5-6 garlic cloves unpeeled
3 Roma tomatoes or 20 cherry tomatoes
1 slice of good bread
¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground anise seeds
½ tsp hot paprika or ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
3 tsp sherry vinegar (red or white wine vinegar are an option too)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Preheat your oven to 375F.

Place the peppers, tomatoes and garlic on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 15-20 minutes until the tomatoes are well roasted and the garlic is soft. Remove them from the oven and set aside. Continue roasting the peppers for 20 more minutes, turning them halfway, until soft or until the skin is charred.

Remove from the oven and place in a covered pot. Set aside to cool.

Turn off the oven and place the slice of bread in for 5 minutes, until toasted. Remove from the oven and break into pieces.

When the veggies are cold, peel their skin off and discard of the pepper seeds. Place the vegetables in a food processor. Add half of the toasted bread, the almonds, spices, olive oil and vinegar and blend into a smooth sauce. If the sauce is too runny, add the rest of the toasted bread and continue blending.

Transfer to a jar and keep refrigerated. Most recipes I followed claimed the sauce would last up to a week. In my fridge it lasted for two weeks and was still delicious.

Pesto Sauce

Pesto is a gourmet item that when added to any dish, turns it from boring to sassy. Is goes great with many dishes from pasta to chicken, fish, potatoes, rice, soups, salads, and sandwiches. Another good reason to eat pesto is for its nutritional value. Packed with basil, olive oil, nuts, and garlic, (and some cheese) – pesto is very healthy for you. It is rich in vitamins A, E, and K, minerals such as iron and calcium, unsaturated fats (help reduce cholesterol), antioxidants, and protein.

At home I use pesto to dress up roasted veggies or as a marinade for chicken. This way, I get my kids to eat their veggies and protein. And even when they eat the pesto over pasta, which is always their first choice, they still get all these nutritional benefits.

pesto ingredientsI sometimes partially substitute parsley for basil, for an extra nutritional boost. I also use walnuts instead of pine nut, for the same reason. Yes, the pesto tastes a little different this way, but is not less yummy. Try it for your self…

Ingredients:

2 large bunches fresh basil (or one bunch basil and one flat parsley)
1 cup halved walnuts
2 cloves garlic
2 oz Parmesan cheese, cut into cubes (or any other sharp flavor cheese)
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Preparation:

Place all the ingredients, except for the oil, in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 15 seconds. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube and process until the pesto is thoroughly pureed. If the pesto seems too thick, add some more oil and give it another spin in the food processor.

pesto pureed

Pesto loses its green color and turns black if exposed to air. So make sure to either use it right away, or store the pesto in a jar in with a thin film of olive oil on top and refrigerate it.

pesto in a jar