Romesco: the Sauce of Calçots

If it is March, we are in the middle of Calçots season in Catalonia. Yes, Calçots, the leek-like onion that Catalans just love devouring. Last year, we wrote a post on the Calçotada Tradition and History, and this year, we want you to learn more about Romesco, the delicious Catalan sauce in which Calçots are dipped.

Romesco is a typical Catalan sauce, its origins being specifically in Tarragona region. As a Catalan dish, it appears in almost all International Cooking Dictionaries. In one of these specialized books, Romesco is described as “A classic sauce from Catalonia, it is a finely ground mixture of tomatoes, red bell peppers, onion, garlic, almonds and olive oil. It’s typically served with grilled fish or poultry.” The name of Romesco is believed to come from the Arab word remoscolar, which means mixing different things. Its taste is a bit spicy because of the chilly peppers but it deliciously matches with Calçots, meat and fish.

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The ingredients used to make Romesco are all products typical from the area: almonds, hazelnuts, tomatoes, garlic, nyores, a kind of dried peppers, bread vinegar and oil. Its elaboration is laborious and preparing it slowly and with patience and love is probably the secret of the best Romescos. The way of cooking is a picada,a typical Catalan way of preparing sauces for meat and fish that consists in roasting tomatoes and onions and mixing them with nuts in the mortar. The mortar is a kitchen utensil also typical of Catalonia. As it requires time to make it, it is not a dish people prepare on a daily basis, but there are many festivals, celebrations and contests around it.

Do you want to try to make it yourself? Here’s the recipe:

In the oven, roast the tomatoes and garlics, or, as we call it: make a escalivada. Then fry the bread in a pan with oil. Aside, soak the nyores in warm water and peel them. Once the tomatoes and garlics are roasted, peel them and put them in a bowl with the nyores, the almonds, huzelnuts and fried bread. Then, grind all the ingredients while mixing them together. Slowly, add the oil and keep mixing it with a mortar until you obtain the desired sauce texture. Finally, add salt and vinegar. You can eat it warm or cold. With Calçots, it is served cold.

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Romesco has a sister-sauce called Xató. You might have heard about Xatonada, another typical Catalan dish, which is prepared with cod, escarole and Xató. As Calçoatada, Xatonada is also typical of this time of the year and it is traditional from Penedès, a region south from Barcelona.


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