I wish I’d known about the Romesco sauce since a long time, instead I have only been inspired to try it by watching this year’s BBC MasterChef the Professionals. Now, having tasted its delicious flavour, I am so grateful our kitchen repertoire has expanded with a new family favourite.
Romesco sauce is an unforgettable sauce. It’s bold, zippy and full of roasted tomato and pepper flavour, made to a creamy perfection by adding almonds and blending everything together by slowly emulsifying the mixture with olive oil. It originates from a city called Tarragona in Catalonia, the northeastern-most region of Spain that touches France. Tarragona is a port city, and the fishermen there have made Romesco sauce for years to liven up the day’s catches. No wonder it goes so well with sea food! Having tried several times, I am learning to appreciate the sauce with all sorts of meat and roasted vegetables.
It’s a Sunday family lunch and we like to cook together. Who is boiling the potato gnocchi, who is making the Romesco sauce and who is frying the scampis and the bacon, I really do not know. The kitchen is a cacophony of sounds exploding in cheerful crescendos. A miscoordinated chaos of hands reaching in all directions. And when the frenzy finally settles down I am the last one to take a picture in a hurry and join the family for the log awaited meal.
There is a such amazing pleasure in taking the first bite – soft and melting gnocchi sunken in deep Romesco sauce, perfectly fried scampis and salted golden bacon. The sauce embraces all separate components. The rocket salad adds much needed freshness to the rich deep-flavours in the rest of the dish. Seated on the table, someone mentions that the food tastes so good, it almost feels like Christmas.
- 500g plain potato gnocchi
- 500g shrimps
- 250g bacon
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 4-5 drops basil olive oil
For the Romesco Sauce
- 2 marinated roasted red peppers, drained
- 1 cup raw almonds
- 1 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, rinsed and drained
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1. Boil the potato gnocchi pot full of plenty of water, a pinch of salt and a few drops of basil olive oil. Initially, the gnocchi sink to the bottom, but once you notice that they begin to float on the surface, they are ready – it usually takes about 10 minutes.
2. Finely chop the bacon and fry until golden brown in a dry pan. Pull aside.
3. Wash and remove the shrimps’ scales. Dry them with kitchen paper. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a flat pan and add the shrimps. Season with salt and ground black pepper. Fry them for about 10-15 minutes until golden brown.
4. For Romesco sauce: In a blender (preferably) or food processor, combine all ingredients (marinated roasted red peppers, semi-dried tomatoes, garlic, almonds, red pepper powder, salt, black pepper and wine vinegar) except olive oil. Secure the lid and mix, starting low and increasing the speed. Once the ingredients are coarsely mixed, start pouring olive oil, while pulsing the blender. Mix until you reach the desired consistency (I like my Romesco sauce quite creamy, but if you prefer a more liquid texture add more olive oil). Serve immediately or store in a jar in the refrigerator for 7 to 10 days.
5. Serve by first placing a few spoonfuls of Romesco sauce on the bottom of a plate and forming a flat disc. Arrange with boiled potato gnocchi, fried shrimps and bacon and fresh arugula leaves.