Not-so-romesco (or Tuesday dinner)

The first time I had romesco, I thought it was an obscure Italian sauce that had previously escaped me. Not so. Well, it had escaped me, but it had no link to Italy or Rome. In fact, this traditional Catalan sauce dates back long before the Roman empire. The Washington Post‘s Kim O’Donnel:

In the course of my research, I found many variations on the recipe, which may date to the Phoenicians, according to Andrews. But most recipes, at least those since the 19th century, agree that it’s a chunky mélange of pulverized almonds and/or hazelnuts, fried bread, dried sweet-ish peppers and tomatoes (as both the peppers and tomatoes were undoubtedly late additions from the New World).

And that’s why my romesco failed tonight. One of the sauce’s staples are almonds, an ingredient that I forgot when shopping this weekend. I intended to take a shortcut and use breadcrumbs, but the almonds were the “oh shit” ingredient that threw me tonight. It was one of those moments that pissed me off a little because I could have controlled it by picking up the stupid nuts.

But, life goes on.

Anyhow, I did eliminate the dried chiles because, well, I have to get The Wife to eat this. The lower the heat, the better on that front.

The end result was pretty good…almost great (stupid almonds). I had some leftover chicken from last weekend that I chopped up and tossed into the sauce for protein.

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Eggplant romesco sauce
Adapted from Cheryl Sternman Rule via Serious Eats 

  • 1 eggplant (about 1 lb.), unpeeled, cut in large dice
  • 2 medium red bell peppers, cut in large dice
  • 1/2 medium red onion, quartered
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 14.5 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup whole roasted almonds
  • 2/3 cup bread crumbs (I used panko)
  • 1 pound freshly cooked rigatoni, 1/2 cup of pasta water reserved for serving
  • 2 dried pasilla or ancho chile peppers (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400.

(Optional step: Set the dried chiles in a bowl and add boiling water just to cover. Weight with a small ramekin to keep the chiles submerged. Set aside. In 45 minutes, drain, stem, seed, and rough-chop the chiles.)

Place the eggplant, bell peppers, onion, and garlic on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Rub the seasonings in with your fingers. Spread the vegetables in a single layer.

Dump the tomatoes and their juices in a medium baking dish. Set both the baking sheet and the baking dish on separate oven racks and roast until the eggplant and peppers have browned, about 30 minutes, stirring everything twice.

Allow the eggplant mixture to cool for 5 minutes, then scrape into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Add the nuts, bread, chiles (optional) and tomatoes with any residual juices as well. Purée until smooth. Serve with hot rigatoni, adding a bit of pasta water (1 tablespoon at a time) to thin the sauce, if desired, and garnishing each portion with a final drizzle of olive oil (if desired).

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