Come for the asparagus tart but stay for the Romesco sauce.
Romesco sauce is a Spanish sauce made with roasted red bell peppers, roasted tomatoes, ground almonds, and a variety of spices and vinegar. It is good as a dipping sauce, spread over fish or chicken, slightly thinned down as a pasta sauce, and with a variety of vegetables. Today I’m using it as a base for an asparagus tart.
The preparation of traditional romesco sauce requires roasting red peppers and tomatoes until they are charred and with their skins are removed, which gives them a depth of flavor. However, there’s a faster way to make romesco using store-bought ingredients, such as roasted red peppers in a jar with oil, and sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil. I had a bonanza of peppers from last year’s garden, so I roasted and froze them. Today I’m using roasted red peppers (by me) and store-bought sun-dried tomatoes, in other words, half traditional, half store bought. The recipe that follows uses all store-bought ingredients, but feel free to roast your own peppers following this recipe: Mediterranean roasted bell peppers.
Arliano Update (Aggiornamento Arliano):
Vegetable gardening season has officially begun. Tom and I laid down the irrigation hoses that we bought last year. I had to pat ourselves on the back because we did an excellent job last fall organizing and labeling them, so they went back down in a jiffy. This year we are also putting irrigation hoses around the fruit trees to avoid standing there for an hour a couple of times a week watering them by hand.
We went to the local agricola (Italian for a store that specializes in fruit and vegetable products as well as items for farms and farm animals, as opposed to a vivaio, or nursery, that specializes in decorative plants) to buy starter red Tropea torpedo onions, leeks, and potato “seeds,” (potatoes with many sprouted eyes) none of which I’ve ever had much success starting from seeds. Those will go in the ground this week. We also got a handful of baby basil plants, but we were advised by the always cheerful, friendly and helpful salesclerk to wait a week and half because it’s still too cold out at night. Last year we made the mistake of buying pointed leaf Thai basil instead of rounded leaf sweet basil. I was sure to ask, and I was assured that this type of basil is for making Genovese style pesto (the salesclerk’s specific cooking answer to whether the basil was sweet or not. I loved his response and the philosophical approach to his thinking about seedlings.).
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Roasted Asparagus Tart with Quick and Easy Romesco Sauce
- 1 pound (16 ounces) medium thick asparagus, tough stems removed
- 1 package rectangular puff pastry
- One 16-ounce jar of roasted red peppers in oil, drained (or one or two large red bell peppers roasted by yourself in the oven, peeled, seeded and membranes removed). NOTE: if you can only find roasted red peppers in a jar packed in vinegar, drain the liquid and omit the called for vinegar in the recipe
- 3 or 4 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped (or three tomatoes, cored, deseeded, and roasted with the red peppers if you do not want to use store-bought)
- 1/2 cup toasted almonds (about 80- 100 grams) (you can do this in an oven at 350 F for 7 minutes, in a sauté pan, or even in a microwave for about 45 seconds)
- 1 – 2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (preferable) or red wine vinegar (omit this if you are using store bought roasted red peppers packed in vinegar)
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher of sea salt (not iodized table salt)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground red chili pepper powder (use more or less per your preference)
- 1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
- 1/3 cup – 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to drizzle on asparagus (start with 1/3 cup and only increase to a 1/2 cup olive oil if the sauce is too thick)
- Bring a 4-quart pot of water to a boil and blanche the asparagus for three minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water, and pat dry
- Make the Romesco sauce by placing the garlic and almonds in a food processor and pulse until they are finely ground. Place all the remaining ingredients (except puff pastry and asparagus) into the food processor and pulse until you reach a thick, but spreadable paste. Set the Romesco sauce aside. Note that you may also do this by hand with a knife, but chop everything as finely as you can
- Pre-heat oven to 400 F (200C). Thaw and roll out the puff pastry to a rectangle approximately 12 x 9 inches (30 cm x 23 cm) on to a baking sheet. Cut a half-inch (1 cm) border from the perimeter of the rectangle and “glue” it on top of the remaining rectangle with water (just dip your finger in water and wet the perimeter of the rectangle to help the border stick.). The extra puff pastry on the edges will create a nice border for your tart
- Using an offset or rubber spatula, evenly spread a layer of the Romesco sauce on the puff pastry. You will likely have leftover sauce, which will keep in the refrigerator for a week. Toss the trimmed asparagus with a drizzle of olive oil then add it on top of the Romesco sauce in any pattern that pleases you. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes or until the edges of the puff pastry are dark golden brown. Let cool slightly, then brush lightly with olive oil, cut, and serve
That tart is beautiful enough to hang on a wall! And I’m sure it tastes just as good.
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This is a wonderful recipe idea, and the use of half-traditional and half-store-bought ingredients in the Romesco sauce is very helpful. Have you experimented with any other ingredients in this recipe, or do you have any suggestions for variations? That’s a great question! I have experimented with using different types of nuts in the Romesco sauce, such as hazelnuts or pine nuts. I have also used different vegetables on top of the tart, such as roasted cherry tomatoes or sautéed mushrooms. Let me know if you try any other variations!
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Thanks for your comment. I’ve used the romesco sauce for lots of things (as mentioned in the post), but I’ve only used asparagus in the tart with that particular sauce. Any vegetable that is not too watery should work just fine. You’d have to judge whether the vegetable you choose would cook enough during the baking of the puff pastry. If not, you could par boil it, like I do with the asparagus, or even use roasted vegetables. I have used puff pastry for caramelized onions, mushrooms and other things (just search puff pastry on my blog). I’ve also used pate brisee for the savory tarts, like tomato. With pate brisee I tend to use bechamel sauce. If you explore further, please let me know! 🙂