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The Distinctive Flavor of Xató

Xató is like nothing I have ever tasted — this rich, savory and versatile sauce it is one of the Catalonia’s unique gastronomic creations. The origin of xató lies in the wine region of Gran Penedès, in southern Catalonia.  Xató sauce accompanies a typical Catalan winter salad of escarole, tuna, salt cod, green tomatoes, black olives and anchovies — normally consumed during the cold first months of the year and specially during Carnival and new wine celebrations.

The Recipe

2 ripe tomatoes, 1 head of garlic, 1 guindilla pepper, 2 dried nyora peppers, ½ cup of toasted almonds, ¼ cup of toasted hazelnuts, 1 small slice of toast, 1 cup of olive oil, ⅓ cup of white vinegar, 1 tsp of paprika, anchovies (optional).

Leave the dried peppers to soak overnight so they can soften, and then remove the seeds. Place the garlic and tomatoes on a tray, add a drizzle of oil and a pinch of salt, and put them in the oven for 15 minutes at 200 ºC. The garlic make take less time to cook, about 10 minutes. Once ready, peel the tomatoes and take out the seeds then put them in a mortar with the garlic. Peel the almonds and anchovies, put them in a frying pan for around 5 minutes, then add them to the tomato and blend it together. Then add the flesh of the dried peppers, the slice of toast, the oil and the vinegar. When it is all well mixed, add the teaspoon of paprika and the guandilla pepper. Blend the mixture again. Add anchovies to taste if desired.

Now that the sauce is ready, put the escarole, tuna, salt cod, green tomatoes, black olives and anchovies. Add the xató generously and enjoy!

The towns of Gran Penedès — Calafell, Canyellas, Cubellas, Cunit, El Vendrell, San Pedro de Ribas, Sitges, Villanueva i el Geltrú and Villafranca del Penedes — have their own variation of the recipe for this dish. In 1997 the Ruta del Xató (the Path of Xató) was created to popularize this dish and highlight the different variations of the original recipe. The Ruta del Xató is an easy trip from Barcelona.