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Sure, you could start your football party off with a dish filled with seven-layer dip and piles of buttery pigs-in-a-blanket. Or, you can shake things up this year with a shared appetizer that’ll get even the most uncaring of football watchers interested in the big game: romesco and manchego baked potatoes. 

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The recipe stems from a cookbook called “The Atlas Cookbook,” from Australian chef Charlie Carrington. The book operates not simply by being filled with dishes; instead, the cookbook is divided into four sections: Each section represents a different season, peppered with recipes inspired by 20 countries around the world. In the fall, you can attempt plump falafel with mint tahini, a dish influenced by Syrian cooking. And in the spring, you’ll be inspired to make stuffed mushrooms with chive and black pepper butter, a Cambodian dish that packs quite the umami punch. 

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Now that we’re in the heart of winter, what better thing to make than a comforting Portuguese potato dish, one jammed with plenty of cheese and sweet romesco sauce? It can serve as a side to a hearty meal, or become the bona fide star of the game day party table.

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The spuds are served similarly to baked potatoes—baked until crisp, the flesh scooped out and mixed with the romesco sauce, then placed back into the potato skin. Once completed, the potatoes should be liberally sprinkled with a snowfall of grated manchego cheese. After a plate of them are shepherded out to those hungry footballers, they’ll go so fast you might find yourself running out to the store to stock up on more roasting potatoes before halftime.

Recipe excerpted with permission from The Atlas Cookbook, published by Hardie Grant November 2019, RRP $29.99 flexibound.

Romesco and Manchego Baked Potatoes Recipe

Romesco (a Catalan sauce with tomato, capsicum/bell peppers and nuts as its core ingredients) and manchego (a sheep’s milk cheese, often unpasteurised) are both originally from Spain, but they are common all over the Iberian Peninsula. In this recipe, they turn the humble spud into a baked potato of epic proportion.

Romesco and Manchego Baked Potatoes

  • 100 g (3 ½ oz) rock salt
  • 12 medium roasting potatoes, skin on
  • 150 g (5 ½ oz) manchego cheese, finely grated
  • 2 red capsicums (bell peppers), whole
  • 1 garlic clove
  • ½ red onion, quartered
  • 2 tablespoons grape seed oil
  • 120 g (4 ½ oz) almonds, roughly chopped
  • 60 g (2 oz) tomato paste
  • 50 ml (1 ¾ fl oz) Pedro Ximenez vinegar or a nice red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 120 ml (4 fl oz) olive oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Scatter a roasting tin with the salt, top with the whole potatoes and bake in the oven for approximately 40 minutes. They should semi-dehydrate and go crisp.
  2. Meanwhile, for the romesco, add the capsicum, garlic and onion to a roasting tin, drizzle with the oil and toss to coat. Roast in the oven at the same time as the potatoes. Once the vegetables are roasted, approximately 25 minutes ñ they should be coloured and collapsed remove and wait until they are cool enough to handle before roughly chopping, removing and discarding the seeds from the capsicum. Add the chopped vegetables to a blender with remaining romesco ingredients, then blitz into a thick sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  3. Once the potatoes are roasted, cut them into halves, leaving the skin intact. Carefully remove the flesh and in a bowl mix the romesco through the potato, then place the mixture back in the potato skins. Liberally scatter the manchego cheese on top and serve.

Header image courtesy of Bec Hudson.

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