This was the first base preparation I ever made as a young line cook. I did not realize its importance until years later when I was still making it. I asked my chef at the time to teach me something new, but I did not realize that there was not a new recipe. This was the base, and it was on me to build from there. I think this recipe may be more stubborn than me because it is not changing a bit!
The word “Sofrito” is a Spanish term that translates to lightly fry over low flame. This dish goes back to early Spain, more specifically, Catalan cuisine. The first reference to sofrito documented was in the Libre de Sent Soví. This was one of the oldest European cookbooks dating back to the 14th century, specifically 1324, which name means The Book of Sent Sovi. This book outlined some of the medieval cooking recipes and techniques during that time, one of which was the sofrito.
Going back in time sheds light on the early years of the sofrito, or “sofriegit” from the verb “sofrier”. This ancient recipe features some familiar ingredients and some not so familiar when it comes to sofrito as we know it today. This recipe utilized ingredients like leeks, onions, and salt pork. Oddly enough, meat has generally worked its way out of this recipe during its later years.
Italy quickly took its version of the French “mirepoix”. Their version was called battuto. This was their basis of flavor in the 18th century. It was probably a lot older, but some of the first signs was during this time. The battuto evolved into the soffritto, “underfried”, once they realized they could develop the flavor by slowly cooking these ingredients together. This recipe quickly became a fundamental part of Italian cuisine.
This technique is now used in the bases of sauces, soups, braised meat dishes and much more.
What is a Soffritto or Battuto?
A soffritto, given the particular spelling, is an Italian preparation that is used to enhance flavors in recipes. Often called a “Battuto” this technique mainly consists of celery, carrots, and onions. Similar to the French preparation “mirepoix”, soffritto differs in the method of preparation. Soffritto is cooked in olive oil over long periods of time like its Spanish counterpart. One difference between the two similarly spelled techniques is the length of the cooking process in the Italian recipe. The Italian soffritto is meant to be cooked until golden, a soffritto should not be caramelized.
This recipe can also turn into a soffritto sauce with the addition of tomatoes. The difference is the other additives that are subject to this culinary technique. You may see ingredients like capers, olives, anchovies, or even balsamic vinegar folded into the mix. You may also see other vegetables like zucchini or mushrooms.
When is comes to a battuto, they are pretty much the same thing. Battuto, typically, is the raw version of soffritto. It resembles the well know French “mirepoix”. The battuto sometimes utilizes a helping of chopped parsley and sometimes bacon or prosciutto.
How to make Soffritto?
The process for the Italian soffritto, or battuto, does not differ much from the Spanish version in terms of requiring patience, and precision. Like the Spanish style sofrito recipe, the Italian soffritto recipe develops its flavor from the lengthy cooking process. Once main difference is, like I stated before, you cannot caramelize the Italian version. So, the process takes a bit longer due to lower temperatures.
Starting off with a high-quality olive oil is a must. The vegetables are then slowly fried in copious amounts of olive oil. You can use another fat if you like, such as: vegan butter, coconut oil, or vegetable oil. Garlic is usually added at the end to prevent any color or caramelization forming. Along with the garlic, herbs and other flavorings are also introduced during the last part of this recipe. Sherry or balsamic vinegar, sugar, or any other ingredients really are tossed in last minute and cooked just a few minutes more before storage.
How to Use Soffritto
A sofrito has so many uses it may be easier to list how it should not be used, if I could think of any. I am going to list some traditional and non-traditional ways to use sofrito.
Use a sofrito as the base braising liquid for larger vegetables or meat substitutes. You can braise vegetables like whole squash, onions, brussels sprouts, cabbage, nuts, greens, etc. You can also braise meat substitutes like tofu, tempeh, seitan, and whatever else you want.
You can add this sofrito recipe to a soup you are making to enhance the flavor of the soup. You can either start the soup itself with making the sofrito, or you can add a finished sofrito to the soup any time after. Once the sofrito is made you have options on when to add. ow to Use Soffritto
Sofrito sauce is absolutely delicious. Simply take your sofrito and add more tomatoes to it. The tomatoes can be pureed for a smoother sauce or they can be chopped for a thick chunkier sauce. If you are not feeling the tomato sauce that day, you can use a non-dairy milk or vegetable stock to sauce it up. Personally, I do not need a lot of sauce on my food, so I just use the sofrito base itself as a sauce. You can use this sauce on vegetables like beans, peas, broccoli, squash, etc. I personally like using this recipe on rice, cous cous, or quinoa. Sofrito Sauce is also super delicious on pasta! Just saying.
Use this recipe to start a ragu. This is one of the first uses for the soffritto ever! You can make a meatless ragu that you will swear has meat in it. Just look for any ragu recipe or recipe for ragout. Chance are you will find one that calls for beef. Just replace the beef with this Italian soffritto. Now you have a vegan ragout recipe that will blow people away!
Soffritto Tricks and Tips
Cooking sofrito can be very technical at times so using the right equipment for the job not only makes it easier, but it also makes it taste better. How does the type of pan you use make food taste better? Oh, do I have news for you. I would recommend using a cast iron. The reason being, it is easy to turn a cast iron pan on low and maintain the heat consistently. Due to the thick nature of cast iron pans, the heat is very stable and is evenly distributed on the bottom of the pan.
So how does this make the sofrito taste better? Once you find the sweet spot of the super low cooking temperature for sofrito, you can really drag out the cooking process. Typically, the longer the sofrito goes, the better. If you do not have access to a cast iron, the use a heavy bottomed pot or pan.
It is important to prepare the vegetables in a similar fashion. To ensure the vegetables all cook at the same speed, they need to be cut in the same shapes and sizes. This will also help with precision. If you know all your vegetables are cooked the same, it will help you achieve your goal for your application.
The point of taking the time to make a great sofrito is to make dishes taste better. So, you need to make sure you are using the freshest ingredients possible. It would be counter productive to not.
Most people that make sofrito will tell you the key is proper proportions between the ingredients. You are going to want to stay around 2 parts onion, 1 part Celery, 1 part carrots. This combination is found all over cooking in France it is commonly known as “mirepoix” in Italy it is known as “battuto”. I am customizing min a bit with the addition of shallots and leeks. This will add depth of mellow onion flavor. I am adding a ½ part of each.
The first stage is the part that requires close attention during the cooking process of this recipe. Other than that, it is pretty much a set it and forget it.
The first stage is the initial simmering. You want to make sure the heat you set is not too high, so you want to monitor the initial simmer until it is at a comfortable temperature for a good sofrito (which is super low).
Herbs are a great way to get the perfect “odori” (aromatic odor) effect in your soffritto. I like to use thyme and tarragon. Now there are two ways to incorporate these flavors into your soffritto. You can make a sachet, or you can pick and chop the herbs.
I personally like to use the sachet. Especially for soft herbs. The reason being, is that the soft herbs are going to lose their appeal after 10 minutes of being in the sauce. Then they are just going to be brown soggy and gross.
If only using thyme, then picking and chopping and incorporating into the soffritto is fine. Why you ask? Well thyme is considered a hard herb. This mean it is more resilient during the cooking process, it tends to uphold its integrity.
The best thing about sofritois that is lasts a long time in the fridge. I have had one for up to two weeks! I doubt you will have one long enough to go bad, I mean this recipe goes with pretty much anything. Store this recipe in the fridge for up to 1 week, maybe more.
- 1 cast iron pan or heavy bottomed saucepan
- 1 wooden spoon or rubber spatula
- 1 chef knife
- 1 cutting board
- 1 microplane
- Measuring cups
- Measuring spoons
Yields: About 1 qt
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
- 1 Lb Yellow Onions
- ½ Lb Celery
- ½ Lb Carrots
- ¼ Lb Shallot
- ¼ Lb Leek
- Begin by cleaning your vegetables. Be sure to peel the outer layer off onions, shallot, and leeks. Then run under cold water. Wash celery thoroughly. Peel carrots completely.
- On a cutting surface, begin small dicing (1/4 in cubes) vegetables. Keep in mind the amounts listed above are prepared vegetable weights.
- Once cut, the vegetables can be mixed together.
Yield: 15 Servings
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 1 Hour
- 1 ½ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 Lb Yellow Onions, cleaned & small diced
- ½ Lb Celery, cleaned & small diced
- ½ Lb Carrots, cleaned & small diced
- ¼ Lb Shallot, cleaned & small diced
- ¼ Lb Leek, cleaned & small diced
- 3 Large Bay Leaf
- 5 Sprig Thyme, tied
- 5 Sprig Tarragon, tied
- Begin by heating your olive oil over low heat in a large cast iron pan or heavy bottomed sauté pan.
- Once oil Is hot,addall ingredients (except herbs and Bay leaf) to the pan and begin to slowly fry. I say slowly fry but I think poaching in oil is a better way of explaining it. Slowly cook this mixture for 45 minutes. Its important not to caramelize this mixture. Depending on how low you got the heat the time may be longer or shorter.
- During the last 15 minutes of the cooking process, throw in your herbs. Make sure they are all tied together so they are easy to pick out. Make sure they stay in there for 15 minutes or less. When they start to turn colors, take them out.
- Once cooked, take pan off the heat, and remove the herbs. Let cool down at room temperature for 30 minutes, then transfer to an airtight container (uncovered for now) and cool in fridge.
- Cover once completely cool.
Tomato Soffritto Sauce (Vegan Bolognese)
Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 1 Hour
- 1 Cup Soffritto Recipe
- 1 Tbsp Dried Oregano
- 1 Cup Red Wine
- ¼ Cup Non-Dairy Milk
- 1 28 oz San Marzano Tomato, canned
- 1 tsp Sugar
- 2 tsp Kosher Salt
- 1 tsp Black Pepper, ground
- In a large sauce pot, heat the soffritto over medium heat. Once the soffritto is hot it will begin to sizzle in the pot. Add the dried oregano and sauté until fragrant.
- Next, add the white wine, and cook for 5 minutes. Until all the alcohol is removed. This may take longer depending on cooking vessel and heat.
- Once alcohol is cooked out, add your nondairy milk and heat to a simmer. Then add your canned tomatoes. Reduce heat a little until medium low. Cook this sauce for 30 minutes.
- Once the sauce has cooked, add the seasonings (salt, pepper, and sugar) and mix thoroughly.
- Once cooked, take pan off the heat. Let cool down at room temperature for 30 minutes, then transfer to an airtight container (uncovered for now) and cool in fridge.
- Cover once completely cool.
- Can you freeze the Soffritto Sauce?
Yes, you can freeze all of these recipes and they freeze well. Freeze the soffritto in an ice cube tray. Then you can bag them up if you like. You can also freeze the sofrito sauce, but I would freeze them in larger portions.
- Do I have to chop all these vegetables by hand?
No, you do not. I understand that this is a lot to chop. You can use a food processor if you want. The key is to get all the vegetables the same size.
- Can you blend the Soffritto into a paste?
Yes, you can. I would omit some oil if you do. If you blend the cooked product as is then it would be very loose and not paste-like.
If you want to blend the vegetables before cooking, then that is ok too. You just need to be mindful of burning to the bottom of the pan.
- Can I add other ingredients to this recipe?
Sure, you can customize these recipes to fit what ever application you want. I have seen people add olives, capers, anchovies. You can add anything you want really.
Placidia, Gala. “IL SOFFRITTO.” ITALY Magazine, 2009, www.italymagazine.com/post/il-soffritto.
“Soffritto.” La Cucina Italiana, 2020, www.lacucinaitaliana.com/glossary/soffritto?refresh_ce=.