Every Italian cook is equipped with knowledge of basic recipes that are a ‘must know’ in an Italian kitchen. For example, there’s pesto featuring basil or the classic gremolata using fresh parsley. These add lots of fresh flavor to an authentic Italian meal. Soffritto, however, is a sauteed building block to a larger dish. Whereas something like gremolata is an herb mixture topped at the end of a dish.
This recipe is not intended to be eaten on its own. Instead, use it as a base for tons of other recipes.
Soffritto (soh-free-toh) is made using the aromatic vegetables carrot, onion, and celery. The French culinary term for this combination is mirepoix (meer-pwah). The Italian version differs in that it is made with olive oil and includes garlic. Variations of mirepoix differ depending on the type of cuisine and even vary within the Italian cuisine (some add herbs, others add red onion instead of white onion, etc).
This is a perfect flavor base for most dishes including fish, chicken, pork, and especially soups, stews, and meat sauces. It adds depth and flavor without having to cook something for an extended period of time or buying obscure and expensive ingredients. In fact, this base should only cost you a few dollars.
- 4 carrots
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 4 celery stems
- 1 garlic clove
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- pinch sea salt
The key to this dish being a true soffritto include two things: the vegetables themselves and mincing the vegetables properly. The photo below shows the different stages of how I chopped the veggies. The onion is tough to see, but here is a helpful video by Gordon Ramsay on how to finely chop and onion.
First, wash and trim your carrots and celery. Peel your onion and garlic. Then finely chop all of the veggies. This is the most important part, and frankly, the only step that requires actual work. It’s important for all of the dices to be the same so the mixture cooks evenly.
Next, add the olive oil to a medium to medium-high heated frying pan. Add your minced veggies. Stir.
Lower the heat between medium and medium low and cook until the veggies are tender and slightly browned. The onions should also be translucent (about 12 minutes). Stir occasionally while sautéing.
When you’re cooking this Christmas season remember to add depth of flavor with these aromatics. The extra step truly makes a difference in your meat dishes and soups.
MANGIA! Buon Natale, everyone!
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