Soffritto

Soffritto

By
From
Tuscany
Photographer
Helen Cathcart

This is the essential base flavour for nearly all Italian stews, soups, sauces and ragù. It is made from gently fried tiny cubes of celery, onion and carrot. Sometimes parsley or a couple of whole garlic cloves are chopped with it, and rosemary sprigs or chilli are added to the pan. You cannot hope to make Tuscan food without knowing how to make a good soffritto; it will add richness and umami flavours to the dish. Try to find the best and freshest vegetables – it does make a difference. A soffritto made with vegetables from the garden tastes infinitely better than one made from polytunnel-grown vegetables that have been travelling and stored for weeks. It is surprising to taste a carrot straight from the ground; it is so naturally sweet.

Do use enough oil or you will never be able to cook the onions and carrots for long enough to get the sweetness out of them without them burning.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient

This quantity works for recipes that serve 4

Quantity Ingredient
75g carrot
75g celery, with a few leaves if you have them
100g white onion
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
salt
freshly ground black pepper

This quantity works for recipes that serve 6–8

Quantity Ingredient
150g carrots
150g celery, with a few leaves if you have them
150g white onion
150ml extra-virgin olive oil
salt
freshly ground black pepper

Other optional flavours

Quantity Ingredient
2 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
handful parsley with soft stalks, finely chopped
2 large sprigs rosemary, left whole
2 large sprigs thyme, left whole
2 bay leaves, left whole
fresh chilli, finely chopped, or dried chilli flakes, to taste

Method

  1. Finely chop the carrot, celery, onion and parsley, if using, by hand or in a food processor (if you use the latter, make sure you don’t end up with a paste).
  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the garlic, if using, and fry for 1 minute. Stir in the remaining ingredients including any optional flavours, if using, and season. Sweat the vegetables over a low heat, stirring and shaking the pan frequently, for 15–20 minutes or until the vegetables have softened. The colours will have changed from bright and sharp to soft and golden. Use the soffritto straight away or freeze it. It will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months – defrost before using.
Tags:
Italy
Italian
Caldesi
Tuscany
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