In this classic soffritto recipe you’ll find all the tips, tricks and a step-by-step guide how to make soffritto, how to store it and how to use it in recipes.
Just as the best novels begin with a good incipit, the secret to many recipes is to start by making a good soffritto.
Soffritto is one of the most widely used base for both first and second courses, but often it doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
Many people take it for granted, and often all you know about it is that you have to sauté a couple of vegetables.
While this isn’t technically wrong, it is a bit superficial.
In fact, with just a few simple tips you can improve your soffritto and take your whole dish to the next level.
In this soffritto recipe I’ll explain everything you need to know.
So What is Soffritto?
Soffritto is a mix of finely chopped celery, carrots and onions cooked on medium-low heat in olive oil or (more rarely) butter or other fat.
Soffritto is used as the flavor base for many Italian dishes such as soups, stews, ragu, meat roasts and it can even be used as a pasta sauce in and of itself (more about thist below).
What does Soffritto mean in Italian?
The name Soffritto comes from an Italian verb “soffriggere” (transl.: “to sauté”).
If you want to be really nerdy, “soffritto” is the past participle of the verb “soffriggere”.
Because of this Italians would often call any aromatic mix that goes in the pan first to be slowly fried and build the flavors for other ingredients – un soffritto.
In case it’s not a classic onion, carrot and celery mix they would specify what kind of soffritto you should make.
For example, the basic soffirtto for any risotto would be onions or shallots in olive oil, for pasta – garlic and chilli flakes (peperoncino) in olive oil with a little bit of parsley added just a few minutes into cooking.
Having said that, Soffritto base should not be confused with “soffritto napoletano“, which is a meat dish. In Basilicata, the term also refers to a dish made of lamb’s liver.
Is Mirepoix the same as Soffritto?
The answer is Yes and No.
Mirepoix, (pronunced meer-PWAH), is a French name for a mix of vegetables sauteeed for a long time on low heat.
Both Soffritto and Mirepoix use the same vegetables like onions, carrots and celery, except that French use butter instead of oil to cook the vegetables in.
Often, they would also add a tomato puree close to the end of cooking to get a darker color and extra flavor.
Mirepoix with tomato paste is called pinçage (pronounced pin-sahge).
Historically, Mirepoix was a way to use kitchen scraps. Big chunks of vegetables were cooked with meat to give it more flavor.
Nowadays, Mirepoix so as Soffritto are used as a base for many dishes.
How To Make Soffritto The Italian Way
Classic soffritto recipe calls for 1:1:1 vegetable ratio.
Which, depending on the size of your vegetable would roughly equal to:
- 1 medium onion;
- 1 large carrot (or 3 small carrots)
- 1-2 celery ribs
This ratio might change slightly depending on the dish. But as a rule of a thumb one to one to one ration is ideal, since it gives the most balanced flavor.
To make soffritto you’ll also need extra-virgin olive oil or, alternatively, a dollop of butter.
Traditionally, the choice between the last two ingredients depends on the Italian geography: inhabitants of northern regions, in fact, prefer butter, whereas those of central and southern regions strictly use oil.
Prepare The Vegetables
Wash all the vegetable under cold running water before use.
Peel onions and carrots. It’s best to use the most fresh vegetables you can find.
You can prepare a big batch and store it for later use (see notes below).
How To Cut Vegetables For Soffritto
Vegetable cut for soffritto is called the Brunoise Cut, in which you cut the vegetables lengthwise into strips size a little bigger than that of a matchstick and then proceed to dice them into small cubes.
Tools For Cutting Vegetables For Soffritto
- Mezzaluna – a half-moon-shaped knife – Italian classic and nonna’s favorite.
- Vegetable Chopper – the easiest and fastest method for a bigger batch.
- Good Chef’s Knife – a classic, universal tool perfect for small batches.
Italian nonna most definitely would use a type of half moon shaped knife with handles on both sides performing a rocking motion to finely chop vegetables for soffritto.
This kind of knife is called mezzaluna which literally means half-moon. It’s also a great knife to mince herbs.
But of course, the tool you use to cut the veggies doesn’t really impact the finaI outcome.
I personally love using my vegetable chopper for this kind of cut.
By the way, you can use the exact same blade used for soffritto to prepare tomatoes for bruschetta. You’ll get a big batch of perfect small cubes of tomatoes in no time.
Having said that, there’s nothing a good sharp chef’s knife can’t do. I give preference to the last one when cutting small amounts of soffritto.
Tips For Cutting Vegetables Using a Vegetable Chopper
Here are a few tips & tricks I use to cut vegetable quickly and easily.
- Prepare the vegetables. Cut onions in thick rounds, carrots into ⅕ inch slices, for smaller carrots – cut in half lengthwise.
- Celery should be also cut in half lengthwise. I also find it helpful to peel celery with a vegetable peeler to remove the rough strings that can get stuck in the chopper.
- Once you prepped the veggies all you need to do is place them cut side down in the blade of the vegetable chopper, lower the lid and hit with your fist at the highest point on the lid until the veggies come through. This is a little counterintuitive technique but it works. It works for all the hard vegetables you’ll pass through the chopper.
On the contrary, if you press on the lid, it’ll make harder the vegetables to go through the blade and may even break it.
- Don’t be afraid to give it a bit of sudden force with your fist, you’ll see it works.
Once veggies are cut, put them in a casserole or a pan with a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Turn the heat on medium-low.
Stir occasionally, without ever letting it brown.
Depending on the amount of the soffritto you’re making, it’ll take anywhere between 10 to 15 minutes for soffritto to cook slowly and allow the vegetables to release all their flavors.
You might be tempted to turn up the heat, but, please, don’t. Soffritto will not cook faster and you’ll have a great chance of burning it.
If it dries too quickly, add a little more of extra virgin olive oil or warm water.
Once soffritto is ready you can continue on with the preparation of the dish that calls for it, adding more ingredients in the pan.
If you’re not planning to use soffritto right away you can store it in the fridge in an airtight container for 2 days.
Additional Spices and Herbs
Even though classic Soffritto uses just 3 ingredients – onions, carrots and celery + olive oil for cooking, depending on the recipe you’re going to use it for you can add additional spices and aromatic herbs.
When it comes to spices, the choice depends on whether the dish includes tomatoes. If it doesn’t, use freshly ground black pepper. If it does, it’s better to opt for some chopped chili pepper or chilli flakes (peperoncino).
Usually, spices are sautéed together with the battuto (chopped vegetables), but you can also choose to add them directly to the dish that you will season with your soffritto.
In the case of aromatic herbs, the rules change depending on which ones you have decided to use. Herbs such as rosemary, sage, or bay leaf should be chopped and sautéed along with the vegetables.
More delicate herbs such as basil or parsley, must be added towards the end of cooking.
Can You Freeze Soffritto?
Absolutely. In fact, you’ll save yourself quite some time by doing so.
It’s best to freeze soffritto raw in small containers or plastic bags. Or you can also freeze in in silicone muffin molds. This way you can decide how much you’re going to use for a single recipe. If you freeze a big batch of soffritto in a plastic bag it’ll be very hard to get smaller quantity out of it once it’s completely frozen. So keep that in mind.
When you’re ready to use soffritto mix, you can put it straight into a pan BEFORE turning the heat on. There’s no need to thaw frozen soffritto.
Although this is technically not a soffritto, there is another way to use the exact same mix of vegetable as pasta sauce.
All you have to do is blend the veggies, add a tablespoon of oil, and then cook them on low heat in a pan for about 15 minutes. This way, you will get a delicious soffritto cream.
This method can alsp come in very handy when you have to feed kids who don’t like to feel the vegetable bits in their food. Also, it allows you to make a sauce for 4 people with just one onion, two celery ribs, and one carrot.
This makes it a perfect for a quick, easy and budget-friendly family lunch or dinner.
Recipes That Use Soffritto
Cotechino With Lentils – Italian New Year’s Traditional Meal
How To Make Soffritto Recipe
- 1 onion
- 1 carrot
- 1 celery rib
- Wash, trim and peel carrot, onion and celery. Cut each vegetable into small ⅛ – ¼ inch (3-6 mm) cubes.
- Once veggies are cut, put them in a pan with a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Turn the heat on medium-low.
- Stir soffritto from time to time, without ever letting it brown.
- Depending on the amount of the soffritto you’re making, it’ll take anywhere between 10 to 15 minutes for soffritto to cook. Never rush soffritto but cook it slowly to allow the vegetables to release all their flavors.
- You might be tempted to turn up the heat, but, please, don’t. Soffritto will not cook faster and you’ll have a great chance of burning it.
- If it dries out quickly, add a little more of extra virgin olive oil or warm water.
- Once soffritto is ready you can continue on with the preparation of the dish that calls for it, adding more ingredients in the pan.
- If you’re not planning to use soffritto right away, allow it to cook and store it in the fridge in an airtight container for 2 days.
As you can see, soffritto recipe will come in handy in many Italian dishes. Once you know the basic rules and some of my extra tips & tricks you’ll be making the most delicious soffritto at home quickly and easily.