Soffritto – fried carrots, onions, garlic and celery is at the centre of many Italian dishes and our homemade soffritto paste is so easy to make. For the best results, it’s cooked slowly and gently; to save time, prepare ahead and freeze in portions.
So many recipes – particularly for Mediterranean cuisines – start with a fried onion, or a variation thereof. Soffritto is the perfect example – a gently fried mix of onion, carrot, celery and garlic. You can buy an expensive pot in the supermarket, but it’s easy and cheap to make yourself.
The Italian soffritto – two fs, two ts, is very similar to the French mirepoix, and like mirepoix, needs to be cooked slowly. Don’t whack up the heat and expect great results in 5 minutes; it needs a low heat, frequent stirring and time. We’re not looking to caramelize the onions; rather cook them until translucent and just starting to colour.
The classic mixture is the four ingredients already mentioned: onion, carrots, celery and garlic. But you can vary things according to what’s fresh, what’s available and what’s in the bottom of your fridge. Leeks, spring onions, parsley stalks, even peppers could easy go into the mix. Yes, purists will throw up their hands in horror, but little things like this can help with reducing food waste.
What is Soffritto?
As mentioned, it’s a mix of onion, carrots, celery and garlic, that have been chopped and then gently and slowly fried. Similar to French mirepoix, but very different from the Spanish sofrito (one f, one t); which is fried onions and other vegetables used as a base for many dishes but including tomato and spices, frequently paprika.
How do I make Soffritto?
Soffritto is easy to make, but does benefit from time. Chop one large onion, one large carrot, two sticks of celery and two cloves of garlic. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan over a medium to low heat, and add the vegetables. Stir frequently; as I said, we don’t want to caramelize the onion, rather cook it until it’s translucent and just staring to colour.
Classically, it would be used as is, straight from the pan. But we like to make soffritto paste by blitzing it in a food processor, or with a stick blender, into a smooth paste, which makes it much easier to keep.
Can I freeze homemade Soffritto Paste?
Absolutely yes! The idea of having enough time to cook everything always from scratch is nice, but not realistic for most of us. We blitz the cooked soffritto with a food processor – a cheap stick blender would do just as well – into a paste, and freeze it in an ice cube tray. It’ll keep in the freezer for a couple of months without any problem.
This recipe makes six tablespoons of soffritto paste. We would make more, but we’re a bit short on freezer space at the moment.
How do I use Soffritto Paste?
For using in the evening and if frozen into cubes, take a couple out of the freezer in the morning and allow to defrost in the fridge during the day. Then use it as fritto paste as a basis for many dishes, Italian and otherwise. Here are a few ideas for using homemade soffritto:
- As a base for soups – both thin, and thicker broths
- The starting point for a risotto
- Stir into hummus and other bean dips
- On toast or oatcakes as a snack
- Stirred into mashed potato for extra flavour
- In a cheese toastie
- As a simple but tasty sauce for homemade pasta.
What special diets is homemade Soffritto paste suitable for?
Soffritto is both vegan and naturally gluten free.
Easy homemade soffritto paste
- 1 carrot (large)
- 1 onion (large)
- 2 sticks celery
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Scrub (but don't peel) the carrot if needed, and clean the celery. Peel the onion and garlic.
- Cut carrot, celery and onion into small cubes. Crush the garlic.
- Add the oil, celery, onion and carrot to a large frying pan. Place on a low heat. As the pan heats, stir the mixture every couple of minutes. Season well with salt.
- After 10 minutes, add the garlic and stir in.
- Cook for another 10 - 15 minutes until the onion is translucent and just staring to colour.
- Transfer to the smallest jug of a food processor and blitz until a paste. Leave some texture if desired.
- If you don't have a food processor, a blender or stick blender will do equally well. Add a drop or two of water, white wine or lemon juice if needed to help.
- Either use straight away or allow to cool, spoon into an ice cube tray and freeze.