Cooking

All About That Base

Soffritto is the Italian cooking base you need to get to know
Photo: Michelle Sun/Tasting Table
Soffrito

Wine, pasta, pizza. The Italians do a lot of things right. Spritzes, cappuccinos, affogatos. OK, they do most things right. Though there are plenty of Italian foods worthy of the spotlight, one humble but equally worthy ingredient often gets overlooked. So today, we’re turning our attention to soffritto. It’s actually a combination of three ingredients, and it’s time you got to know each other, if you aren’t familiar already.

Soffritto is a mixture of slowly cooked carrots, onions and celery, used as a base to add flavor to sauces, soups and stews.

The vegetables are roughly chopped into very small pieces and cooked in olive oil over low heat for anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour, or more. To impart the richest taste, make sure the vegetables are finely chopped and that they caramelize slightly.

The slow cooking of these basic ingredients provides a satisfying depth of flavor. Though you can add other vegetables—like garlic or peppers—carrot, onions and celery, which are sometimes called the “holy trinity” in Italian cooking, are traditional. And you’ll be surprised how much impact they can have on a dish. 

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Sure, it sounds simple enough, but there are a few reasons why soffritto is even better than it appears at first glance.

Carrots, celery and onions are inexpensive, giving you great bang for your buck.

You don’t have to spend excess time chopping the vegetables uniformly, because you’ll likely end up straining them out at the end.

They’re a nutritious way to add serious flavor and umami to a dish, without using heavy or fatty ingredients.

As we said earlier, Italians do things right.

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