Italian Soffritto Recipe: The secret of the italian traditional cooking

Learn how to make the traditional italian soffritto recipe, how to use it and how to store to have it available any time you need it.

This simple vegetable base preparation is the holy trinity for the most traditional italian dishes and is so simple to make at home!

What is soffritto?

Soffritto is an italian base preparation that consists in minced vegetables. Those vegetables are essentially three: Onions, carrots and celery.

In Italy, if you ask for “odori” at any farmers market they will hand to you something like 2 small carrots, 1 medium onion and 1 large celery stick. Odori means smells, referring to the typical smells those vegetables release when they’re cooking.

At the supermarket you’ll find those vegetables packed in a single box labeled also as “odori” or “soffritto” and normally they will be pretty cheap. Sometimes it also includes a bit of fresh parsley.

The vegetables are then sautéed in olive oil, hence the name: Soffritto. The word comes from soffriggere which in italian means “to sauté” or “stir fry”.

How is soffritto used

There are countless dishes that use soffritto as a starting base, being ragù alla bolognese (bolognese sauce) one of the most famous, but most likely any stew or soup recipe starts with this flavour foundation, specially in slow cooking recipes, something understandable, as the italian cuisine is full of recipes that requires long hours of cooking.

some dishes that use soffritto recipe

The Ingredients

As previously mentioned, you only need three ingredients to make the soffritto recipe: Onions, carrots and celery. Making this preparation is the perfect way to use your old vegetables, as they don’t have to be as fresh as they’re needed in other recipes.

Any type of onion is fine, white, gold or red. Again, it also depends in the main dish you’re preparing. In southern Italy red onions (cipolle di Tropea) are a big deal and you’ll find many recipes that call for them. While the roman cuisine prefers to use more the gold onions that are pretty easy to find around here.

Typically, the ratio is one part of each vegetable, but again, it depends mostly in which recipe you’re preparing, a stew with lots of tomato sauce will need something sweet to balance the tomato acidity and this can be achieved easily by adding a more carrots.

Ingredients on a plastic box for soffritto recipe: Carrots, onion, celery sticks and parsley.
Ingredients for the Soffritto Recipe

The additions

The soffritto recipe is sometimes enhanced with different extra ingredients. The most commons are garlic, parsley, rosemary, sage and pretty much any fresh herbs that are typical in the italian cuisine, think of basil for a starts.

But those additions will always depend on the dish it’s being mainly prepared, you won’t think of adding basil to the traditional ragù alla bolognese!

How To Prepare Soffritto

Typically, soffritto can be made in a matter of minutes by just chopping the vegetables altogether, but, depending on the recipe you are going to use the soffritto recipe, there are some ways to cut the vegetables.

This is totally based in personal preferences, even though sometimes the italian chefs suggest to make soffritto one way or another, the truth is, you’ll get the umami-packed flavour of the veggies no matter how do you cut them.

Start by gathering your vegetables and cleaning/washing them. Peel the onions, wash the carrots, peel them and discard the tips, peel the back of the celery sticks if you want (is not necessary), you can use the most fresh leaves aswell. Cut everything into big chunks and proceed as suggested below:

Chopped

Chopped soffritto is pretty much used to recipes that have other vegetables on it, such as minestrone soup, chicken soup with veggies, etc. If you want the dish to have some vegetable bites on it, you should add the onions, carrots and celery chopped in small cubes.

Diced

Dicing the vegetables is a great way to to add a “meaty” texture, such as in ragù sauces like bolognese or stews like Coda alla Vacinara or chicken cacciatora to name a few. Minced is one of my favourite ways to make my soffritto recipe as it also store better in the freeze (more below).

Minced

Finely minced. This is perfect to make quick pasta sauces or slow-cook meat stews that you want to have a gravy-alike texture, such as spezzatino or pollo alla cacciatora. By finely mincing the vegetables you allow them to cook quick and melt into the dish.

Knife, mezzaluna or food processor?

To cut the vegetables you’re going to need either any of those tools: A knife, a mezzaluna or a food processor. You can make it with any of those or (if you have all) use any depending the type of soffritto you’re preparing.

A knife is good to chop roughly the vegetables, a mezzaluna will allow you to chop evenly everything and the food processor will just accelerate the preparation times and will help when you have large amounts of soffritto to make.

How To Cook It

Most of the italian recipes calls for slow-cook soffritto in olive oil, sometimes lard or butter are also used to soffriggere (stir fry).

You will start by heating the oil at medium temperature, then adding the vegetables and lowering the heat to allow them to cook slowly, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the vegetables are slightly transparent and soft and there’s no liquid left.

If the recipe ask for sealing the meat before adding the soffritto, you need to make sure there’s no liquid left from the meat, as it will steam the vegetables instead of frying.

How To Store It

The Soffritto Recipe is something really handy to have available at any time. Then why not to make a large batch and store for later use? Even if you’re not making italian dishes, those veggies really add a nice touch to many recipes out there (Psst!….I love making my sopita de fideo with soffritto!)

In the fridge

After chopping the vegetables, place them in a jar or air-tight container, pack them lightly with a spoon and store in the coldest shelf of your fridge for about 5-6 days

In the freezer

Place soffritto in a colander and let it drain for half an hour, then make portions of about 3-4 tablespoons and place them in zipper bags. Store in the freezer for up to 4 months. You can also use an ice cube tray for smaller portions.

You can either defrost it overnight before using it or just add it like that into the oil, it will defrost eventually.

To avoid having a whole block of soffritto, place the bags in the freezer and after one hour or so, take them off and smash them a little bit against the kitchen counter, repeat for at least two more times.

With Salt

Salt is an amazing ingredient to preserve food and this soffritto recipe is perfect to make use of it.

You just need to add the 20% of salt of the vegetables weight total, for example, if you’re using 500 gr of carrots, onions and celery in total, you need to add 100 gr of salt to the chopped veggies. Mix throughly and then store in a jar preferably.

And that’s it! You don’t even need to place it in the fridge, even though I do it sometimes, specially if it’s summer.

Just remember, when you’ll be using the soffritto, make sure to not add extra salt to the recipe you’re making, as the vegetables will maybe add enough to flavour the dish.

Related: Using Salt as a Food Preservative

Final Notes

First thing you need to know is that soffritto needs to be cook right when you’re making the recipe that calls for it. Many soffritto recipe out there tells you to cook the vegetables and then store for later use but that’s not the way italian does (at least not the 99% of them).

The recipes vary, sometimes you cook the soffritto as the first thing in the recipe (like in Ribollita for example) but sometimes is the second step, such as in Coda Alla Vaccinara, where first the meat is sealed and then the soffritto is added to finish the cooking altogether.

Of course, you can also make a large batch of soffritto, cook it and store it, but I won’t recommend using it to make the classic dishes like bolognese sauce, Minestrone, etc. But rather as a flavour enhancer, such as adding a spoonful of the preparation to flavour pasta recipes, salads, etc. Think of sauces like pesto that sometimes are used to add a little flavour instead as a main ingredient.

Italian Soffritto Recipe

Learn how to make the traditional italian soffritto recipe, how to use it and how to store to have it available any time you need it.
PREP 10 minutes
TOTAL 10 minutes
Print Pin Rate
Servings: 1
Author: Maricruz

Ingredients 

  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 celery sticks

Instructions

  • Start by gathering your vegetables and cleaning/washing them. Peel the onions, wash the carrots, peel them and discard the tips, peel the back of the celery sticks if you want (is not necessary), you can use the most fresh leaves aswell.
  • Cut everything into big chunks and proceed to the chopping using a knife, mezzaluna or food processor as suggested below:

Chopped

  • Chopped soffritto is pretty much used to recipes that have other vegetables on it, such as minestrone soup, chicken soup with veggies, etc. If you want the dish to have some vegetable bites on it, you should add the onions, carrots and celery chopped in small cubes.

Diced

  • Dicing the vegetables is a great way to to add a “meaty” texture, such as in ragù sauces like bolognese or stews like Coda alla Vacinara or chicken cacciatora to name a few. Minced is one of my favourite ways to make my soffritto recipe as it also store better in the freeze (more below).

Minced

  • Finely minced. This is perfect to make quick pasta sauces or slow-cook meat stews that you want to have a gravy-alike texture, such as spezzatino or pollo alla cacciatora. By finely mincing the vegetables you allow them to cook quick and melt into the dish.

HOW TO COOK

  • You will start by heating the oil at medium temperature, then adding the vegetables and lowering the heat to allow them to cook slowly, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the vegetables are slightly transparent and soft and there’s no liquid left. 
  • If the recipe ask for sealing the meat before adding the soffritto, you need to make sure there’s no liquid left from the meat, as it will steam the vegetables instead of frying.
Nutrition
Serving: 1grams
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