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Throughout Spain and Latin America, sofrito is the first step in many well-rounded dishes packed with harmonious flavor.

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What Is Spanish Sofrito?

Sofrito is a Spanish sauce that consists of tomato paste, olive oil, onions, garlic, herbs, and peppers. Sofrito, which means “to lightly fry,” forms the aromatic flavor base for a range of Spanish recipes. Sofrito recipes vary from household to household, and there are many regional sofrito variations like those in Dominican, Puerto Rican, and Brazilian cuisine. For example, Dominican sofrito, or sazon, sometimes features vinegar and annatto, while Puerto Rican sofrito, or recalto, is usually puréed and often contains cubanelle peppers, ajices dulces, and culantro. Brazil’s variation on sofrito, called refogado, is simply salt, oil, onions, and garlic purréed together and lightly fried.

What Are the Differences Between Italian Soffrito and Spanish Sofrito?

While the two share a similar name, there are a few differences between Italian soffritto and Spanish sofrito.

  • Soffritto resembles mirepoix. Italian soffritto is an aromatic flavor base composed of sautéed carrots, celery, and onions that forms the foundation of many soups (like minestrone), stews, pasta sauces, and braises throughout Italian cuisine. This flavor base more closely resembles the classical French mirepoix blend of carrots, celery, and onions.
  • Sofrito is a sauce. Spanish sofrito is an aromatic sauce composed of tomato paste, garlic, bell peppers, cilantro, parsley, and various spices. This flavorful base is slow-cooked in olive oil to create a concentration of flavors to impart into dishes like paella, empanadas, and stews.
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3 Ways to Use Sofrito

Here are some common ways to use sofrito in your cooking:

  1. As a base. Use the flavorful sauce as a foundation for rice dishes like paella, quick, saucy braises, or to impart flavor into sautéed vegetables. You can also incorporate sofrito into soups, stews, and stocks to impart an extra dimension of flavor.
  2. As a filling. Incorporate sofrito into chorizo or ground beef to fill crispy empanadas.
  3. As a sauce. Serve sofrito as a sauce over rice or fried eggs for an easy, flavorful breakfast or lunch.

Traditional Spanish Sofrito Recipe

Makes
Makes 4 cups
Prep Time
10 min
Total Time
35 min
Cook Time
25 min

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 mild, sweet green pepper (or green bell pepper), diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, or 5–6 diced fresh tomatoes (preferably plum tomatoes)
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • 1 bay leaf (optional)
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onions until they are translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the green pepper and garlic, stir to incorporate.
  2. Add the tomatoes and spices to the skillet, and cook for another 10–15 minutes, stirring frequently, until the tomatoes have softened and the consistency has thickened slightly. Remove the bay leaf, if using, and discard.
  3. Use immediately, or let cool completely before storing in a jar for up to a week. Alternatively, you can freeze sofrito sauce in ice cube trays for easy tablespoon portions.

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