I love the world of food for so many reasons – I know that sounds so cliche and empty, because most human beings love FOOD for the obvious reasons, like SURVIVAL. But one of the biggest reasons I love food is that it shows how no matter where you are in the world or where your roots originate, as different as we may be or appear in small insignificant ways, we humans on this big ol’ earth are actually the same in so many ways. Food proves that over and over again.
Take bread, for example – tortillas aren’t unique to Latin foods. There’s a variation of this in nearly every culture around the world. This is why we have spring rolls throughout Asia (I see you, gỏi cuốn!!), and pita throughout the mediterranean, as well as injera and chapati in Africa, naan in India, flatbrød in Scandinavia, crepe in Europe… you get the point.
Another great example of the universalness of food is base sauces – curry, mirepoix, marinara, gravy, sofrito. Sure, every region has their own spin on the base sauces. There are countless variations of curry, infinite ways of making gravy…
And of all those I listed, the one that is probably known the least is Sofrito. But I’m here to bring it to the WORLD because it’s delicious, so easy to make, and everyone can use it as a seasoning in so many dishes. And every time I season a dish with Sofrito, people always ask, “what is IN this?!”
Sofrito, my friends, is going to be one of your new secret ingredients and a guaranteed HIT for your cooking, guaranteed – or your money back!
I shouldn’t entitled this blog post “The Caribbean Mirepoix” because Sofrito is actually a sauce that is used in other regions outside of the Caribbean, including Italy, Portugal, the Philippines and throughout Central and South America. But most people know about the “Holy Trinity” of onions, carrots and celery used as a base, and it’s very similar to that.
Every family has their own variation of Sofrito, of course. My family’s version is relatively simple and adapted to ingredients that are commonly found in the US versus one or two ingredients that are local to the Caribbean. So nearly anyone can make this and pass along this recipe.
This recipe will create a relatively large batch of Sofrito, which means you should have between 5-8 small empty glass jars (approximatley 12 oz each) with tight lids so that you can store and freeze the Sofrito in small batches – keyword being “small”. You don’t want to have a giant container of Sofrito sitting in your fridge because you don’t use much Sofrito in one sitting. Typically two to three tablespoons of Sofrito at a time are plenty to season a dish. So in order to maintain freshness, it’s important to jar it and freeze it in those small batches. And if you think it’s too much for you to handle over a period of time, a jar of Sofrito makes a great gift!
The key to using Sofrito is using it like a seasoning, not like a sauce on top of a prepared dish. It’s not like salsa or barbecue sauce. Rather, Sofrito should be cooked in to the dish. My family’s traditional way of incorporating Sofrito is to open the flavors of the Sofrito first by frying it in a little bit of olive oil. The incredible scents from the ingredients will immediately fill your entire house as soon as you open them up in the olive oil, so I must warn you to resist diving right in and eating the Sofrito right there and then!
Next, after lightly frying the Sofrito for a couple minutes, you add tomato sauce to turn the Sofrito into a sauce, which can then be added as a tomato based sauce into your dish or as a topping sauce (like a salsa, enchilada sauce, etc.).
I promise you, you can never fail with Sofrito. It can brighten up store-bought spaghetti sauce, a batch of chili, a marinade for meats and chicken, stews of nearly every kind, even a humble pot of beans. In fact, I use Sofrito mostly in my simple kidney beans the most. I’ll be posting that very easy recipe here too soon!
Without further ado – the recipe for my family’s all-versatile and almighty Sofrito!
Depending on how large your ingredients are, your batch size can vary. Just be sure to have a number of empty clean glass jars with tight lids to store the Sofrito. Remember when using Sofrito to season a dish, first open up the flavors by lightly frying it in olive oil (3 parts Sofrito - 1 part olive oil). Next add canned tomato sauce and thicken over light heat for 2-3 minutes. Now your Sofrito will be ready to be added to a dish as a seasoning or as a topping. Enjoy!
- 2 green bell peppers
- 2 bunches fresh cilantro
- 1 whole head garlic
- 2 yellow onions (NOT sweet onions!)
- 2 TB ground cumin
- 2 tsp salt
De-seed the bell peppers and chop into quarters. Separate the garlic head's cloves and peel each clove. Remove the peel from the onions, and chop into quarters.
Add half of all of the ingredients into a blender or large food processor. Add 1/4 cup of water, and blend until the ingredients are liquified and well incorporated. Be sure to check that there aren't any small whole chunks of ingredients. Pulse a number of times until smooth.
Pour the first half batch of sofrito into a large bowl and set aside.
Add the remaining half of ingredients into the blender/fp, and repeat step 2. If you have enough room in the blender/fp, add the first half batch from the large bowl back into the blender/fp to combine. Blend together for about 10 seconds to fully combine. If the two batches of sofrito don't fit back into your blender/fp, you can pour the second batch into the large bowl and combine together with a spoon.
Using a funnel (or very carefully and slowly), pour the sofrito from the blender/fp or large bowl into your small jars, leaving about an inch from the top (don't overfill the jars). Seal each jar tightly with an air-tight lid.
Keep one jar of Sofrito in your refrigerator, and freeze the remaining jars until needed for up to one year frozen. (You can freeze longer, but freshness may diminish over time even if frozen.)