Sofrito literally translates to ‘sauteed’ or ‘stir fried’ and is the flavour base for paella, fideua and a range of dishes you might find in Mediterranean and Hispanic cuisine. The main ingredients for a simple sofrito are onion, garlic and tomato. Bell peppers, carrots and other vegetables can also be used depending on the dish being made. The cooking process of the sofrito is slow as the ingredients need time to caramelise and develop the natural sugars for a strong depth of flavour. In some Spanish households, on a Sunday for example, the cooking process for the sofrito might start early in the morning. The concentration of flavour slowly develops over 2 or 3 hours over a low heat, with the end product resembling a thick tomato based sauce. When friends and family arrive for lunch, the paella or fideau can be ready in 25 minutes. The same process happens in restaurant kitchens as well. At The Paella Club we use a traditional method of cooking the sofrito combined with alternative ingredients, to facilitate the creation of a variety of paellas with different and interesting flavour profiles. If you are cooking a sofrito at home, take as much time as possible in order to have a finished product that tastes amazing. The sofrito can be made in large batches and frozen for later use, or put into jars and stored in the fridge for up to one month. Here is a recipe to try!
150ml olive oil
500g diced onions
300g diced red bell peppers
6 sliced garlic cloves
500g tomato puree
1tsp saffron powder
1500ml white wine
Salt and pepper to taste
- Over a low heat saute the onions in the olive oil until the sugars start to caramelise and the onions are a golden brown colour.
- Add the red bell peppers and sliced garlic and continue to slowly cook until the bell peppers and garlic are also caramelised.
- Add the wine to the pan to deglaze, then reduce the wine by half to evaporate the alcohol.
- Add the tomatoes and reduce everything down into a nice thick and concentrated sauce – as slow and low as possible.
- Create a dry patch in the centre of the pan and add a small splash of olive oil, then add the saffron powder and cook it in the oil for 15 seconds to develop the flavour of the spice.
- Mix everything together and continue cooking slowly until the sauce reaches your desired thickness and concentration.