Sofrito (Spanish pronunciation: [soˈfɾito]), or soffritto (Italian), or refogado (Portuguese pronunciation: [ʁɨfuˈɣaðu], [ʁefuˈɡadu]), is a sauce used as a base in Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Latin American cooking. Preparations may vary, but it typically consists of aromatic ingredients cut into small pieces and sauteed or braised in cooking oil.
In Spanish cuisine, sofrito consists of garlic, onion, paprika, and tomatoes cooked in olive oil. This is known as refogado or sometimes as estrugido in Portuguese-speaking nations, where only onions and olive oil are often essential, garlic and bay laurel leaves being the other most common ingredients.
Other meanings and versions
In Brazilian cuisine, the verb refogar encompasses also dishes that are fried in vegetable oil before being e.g. boiled or steamed, even when the actual fried seasoning is not there. Similarly, rice that has been toasted in vegetable oil before it is boiled is technically refogado, even if it is consumed plain, without garlic or any other vegetable or meat addition. Actually, the Portuguese verb refogar literally means "to fire i.e. heat repeatedly".
In Caribbean cuisine, sofrito is seasoned lard and functions as a base for many traditional dishes, but prepared differently from the method described above. Lard (acquired from rendering pork fat) is strained, and annatto seeds are added to colour it yellow, and later strained out. To the colored lard is added a ground mixture of cured ham, bell pepper, chile pepper, and onion; after this, mashed coriander leaves (cilantro) and oregano leaves are added. Garlic cloves are added in a tea ball, and the sauce is simmered for half an hour. The term also refers to a number of related sauces and seasonings in the Caribbean and Central and Latin America.
In Catalan cuisine, olive oil is heavily emphasized as the third critical component in a sofregit base along with tomatoes and onions. Garlic is optional, as it is not considered integral part of the standard sofregit recipe. Some sofregit recipes do not contain tomatoes at all, but are made more complex with the addition of diced vegetables such as leeks or bell peppers.
In Cuban cuisine, sofrito is prepared in a similar fashion, but the main components are Spanish onions, garlic, and green bell peppers. It is a base for beans, stews, rices, and other dishes, including ropa vieja and picadillo. Other secondary components include tomato sauce, dry white wine, cumin, bay leaf, and cilantro. Chorizo (kind of spicy, cured sausage), tocino (salt pork) and ham are added for specific recipes, such as beans.
In Dominican cuisine, sofrito is also called sazón, and is a liquid mixture containing vinegar, water, and sometimes tomato juice. A sofrito or sazón is used for rice, stews, beans, and other dishes. A typical Dominican sofrito is made up of very finely chopped green, red, and yellow bell peppers, red onions, garlic, ground oregano, apple cider vinegar, tomato paste, water, and cilantro. Ingredients vary and can change, for instance cubanelle peppers can substitute for bell peppers, celery can replace onions, and parsley or culantro can be used in place of cilantro.
In Ecuadorian cuisine, sofrito is called ajito, and it is made of Spanish onions, cubanelle peppers, fresh tomatoes, roasted garlic, cilantro, and ground toasted cumin.
In Greek cuisine, the term sofrito refers to a specific dish native to, and almost exclusively to be found on, the island of Corfu. Sofrito is a veal steak slow-cooked in a white wine, garlic, and herb sauce, and is usually served with rice.
In Italian cuisine, soffritto generally consists in garlic or onions (or both) shallow fried in olive oil. It is used as the base for most pasta sauces, such as arrabbiata sauce or Amatriciana sauce, but occasionally it can be used as the base of other dishes, such as sauteed vegetables. For this reason, it is a fundamental component in Italian cuisine. On top of onions and garlic, other spices such as hot chilli are often incorporated in the soffritto.
In Puerto Rican cuisine, sofrito is mostly used when cooking rice dishes, sauces, and soups. Sofrito is closely related to recaíto. The two main ingredients that give Puerto Rican sofrito its characteristic flavor are recao (culantro) and ají dulce, but red and green cubanelle peppers, red bell peppers, pimientos, yellow onions, garlic, plum tomatoes, and cilantro are also added. All red peppers are roasted, seeded, and then added to the sofrito. Sofrito is traditionally cooked with olive oil or annatto oil, tocino (bacon), salted pork and cured ham. A mix of stuffed olives and capers called alcaparrado is usually added with spices such as bay leaf, sazón and adobo.
In the Sephardi Jewish cuisine of the eastern Mediterranean and the Maghreb, the term sofrito emphasizes a method of cooking rather than a specific combination of aromatics. Sofrito is meat (lamb, beef, chicken) sautéed with garlic, turmeric, and cardamom and simmered in a small volume of water or stock with lemon juice, or simmered with all these ingredients without prior sautéing. The second method can also be used in cooking veal, calves' brains, or fish.
- Rombauer, Irma S.; Marion Rombauer Becker; Ethan Becker (2006). "Sofrito (Seasoned Lard)". Joy of Cooking. Scribner. p. 1013. ISBN 978-0-7432-4626-2.
- Colman Andrews (2005). "Part Two: SAUCES (Sofregit)". Catalan Cuisine: Vivid Flavors from Spain's Mediterranean Coast. Harvard Common Press. p. 332. ISBN 978-1-5583-2329-2.
- "Ginisa". December 2003. Retrieved 2008-05-22.
- "Giniling Guisado/Ginisa - Basic Recipe". 2012-05-02. Retrieved 2014-03-28.
- Peterson, Hayley (February 27, 2014). "We Just Tried Chipotle's New Tofu Dish — Here's The Verdict". Business Insider.
- Roden, Claudia, A New Book of Middle Eastern Food: London 1986 ISBN 0-14-046588-X
- Roden, Claudia, The Book of Jewish Food: New York 1997, London 1999 ISBN 0-14-046609-6
- Sofrito About the foodways and culinary history of sofrito.
- Sofrito Recipe as made in Cuba
- Puerto Rican Sofrito recipe
- Dominican Sofritos
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