Wednesday, January 21, 2009

In the Beginning fry a Soffritto

Fig.1. This soffritto starts with a small dice. Having the ingredients
roughly the same size insures they cook evenly.

I thought it would be a good idea to start the year off from the beginning. A soffritto is a preliminary aromatic preparation which is the base and foundation of most, if not all, Italian cooking. But like all things a soffritto needs to be done right. While there are no set lists of ingredients or methods, there are some rules which need to be adhered to; but, if you master the soffritto you're well on your way to creating most pasta sauces, risottos, soups, vegetable dishes and main courses.
Over the next month I’ll demonstrate four different ways of making a proper soffritto.

Soffritto #1


Pancetta, diced small
Onion, diced small
Carrot, diced small
Garlic, minced


Pour about 3 tablespoons of olive oil into a medium hot pan. The temperature of the pan is important and is a process that is not taken seriously enough. If the oil is not hot enough your ingredients will sit in the oil and absorb, if the oil is too hot you’ll burn the soffritto and give your dish an off taste. Find that magic middle temperature, the one that provides that wonderful sizzling sound as your ingredients make contact with the oil. Your oil is ready when it begins to shimmer and loosen up.
Add the pancetta, onion and carrot and cook over medium heat until the pancetta has rendered some fat and the vegetables have softened and cooked through, about 7 to 9 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.
If your ingredients turn dark brown or have blacked outlines, you’ve failed. Start over, only this time lower your heat and try to be more patient.
If done properly your soffritto will be cooked through with a light golden color. Now add something like a can of plum tomatoes, lentils or even some scrambled eggs to your base.

Fig.2. When done properly, the meat will be rendered and the vegetables