This is one of the staples of the Catalan (sofregit) and Spanish (sofrito) cuisine, although, with some
modifications, it is also prepared in other countries like Italy (sofritto) and Portugal (refogado). We use it in many recipes, as
it is the base in which many dishes are built.
It is basically a jam-like paste made of two main ingredients, tomatoes and onions that are cooked a long time until they reach this paste consistency. It actually has three ingredients, the third being the olive oil in which the tomatoes and onions are cooked.
There are obviously some variations of it;
some people make it with pepper and garlic, fine herbs and others, but the base
is pretty much always the same. Also, there are some important tricks about the
ingredients and the cooking process to know before starting a good sofregit.
First, the onion has to be finely chopped and not grated. If grated, it will lose a lot of water and it will become a paste that will dry up quickly when cooking.
As for the tomatoes, you can either use fresh or canned tomatoes. If using fresh tomatoes, they can be finely chopped or grated. It is better if they are peeled before using them, some people even remove the seeds, but it is not really necessary if they don’t bother you. If using canned tomato it can be directly sauce or whole/diced tomatoes that will need to be cut, just make sure you buy good quality tomatoes and that they are just tomatoes and nothing else added. It is recommended to add a tidbit of sugar to compensate the acidity of the tomatoes, although not completely necessary if you don’t feel like it.
Some people add garlic to the sofregit, if using it; it has to be
added to the onion a bit before adding the tomatoes, if you add it at the same
time of the onion it will burn. Also finely chopped is the way to go.
The cooking process has to be very slow. First the onion is cooked until it reduces its volume to a third and becomes dark brown without being burnt (that is the secret of an amazing sofregit my friend!). Then, the tomato will cook until it has lost all its water, and the sofregit will be ready when it has become a shiny dark red-brownish jam-like paste.
Because preparing a good sofregit can easily take up to an hour,
it is a good idea to make a good batch when making it and freezing it. It holds
very well in the freezer and it can be stored it in little portions (I use and
ice cube maker).
And that’s it! I know it may sound a bit intimidating but it is not!
This tomato and onion jam-paste used in so many Catalan recipes gives a distinctive touch to all the dishes that call for it.
3 medium onions
15 oz (1 can) tomato sauce
Finely chop the onions and add them to a pan with quite a bit of olive oil. Don’t be shy on the olive oil. The onion has to be well coated.
Cook at low heat for about 30 minutes, occasionally stirring and until it has reduced its volume to a third, it turns dark brown but it is not burnt.
Add the tomato sauce and let reduce for another 30 minutes at low heat until you get a shiny dark red-brownish jam-like paste. Keep stirring to avoid it from sticking to the pan, if it does, you can add a bit of water.
You can use 3-4 tomatoes instead of tomato sauce. In this case peel the tomatoes and chop or grate them before adding to the pan.
If you want to add garlic to the sofregit, finely chop it and add it to the onion a bit before you add the tomato. If you add it to early it will burn.