Saturday, September 6, 2014

Eats: Savory Soffritto

Hello! Normally I consider red bell peppers too expensive to buy, but not so this time of year. Thanks to our local farmer's market, I can and do purchase them by the bagful. Although I eat a few here and there raw in salads, most are roasted and then packaged for the freezer. These will find their way onto pizzas, sandwiches and various other recipes. 

But then a couple of years ago I found another use for red bell peppers when I came across a recipe for soffritto in a Bon Appetit magazine. As the copy explained: "A mix of chopped aromatics, like the Italian blend soffritto, is the base for countless recipes because it lends character to simple dishes. That's why we always have soffritto on hand. Freeze the extra...and you'll have the foundation for soups and sauces ready to go - no chopping required".

Well, if it was good enough for Bon Appetit, then soffritto was likely good enough for me too. The recipe looked fairly simple, with only five ingredients involved (plus salt and pepper): onion, red bell pepper, olive oil, garlic and tomato paste. The recipe instructions called for chopping the onion and bell pepper in a food processor, so prep time was fairly quick as well. And total cooking time was barely over 30 minutes. 

All in all, it seemed like an easy way to add flavor to wintertime soups and other dishes, so I made up a batch that fall to store in the freezer. I'm happy to report the recipe was as advertised by Bon Appetit - the soffritto did, indeed, lend character to my bean soups. I'd also toss some into casseroles and even into the bread machine to add flavor to sandwich bun dough.

And now, with red bell peppers making their appearance once again at our farmer's market, it was time to make another batch:

Above, chopped onion and chopped red bell pepper are simmering in olive oil. 

A close-up of the finished product - thicker now, and with the addition of garlic and a bit of tomato paste. 

I flash-froze the mixture in a thin layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. When it had hardened, I broke the soffritto into chunks and put it into a quart freezer bag. It'll be easy to grab some as needed when I want to season a pot of soup or whatever.

I like soffritto enough that I ended up making two more batches. If you'd like to make some yourself, you can find the recipe HERE. I should add that the soffritto recipe is included in another recipe, hence the name of a different dish, "White Bean Ragout With Toast" in the title. (I've not tried the ragout recipe, so I have no comment on it). 

I should also mention that the recipe says leftover soffritto can be frozen for up to three months. I admit to keeping mine in the freezer longer than that, which seemed fine. 

If you decide to try this recipe, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!