Sofrito – Classic Cuban Cooking

Shhh… It’s a secret!

A good sofrito (so-FREE-toe) is one of the classic seasoning or base ingredients for Cuban cooking. Every Cuban cook has their own recipe, and of course it is a closely guarded secret!

You can think of a sofrito as a version of a French mirepoix, but with a different take. Onions, green bell pepper, garlic, oregano, cumin and bay leaves are common ingredients. Other components commonly seen in sofrito recipes are tomatoes and cilantro. In reality, cilantro has more of a Puerto Rican sofrito background and tomatoes are not considered part of a sofrito, merely an ingredient added later.

One other sofrito debate among Cuban cooks is whether the ingredients should be finely chopped or more on the chunky side. To each his own, but we prefer the finer, almost paste texture. You can certainly use a food processor to get your ingredients done in this manner.

Here is a very basic recipe that I will post as merely a starting point. Notes to follow…

Cuban Sofrito

· 3 Tbs olive oil
· 1 large onion, peeled and quartered
· 1 green bell pepper, seeded
· 3-5 cloves garlic
· ¼ tsp ground cumin
· 1 tsp dried oregano – preferably Mexican
· 1 tsp salt
· ¼ tsp pepper
· 2 bay leaves
· ¼ cup Sherry

Add olive oil to pan over medium heat. Chop all remaining ingredients (not including bay leaves and Sherry) in a food processor. Add chopped ingredients to pan along with bay leaves and sauté for 10 minutes. Add Sherry and reduce. The Sofrito should soften to a paste-like texture. Remove bay leaves.

Notes: Keep in mind that there are endless variations on this recipe, so it is open to interpretation and taste preference. You are free to add or remove components at will. Some of the ingredients that may be used are the above mentioned tomatoes or cilantro, as well as hot peppers, capers, culantro, red bell pepper and even occasional bacon or ham.

Experiment and enjoy..!