If you love spcies, then you will enjoy one of the "magical" ingredients that go into most Puerto Rican cookery. Sofrito, a base concoction of flavors from tomato, garlic, onions and other herbs can make any ordinary dish, even non-Puerto Rican ones, magnificent.
Sofrito comes from the general term of 'something that has been stir fried', the past tense of the spanish verb 'sofreir'. It is made by taking vegetables, herbs and spices, chopping them up (or pureeing in a blender) into a base thick sauce. The idea of doing this stems from the fact that the more you chop something, the more surface area your provide for cooking. Doing so allows all these ingredients in sofrito to cook and be extracted before adding it to the entree you are preparing.
There are a variety of different versions on you make sofrito, and you can always experiment with your own preference. Here, we will provide you with two options. One is making it from scratch and one out of a retail product. In most of the cooking recipes we provide, we know everyone's time is limited, so we always recommend store bought due to time constraints. If you do prepare it from scratch, we recommend that you make a lot of it at once, and place it in the freezer. It is used in so many recipes, that it is always good to keep some handy, especially since it will last months when frozen.
Just to be clear, given that we want our recipes to be made easily by everyone - we highly recommend getting sofrito from your local supermarket or grocery store. It is just as good and you can focus your time on making the main dish you are preparing.
Making Sofrito from Scratch
Because you want to make this in bulk, we will make around a few cups worth of sofrito.
- 1/2 cup of olive oil (good quality, not extra virgin)
- 1 white/red onion (depending on your flavor)
- 12 garlic cloves. You can use minced garlic but do not use dry garlic that comes in a spice container. It should be moist or fresh.
- 1 green bell pepper (remove the core and clean out seeds)
- 1 red bell pepper (remove the core and clean out seeds)
- 1 red sweet pepper, (clean out seeds)
- 1/2 cup of oregano
- 2 large tomatoes (fresh, semi riped). Try and remove seeds.
- 30 leaves of culantro (optional). It is optional since it is sometimes hard to find, but recommended. This is not the same as "cilantro".
- Combine the olive oil, onion, culantro, and garlic until it is a purée. (Around 30-40 seconds depending on blender)
- Then add the rest of the items and blend them as well. Every 30-40 seconds, stop the blender and manually mix the contents to make sure they are all equally blended. Then repeat blending 30-40 seconds. If you need to, add more a bit more olive oil.
After this point, you should have a green/redish looking purée, which by itself, doesn't really taste like much. The point is that it is a condiment base for starting numerous recipes. When ready to make a recipe, you will take some of it and stir-fry it in a pan to make the flavors come out - and that is when the magic happens. The sofrito that you are not using you can store in the freezer for when you need it (ziplock bag or plastic jar). It will last for months.
Sofrito for those who don't have time
It is highly understandable that most of us don't have time to make tons of sofrito - and we want our recipes to be simple to make as every day meals. If available in your local supermarket or grocery store, you can use the sofrito that comes in a glass jar (ex. Goya). There are two types - a green and a red. While they are very similar, the red one starts off with more tomato (and adds color) than the green one. The brand doesn't matter as long as it has the ingredients you see in the picture below.