Soffritto, or buttuto as it is known in home kitchens across Italy, is the mirpoix, or the holy trinity, of northern Italian cooking and an essential foundation flavor for ragus, tomato sauces, stews, soups, and especially useful as an assertive flavor addition for vegetarian dishes.

Soffritto is nothing more than 2 parts onions, I part carrots, and 1 part celery slowly simmered in olive oil until the vegetables are nearly melted into a soft deep caramel colored paste. Unlike the French mirpoix, which is cooked directly in the pan before additional ingredients are added to complete the dish, buttutto is slow cooked separately, stored in the kitchen, and added as an underlying flavor anchor for the remaining added ingredients, producing a nuanced layering of flavors and color in the finished dish.

I will be posting several ragu recipes, in which soffritto is an integral ingredient, so I urge you to try making it. Once you have used it in your own ragus and sauces you will be convinced of buttuto’s flavor magic and keep it on hand as a kitchen staple.

Soffritto: makes 1 ½-2 cups  Cooking time: 1 ¼ hour -1 ¾ hour

  • 2 pounds onions, finely diced
  • 1 pound carrots, finely diced or grated
  • 1 pound celery stalks, finely diced
  • 2 cups extra virgin olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a large deep heavy bottomed saucepan, or large sauté pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot , add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent; about 20 minutes. You do not want the onions to brown so adjust the heat down to medium-low if the onions begin to color at all.

Add the carrots and celery to the pan and continue cooking on medium-low for 10 minutes and then lower the heat to low (barely simmering) and continue to cook, stirring frequently, being sure the ingredients are not sticking to the bottom of the pan. Use a heat defusing plate placed over the heat source if you find the mixture is coloring too rapidly.

Continue simmering, stirring as needed, until the mixture reduces and turns a deep amber caramel color and the vegetables have nearly melted. This will take anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 ¼ hours .

Remove from the heat immediately and set the pan on a cooling rack until completely cool. At this point you can gently mash the vegetables with a wooden masher and stir to mix in the oil.

Transfer the mixture to a sterile jar, seal tightly with lid, and refrigerate for several days, or freeze for longer storage.

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