Sofregit is a fundamental homemade tomato sauce of the Mediterranean Catalan cuisine that has produced quite a few chefs superstars in recent years and it can be used as a basis for dozens of dishes. The secret of this fresh tomato sauce recipe is a perfectly caramelized onion, generally followed by a patiently caramelizing of the tomato.
This is the ideal way of making sofregit but if you don’t mind stepping on orthodoxy you can make it much quicker, the bare minimum cooking being 15 minutes.
Sofregit, pronounced soo-frah-GEET, is one of the five fundamental sauces of Catalan cuisine together with allioli, samfaina, picada, and romesco, understanding sauce in a very broad sense. A myriad of stews and other Catalan Mediterranean recipes consistently begin with one or other version of sofregit tomato sauce.
Catalan cuisine without sofregit is unthinkable. At the same time, it has the potential to be used in other culinary contexts as it is very useful and versatile. It provides a savory base for fish, meat, poultry, and vegetable stew recipes.
Below we give you the recipe for a basic sofregit of onion and tomato and in the next page another version with garlic and parsley.
Sofregit derives from the verb sofregir: to fry lightly. In this case, it means that you fry it slowly over low heat.
Thus, regarding the cooking time, it can take as long as an hour or even much longer. There was a Catalan chef who used to cook his sofregit over a whole night, similar to the popular Egyptian Ful Mudammas cooked in the traditional slow way. Or you can make a quick sofregit in only fifteen minutes that nicely flavor a stew or a pasta dish.
In the recipe below we chose the middle way: 30 to 45 minutes. 15 minutes of cooking makes it usable; with 30 minutes of cooking you have a very good sofregit; 45 minutes, and it’s already gourmet-like.
Yields 1 1/2 to 2 cups
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, use extra virgin olive oil or the best you can get
- 2 medium-sized onions (about 7 ounces or 200 g), finely chopped
- 5 medium size ripe tomatoes (1 pound or 450 g), peeled and chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar; this is optional and brown sugar is fine too
Preparation time: 10 to 15 minutes.
Cooking time: 30 to 45 minutes.
- Heat olive oil in an earthenware casserole or Dutch oven. When the oil is hot, make sure the heat is low, add the chopped onions, and stir. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until the onion caramelizes. Stir often with a wooden spoon. First, the onions become transparent, then they turn golden, and finally, they begin to caramelize.
- Add the tomato, stir briefly, and cover. At this point, you can add the optional half teaspoon of sugar, if you find your tomatoes are too acidic. Seasonal local natural tomatoes generally don’t need sugar, but that’s up to the home cook to decide.
- Cook covered for 15 to 30 minutes stirring occasionally.