With both Italian ancestry and a lifelong career in cooking Italian food, chef/owner Jerry Corso of Bar del Corso (3057 Beacon Ave S; 206.395.2069; bardelcorso.com), a small neighborhood pizzeria on Beacon Hill, focuses on classic Italian flavors and technique. One of his beloved ingredients is soffritto, a cooked-down mixture of several vegetables. It becomes a succulent sauce that is the cornerstone of many dishes—and it’s a brilliant bit of culinary cheating.
Made from finely chopped red onion, celery and carrots, Corso’s soffritto includes fennel and leek for oomph, along with garlic and rosemary or thyme. When starting a soffritto, the size of the veggies is very important, Corso counsels. Finely diced vegetables cook down faster and provide a fine, flavorful mash that will dissolve into a dish. Corso makes huge batches of soffritto, cooking it down with olive oil until all liquids have evaporated and there is a healthy amount of oil in the pan.
The first ingredient to hit the pan, soffritto starts off Corso’s ragu sauce, most bean dishes and many of the grains, such as the very popular risotto for the Suppli al Telefono, aka fried risotto balls. “We even use it [in a staff] meal if we need a quick soup,” says Corso: a scoop of soffritto, stock and a handful of vegetables.
And while the house soffritto at Bar del Corso is made up solely of vegetables, the version he makes at home ups the flavor with some lardo. “If it were up to me,” Corso says, “I’d be throwing in a prosciutto rind [with every batch].”
Soffritto is a versatile sauce that can be the basis for many dishes
Why You Should Try It:
Think of it as a pantry staple. “If you’re like me, when you get home, you want to eat quickly,” says Corso. Having soffritto on hand enables you to cook a really great, flavorful meal quickly. Soffritto adds a layer of flavor to braises, soups, pastas. “It’s important to layer flavor because it transforms a basic tomato sauce into something that has much more depth, is more interesting and gives it a savory aspect,” he says. “Without it, you have a basic marinara sauce.”
How to use this at home:
Sauté vegetables in it. “We use it a lot with fresh broad beans,” notes Corso. Braise beans along with soffritto, olive oil and a fresh tomato, covering to cook. Artichoke hearts work in this way, too. Add a spoonful of soffritto to tomato-based sauces at the start of cooking, and begin soups with a dollop of soffritto.
Jerry Corso’s Soffritto
Makes 2 cups
1 medium-size red onion
1 stalk of celery
½ fennel bulb
1 clove garlic
1 sprig rosemary
½ cup extra virgin olive oil,
or more as needed
Salt and pepper, to taste
» Chop the first five ingredients finely and evenly into small diced pieces, or roughly chop all vegetables and then pulse in a food processor until finely chopped, being careful to not purée the onion.
» In a heavy-bottomed pan, add the olive oil, garlic, rosemary and chopped vegetables and cook over medium high heat until the mixture starts to sizzle and is evenly heated. Then, turn down heat to low and keep the mixture at a simmer. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon and cook until translucent and very soft, about 45 minutes. Let cool and refrigerate, to be used as needed.
» Make in large batches and keep extra in the fridge or freeze it, where it will keep for weeks.
Jerry Corso’s recipe for braised Romano beans with Soffritto.