The base for many Italian sauces and dishes is the "soffritto" (sofrit in French, sofrito in Spanish), a mixture of some diced vegetables which are cooked in a heavy pan with three tablespoons of olive oil (although some other kinds of oil and fat are also been used) until they reach a consistency which is defined as "under (sub) fried". This means that we should not overcook those vegetables or caramelise them, unless it is a specific recipe which calls for that.
The basic recipe requires the following ingredients:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, small dice
1 clove garlic, flattened and chopped
salt and pepper to taste
The onion is sauteed in the oil for about 12 minutes until it becomes transparent.
During the last 2 minutes, you add the garlic and keep on cooking it.
In Northern Italy, 2 sticks of celery and 2 carrots, all diced, are added to the onion.
Many other vegetables, all diced, such as zucchini, mushrooms, augergines, etc. can also be added.
I always add 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar (aceto balsamico) to add extra flavour.
Then your base is ready and you may add cooked meat, chicken or even seafood.
To turn this into a ragu, you add
1 large tin of tomato puree (or a tin of tomatoes, chopped)
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
herbs to taste
(If you are not using the balsamic vinegar, add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar)
and cook thoroughly for a few more minutes.
You can also add chopped olives, capers, anchovies..... there are many variations.
This can be a sauce for pasta, polenta and also for many stews.
Which is your favourite sauce which starts with a "soffritto"?