‘Soffritto’, the secret of many Italian dishes

Soffritto (also called ‘battuto’) is not a dish in itself, but rather the all-important foundation of many traditional Italian soups, sauces, risottos, stews and braised dishes. It is made of just four simple ingredients – carrot, onion, celery and extra virgin olive oil – although it can include garlic, parsley or other herbs.

Here I’m making the most basic and widespread version, which is also my favourite. It adds amazing flavour and richness to countless recipes. The ratio is generally 2 parts onion to 1 part each of carrot and celery, although I like to use an equal portion of each for a more delicate soffritto.


  • 1/2 medium onions
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 celery stick
  • extra virgin olive oil

Peel and cut the vegetables into a fine dice. Traditionally we chop the vegetables with a ‘mezzaluna’ (half-moon cutter), but a good knife will do the job just as well. Heat a heavy-based saucepan over a gentle heat and add the oil. Add the vegetables and cook for around 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until they are softened and golden but not burnt or crispy. 

To draw out all kinds of delectable flavour from this quintessential Italian base, you can add two or more other vegetables, herbs and spices, even meats such as pancetta.  

Once done, you can use your soffritto as a base for all sorts of Italian dishes. I have added to mine a can of chopped tomatoes and a pinch of salt. Simmering for about 15 minutes, you can make a simple, yet hearty, vegetarian pasta sauce known as ‘sugo finto‘.

When I make my soffritto I usually chop together more onion, celery, and carrots than I need, so I can store some of the chopped vegetables in the freezer. As well as cutting down prep time, I always know I have this flavour base handy when I want to throw together a quick pasta sauce, soup, stew, minestrone or risotto.

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