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catalan sofrito sauce

Catalan Salsa Sofrito: A Catalan Tomato and Onion Sauce

catalan sofrito sauce

After a recent trip to Catalonia, I discovered ‘Pa amb tomàquet‘, a Catalan specialty of toasted bread topped with garlic, olive oil and smushed tomatoes and Salsa Jurvert, a parsley garlic sauce that accompanies almost any food! This recipe is for another traditional Catalonia sauce called Sofrito. (Note that there are many recipe variations for Sofrito, depending on the country and region.) Catalan Salsa Sofrito is a simple combination of stewed onions and tomatoes, easy to make and complex in taste.

Salsa Sofrito: A Catalan Tomato and Onion Sauce

There are many different Sofrito sauces, including Latin American recipes that use different ingredients but with the same cooking method: a sofrito stewing. This longer cooking makes a complex sauce which is then added to other dishes such as paella or cooked meats. This Catalan Salsa Sofrito is a base sauce that builds up the texture and flavor of the dish it is added to. I couldn’t imagine eating paella without a Sofrito base!

The taste key for this recipe is choosing the right onions to stew. Ideally the onion should be slightly sweet, the best type to look for in America is Vidalia Onions, the sweet variety that originates from Georgia. In Spain, they use another type of onion that is sweet in taste such as the Spanish Figueres variety. Wherever you live, find a sweet onion to make this dish. While cooking the sofrito you will smell the heavenly sweet aroma from the onions.

The Spanish origins of the word sofrito means to lightly fry or saute something. But the history of sofrito goes back to the 14th century.

“Sofrito is much older than that. The first known mention of the technique is referenced as sofregit in the “Libre de Sent Soví” (circa 1324). It’s one of the oldest cookbooks in Europe from the Catalan region of Spain. Therefore, The conclusion can be made that sofrito has been an ingredient and technique in Catalan cuisine since medieval times.” (from About Food)

The minor inconvenience is that this sauce takes patience and time. The more the salsa stews, the richer the flavor. But the five great things about this sauce are:

  1. It adds a dimension of complex flavor to dishes. (see Chicken Breast recipe below).
  2. It is super high on the healthy sauces list with its base of onions, tomatoes and olive oil. (Mediterranean food!)
  3. It is easy to make. (Four Ingredients!)
  4. It is affordable.
  5. You can make a lot at one time because it freezes well (freeze sauce in small mason jars or ice cube trays that you pop out and use small amounts when needed).

Now let’s go to the kitchen!

How to Make Catalan Salsa Sofrito

Ingredients: (for about two cups of sauce)

  • 2 sweet onions: Vidalia, Figueres or other sweet variety, peeled and chopped
  • 6 ripe tomatoes, seeded, peeled and grated (see below for specifications)
  • a good amount of olive oil: about 3-4 tablespoons
  • sea salt
  • (optional -1 teaspoon of paprika)

Note: The texture of this sofrito sauce benefits from grating the tomatoes. Cut the tomatoes, remove the seeds and grate the insides. Discard the peel.catalan salsa sofrito catalan salsa sofrito catalan salsa sofrito


Note: To have the best flavor and texture, this salsa sofrito is stewed for at least 30 minutes.

  1. Heat olive oil in a large saute/stewing pan. catalan salsa sofrito
  2. When oil is heated (but not burning) add chopped onion. Let the onions saute, mixing them around for about five minutes until they start to turn transparent.catalan salsa sofrito
  3. Add the grated tomatoes to the onions. catalan salsa sofrito
  4. Add a pinch of sea salt (and optional paprika) and let sofrito cook for at least 30 minutes over low heat, watching that the sauce does not burn and stirring it frequently. After 30 minutes, check the sauce frequently and stop cooking when the sauce seems consistent but not dry.catalan sofrito sauce
  5. When the sofrito is done, put it in a jar to use rapidly (refrigerate it), freeze it or use it right away. catalan sofrito sauce
  6. Here is an example of what I used the sofrito sauce with, on the same day I made it: Sauteed Chicken Breast with Catalan Salsa Sofrito. catalan sofrito sauce
  7. To make this chicken dish, saute boneless chicken breast in olive oil. catalan sofrito sauce
  8. When chicken is cooked through, about seven to ten minutes, add a good amount of sofrito to the top of the chicken. For six pieces of chicken I used 1 cup of sauce. catalan sofrito sauce
  9. Continue cooking chicken in sofrito for another few minutes, stirring well. Add a shower of chopped parsley and serve immediately.catalan sofrito sauce

I served Sauteed Chicken with Catalan Salsa Sofrito with a side of plain spaghetti, dressed with the sauce, but you can use rice or another grain on the side. The sauce goes well on almost anything.

If you like Catalonia cuisine or Spanish food, tell me what your favorite dish is! The food from this region is amazingly healthily delicious, don’t you think? And please continue to tune in on the blog for more ways that you can move to ‘happiness’ with the simple pleasures of a meal or drink, prepared or served with flavor, taste and presentation at the forefront. Simple dishes, simple ideas, simple tricks to bring taste and appreciation.

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Thanks for your support. Warmly, Mary

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3 Responses to Catalan Salsa Sofrito: A Catalan Tomato and Onion Sauce

  1. Betsy Ramirez, MEd, RDN June 4, 2015 at 20:07 #

    Love this, Mary! I make the Puerto Rican version. It’s a staple in my house. Love seeing the different versions.

  2. sonya June 4, 2015 at 15:31 #

    delicious and healthy – awesome!

  3. Bala June 4, 2015 at 13:58 #

    The sofrito looks delicious, Mary, and I must say that it reminds me a lot of a south-Indian mother sauce with savory onions, tomatoes and few Indian spices. Enjoy!

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