For the last few months, I have been spying little jars of soffritto paste in the specialty foods aisles of various supermarkets. Snuggled next to such exoticisms as ancho chillies, dried porcini mushrooms, and other things that it is ‘nice to have but not essential’ (although Waitrose now feature artichoke hearts in their Essentials range, for the love of God!). I picked a jar up out of curiosity, as I like to imitate fancy ingredients myself, cheaply, on this here blog, to make them more accessible. I turned it over, bracing myself for the hard-to-find ingredients contained within, steeling my nerves for the inevitable reverse-engineering process to follow…and snorted with laughter. This jar of soothingly yellow paste contained such far-flung ingredients as celery, carrots and onion, with a dash of salt and pepper. I snapped a quick photo of the label, and went back to the vegetable aisle, picking up 3kg of carrots and onions and a bag of celery for less than the puny jar of paste would have cost. Such is often the way.

This recipe makes a massive jar of soffritto paste, which can be halved or quartered and frozen to use in future ventures, so I will be posting some recipes for it after this one, some quick and easy uses. Having just whipped it up, it is so, so much more than the sum of its parts; the onions and carrots give it an underlying sweetness, the garlic cuts through with a slight tang, and because I am a maverick, I threw some lemon juice in there to brighten it up a little, for which I hope my Italian readership will forgive me.

I am planning to use it in a risotto, as a simple soup, as a more hearty soup, and as a pasta sauce, and as ever, would welcome your suggestions in the comments below.

Makes a large jar, around 800g depending on sizes of vegetables used, for 76p. That’s 19p per 200g, compared to £1.49 at certain supermarkets. Prices are based on Sainsburys, Basics range where available, as it’s where I did my weekly shop this week. My new years resolution *is* to hop around a bit, so watch this space!

(This post is not sponsored; I provide links to the ingredients that I use so you can see how I calculate my recipe costs, and I may earn a small commission if you click the links and make a purchase.)

2 large carrots (around 200g), 10p (75p/1.5kg Basics)

2 large onions (around 300g), 18p (90p/1.5kg Basics)

4 sticks of celery (around 200g), 31p (70p/450g)

4 fat cloves of garlic or 6 puny ones, 7p (30p/2 bulbs, Basics)

1/2 tsp salt, <1p (25p/750g Basics Table Salt)

50ml oil (the Italian recipes use olive oil, I shamefully plumped for sunflower), 5p (£3/3l)
a dash of black pepper, <1p (£1.40/100g – look for KTC or Natco brand in the world foods aisle)

1 tbsp lemon juice, 3p (50p/250ml from the baking section of the supermarket)

Without peeling your carrots, finely slice them and toss them into a large pan.

Peel and slice your garlic and onion and add those too, then slice your celery and sling it in.

Add the oil, salt and pepper, and cook on a gentle-to-medium heat for 15-20 minutes to soften.

When the onions are translucent and the carrots and celery softened, transfer the lot to a blender, including all of the oil and liquid in the bottom of the pan. Pulse a few times to form a rough paste; you may need to add a little water depending on how powerful your blender is! (Mine is this one. I’ve burned out two Nutribullets this year and this one has outlasted them both, but before I got all fancy I had a £10 Tesco Value jug blender that did a good enough job, and a Sainsburys Basics one, all of which were used several times a day and to test hundreds of recipes, so a good blender doesn’t have to cost the earth! Also check charity shops this time of year, as folk may have got whizzier kitchen gadgets for Christmas and donated their old ones…)

And voila – soffritto paste. Now, what to do with it? 🙂 First, I’m going to stop eating it out of the blender jug (!) and portion it into four jars for four different adventures, and then watch this space…

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Soffritto recipe by Jack Monroe

Soffritto recipe by Jack Monroe