Soffritto Loves Olio

Do you drizzle, or do you glug, glug, glug—perhaps the two extremes in how olive oil (and only the good stuff) melds with roasted asparagus or pasta al ragù or arugula and romaine?

One of my first cooking lessons at Bramasole was from Giuseppina (Giusi), a lovely, energetic Tuscan who would bring us roast chickens and eggplant parmigiana and crostini. She taught me the first and most basic recipe—soffritto. Soffritto happens when you take the odori (one carrot, one onion, one rib of celery) that Roberto at the frutta e verdura in Cortona stuffs in your shopping bag as a matter of course. The trio is chopped very finely and then sautéed in a drizzle of great olive oil. No, I was wrong. “No Drizzling” should be on a t-shirt Giusi would wear. She pours, profusely pours. Add a quarter-cup of great olive oil to the pan, and then sauté the trio. Slowly, for 5-7 minutes.

Here's more from The Tuscan Sun Cookbook:

“The word is from soffriggere, to cook at a below-frying temperature. Soffritto, similar to mirepoix in France, is lightly fried odori. Depending on the recipe, you can add a variety of other ingredients to the soffritto: 2 minced cloves of garlic, ¼ pound of minced pancetta, 4 or 5 torn basil leaves, or other aromatic herbs. Use this in a ragù or soup and as a seasoning for zucchini, peas, or other vegetables. Mix some with breadcrumbs and stuff tomatoes with it. When I add a cup of chopped, oven-roasted tomatoes to a soffritto, I can serve forth a perfect sugo for Sunday night spaghetti. We frequently prepare a big batch, let it cool, and freeze ½ cup portions in small plastic bags. They’re then ready when I’m on a mission for a fast dinner.”

Photo by: Steven Rothfeld

Giusi taught us to pour, generously, and we continue to do that, although a few weeks ago I did buy a glass-cylinder spray bottle for the air fryer (spritzing!). How much Bramasole Olive Oil do Frances and I use a week? The answer is one bottle minimum, unless we’re having parties. And we’ve used one bottle-plus a week of Bramasole Olive Oil for well over 30 years, the oil from olives harvested from trees that are hundreds of years old. We have always poured and liberally and abundantly. We’ve never thought of our time in the kitchen as meagerly or skimpy—it’s not who we are.