Kitchen Hacks

Straight from the Freezer, a Speedy Shortcut to Better Weeknight Meals

June  8, 2016

If you have soffritto in the fridge, it's your shortcut to a better-tasting pot roasts, soups, sauces, frittatas, and baked pastas. But to get to that point takes some time: You'll need to cook celery, onions, and carrots for 30 minutes to an hour, until all the pieces have lost their structural integrity.

So you need a shortcut to the shortcut—and that's where the soffritto roll comes in.

It's a trick we picked up in Mark Denner's schematic on how to turn one pot roast into a month of Sunday dinners—and a good to reason to double (or triple) your next batch of soffritto at your next opportunity.

Soffritto is easy to scale up, as it's roughly equal parts onion, celery, and carrot (though some people, like Mark, go heavier on the onion). Use enough oil, butter, or a combination of the two to coat the bottom of the pan and prevent the vegetables from sticking or scorching. Once the vegetable pieces are slumpy-soft, allow the mixture to cool, then spoon it onto a sheet of parchment paper or plastic wrap and, as Mark suggests, "roll the whole thing up like a Tootsie Roll."

Photo by Mark Weinberg

Now all you need to do is freeze the log in a gallon zip-top bag or another layer of plastic wrap: The next time you're trying to make your dinner taste more flavorful without doing more chopping, just saw off a hunk directly from the freezer. You can let the roll sit on the counter for a few minutes to soften up, but the amount of fat should mean that it remains soft even when frozen.

The same technique works well for homemade tomato paste and chipotles en adobo, says Mark, and it's also a smart way to store curry pastes, stir-fry sauces, caramelized onions, and even some pestos (so long as they're not too liquidy).

Do be aware, however, that storing soffritto carries a risk—if a small one—of botulism: Low-acid vegetables, like the onions and peppers in soffritto, are more likely to provide hospitable homes for botulism-causing spores. (Learn more about botulism—and how to take caution against it—here.)

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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8 Comments

Antoinette June 12, 2016
Would it be advantageous to chop and mix the vegetables and freeze them raw? Then you could have the advantage of the aeromatics as you cook, without the work? Or would freezing them raw affect the taste?
 
The P. June 12, 2016
That's what I do. Winter time is soup-making time and in early autumn I chop up a bunch of carrots, celery, and onions in the food processor, toss them together and place them in quart freezer bags.
 
Jessica V. June 8, 2016
I find your caution in an article about freezing sauteed aromatics confusing: "storing soffritto carries a risk—if a small one—of botulism." It has always been my understanding that correctly using the freezer route of preservation is how one avoids the botulism risks associated with incorrect canning methods and more than a few days of refrigerator storage. Nor can I find any good resources on botulism that refer to dangers in home freezing/thawing (if done properly). Meaning, as long as your ingredients are not prepared/stored incorrectly PRIOR to or AFTER freezing, there should be no botulism risks. Obviously, if you let garlic sit in oil in your refrigerator for months and only then froze it you'd have a problem, but that's not a normal or correct freezing methodology. I'd appreciate clarification on why you see a botulism risk to freezing any vegetables, maybe I'm overlooking something important.
 
Author Comment
Sarah J. June 8, 2016
Hi Jessica,<br /><br />Yes, you're right and I will clarify the post! <br /><br />As long as your ingredients are not prepared/stored incorrectly before or after freezing, there should be no risk, as freezing the food prevents botulism growth. But if you stored the soffritto at room temperature for a couple of days before freezing it (or if you left it to thaw at room temperature), there would be a risk. And since botulism was linked to fully-cooked and frozen foods in 2001 (http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/foodborne-illness-and-disease/frozen-fully-cooked-products-and-botulism/CT_Index), I thought it'd be better-safe-than-sorry to add a warning here! <br /><br />I hope that makes sense and thank you for asking that question.
 
Jessica V. June 8, 2016
Thanks very much for your reply, that corresponds with my understanding as well, but I was worried after reading the original post since it was a bit vague on where the risk was. Thanks!
 
Sandy A. June 8, 2016
This seems just like a mirepoix. What's the different?
 
cv June 8, 2016
The language: soffritto is the Italian name for the preparation, mirepoix is French.<br /><br />The same thing can have different names in different languages. Apple is English: apfel in German, pomme in French, mele in Italian. A botanist would use the scientific name genus Malus.<br /><br />Some people like the Italian name more.
 
Cristina S. June 8, 2016
This is so smart! Thanks, Sarah!