From the home pantry to the supermarket

A sofrito is a seasoning that is added to various preparations to give them flavor. It is produced with various vegetable products cut and fried in oil at a low temperature to avoid too intense roasting. It is used as a base in Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Latin American cuisine.

The entry of the tomato in Europe made it possible to incorporate this vegetable into traditional preparations. Also to the sauce. Antonio Salsete’s 17th-century recipe book includes a reference to the Tomato Casserole: “Fry onions in a pan and you will add the tomatoes. When it is almost fried, add a spice of cumin, garlic and ground bread, and season it with salt, and sour».

Tomato sauce has become a traditional preparation in Mediterranean countries. In addition to tomato, the base recipe contains onion, olive oil and salt. The procedure is summarized in putting oil in a container to heat and add chopped onion. When the onion is already golden, add the cut tomato and a pinch of salt. The final preparation must have a thick texture. Optionally, you can include garlic, which is browned a moment before adding the tomato, or pepper, which is introduced shortly after the onion. Flavorings such as bay leaf, thyme or other products depending on local traditions are also common.

When daring to make a tomato sauce, it is important to know the behavior of the tomato mass during cooking. This phenomenon is described by Claudi Mans in Tortilla quemada. 23 daily chemical rations (Official College of Chemists of Catalonia, 2005). He explains that the tomato puree that is obtained during the preparation of the sofrito behaves practically like a solid. Due to its low thermal conductivity, the lower mass is very hot and the upper one is cold, but its high viscosity prevents convection currents from being generated. This causes the appearance of water vapor bubbles in the mass that is in contact with the hot container, bubbles that move towards the top, cooler part. When they reach the surface, these hot tomato-wrapped bubbles of water vapor burst. There are two ways to avoid this: stir constantly to force convection or cook over low heat so that the water evaporates less quickly.

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