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Featured Recipe from Maricel Presilla:

Maricel Presilla's Basic Cuban Tomato Sofrito

Sofrito Cubano de Tomate Básico

This is a simple Cuban cooking sauce that can be enriched by adding other flavoring ingredients to suit the cook's taste and its final use. If using to season white beans, I like to add a teaspoon of Spanish paprika which not only intensifies the color of the sauce but gives it depth as well as a more Spanish patina. Though the Cuban sofrito is traditionally mild, I often give it a touch of heat by stirring some chopped jalapeño, a bit of Scotch bonnet pepper, or some ground cayenne. Stir into rice and beans dishes, stews, braises, and soups.

Makes about 2 cups

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4-5 ounces smoked slab bacon or Spanish chorizo, cut in 1/4-inch dice

4-6 garlic cloves, finely chopped or crushed to a paste with mortar and pestle

1 medium yellow (about 9-10 ounces), finely chopped

1 medium green bell pepper (about 7 ounces), seeded, deveined, and finely chopped (about 1 cup), or 3 Italian frying peppers (cubanelle)

1 bay leaf

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1 cup tomato sauce

1/4 cup dry white wine, cooking wine (vino seco) or beer

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a medium heavy-bottomed skillet, heat the oil at medium heat until it ripples. Add the diced slab bacon or chorizo and sauté until golden brown but still a little soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until light gold, about 40 seconds. Add the onion and sauté, stirring, until it softens and begins to color, about 5 minutes. Add the pepper and bay leaf. Cook stirring for about 3 more minutes. Then add the cumin and oregano and cook, stirring, for a few seconds. Pour in the tomato sauce and wine, and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until it thicken, about 10 minutes. Keep refrigerated in a glass or stainless steel container until ready to use. It will keep well for 3-4 days.

Copyright Maricel E. Presilla

Maricel E. Presilla is a culinary historian specializing in the foods of Slatin America and Spain and the chef and co-owner of Zafra and Cucharamama, two Latin restaurants in Hoboken, NJ.

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