Sofrito is a Puerto Rican folk base in a lot of the culture’s dishes. It also exists in a lot of Italian dishes under a similar name, though it varies slightly.
Sofrito as described verbatim by informant:
“Puerto Rican food, Italian food, everything the basis is garlic, onions, and green pepper and then you add to that. That’s really like that’s mostly Puerto Rican food though and so what you add to that is salt, pepper, and oregano and that’s the beginning of what we call sofrito. Sofrito’s like the basis of everything and usually you add tomato paste to that in olive oil and that’s the basis for just about everything you make. That’s the way you start a stew, a soup, the beans that are famous—arroz con habichuelas (rice and beans) not frijoles, but habichuelas because they’re beans, they’re Puerto Rican beans. So everything starts with that: garlic, onion, pepper (pepper vegetable). And then you add to that cilantro, you add tomato paste, but those are the three things you have to have to make anything Puerto Rican.”
My informant who is half Puerto Rican and half Italian-American says she makes sofrito all the time. She changes it in different ways when she cooks Italian food depending on the dish, but uses it in every Puerto Rican dish she makes. She learned it from her Puerto Rican mother who taught her how to cook.
Dictionary of Food: International Food and Cooking Terms from A to Z. London: A&C Black, 2005. Credo Reference. Web. 24 April 2012.