Making Tomato Passata At Home

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Italian food has gained a reputation being fresh, tasty and homemade with an emphasis on family style.

I know an Italian family here in Orange who, I must say has been really generous to me. They have been showering me with fresh produce from their garden and sweet treats such as homemade crostoli and cannoli.  But today, I’m not going to talk about the famous Italian desserts. Instead, I’d like to share with you one of the important ingredients in the Italian kitchens – passata.

When I first featured passata on my blog, I have some of you asking me what passata is. I’ve explained to you in words with some links, but now I can do better – by showing you how it was made.

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Just so you know, there’s no exact measurement to make passata for this post. Mrs C used a stockpot full of roma tomatoes from her garden, which yielded 6 x 500g bottles of passata. The tomatoes used to make passata have to be the fleshy type (i.e less seeds) like roma and oxheart tomatoes. She also explained to me that those that were harvested in late summer/early autumn will contain more seeds than the ones that were harvested in mid-summer.

What you’ll need:-

  • Roma/Oxheart tomatoes
  • Salt
  • Basil *optional*
  • Other equipment: 1 pillow case, 1 single old bed sheet (or quilt cover), passata machine*, sterilised bottles, funnel, a pot that is big enough to contain the bottles

* The passata machine on this blog is a mechanical version which is rich with family history but you can get the electric ones online or via eBay.

The Process & Mrs C Timeline as a guide:

9:00am: Fill the tomatoes into a pillow case. Then boil the tomatoes to loosen the skin in a large stockpot. Since we are talking about a large quantity here, the estimated duration is about 1 hour.

Drain the water. Place the pillow case filled tomatoes in a colander, sit them over the stockpot and set aside. This will allow the acid (the yellow liquid) to drain from the tomatoes which will result in a sweeter passata.

3:00pm: With the tomatoes are still in the pillow case and they were being cool over a period of time, squeeze the tomatoes gently to drain any excess acid.

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{That’s how the acid looked like}

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{That’s how the tomatoes looked after boiling, draining and ready to be passed through the passata machine}

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Gradually remove the tomatoes from the pillow case and put them through the passata machine. Do the same with all the tomatoes.  Tip: for the last batch of the tomatoes, you may find there are insufficient tomatoes to push through the machine. What you can do is take some of the tomato scraps (on the end of the machine) and put it back to funnel of the machine. This way you can ensure the all the fresh tomatoes will go through.

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Salt the passata to taste. It’s better to under salt in this step as you can always add more later when using it in dishes.

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Bottling: Ladle the passata through a funnel into a bottle. As an option, you can add a basil leaf half way through filling up the bottle. Repeat this step with all the passata.

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Bottles of passata were then being sterilised by boiling them in a pot. Arrange the bottles in a large stockpot, making sure each bottle was cushioned by wrapping a bed linen around each bottle. This is to ensure the bottles do not knock against each other when the water has reached the boiling point. To give you an idea how long this would take, it took about an hour to reach the boiling point over high heat, then turn the flame to simmer and boil for 2 hours. Allow the bottles to cool in a pot overnight before storing them in the pantry.

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This may seem like a lot of hard work and time for just a couple of bottles of passata. After all, a store bought passata is inexpensive. The cheapest I have seen was $1.50 for a 500g (17 oz) bottle in Harris Farm Markets. On the surface, you are better off buying from the supermarket. But if you look within the process of making food from scratch, it is about creating food memories with your next generation, quoting from Mrs C.  The batch she made above was for me to share with you on the blog. Usually at the peak of tomato harvest, passata making was an even bigger production than the above which often times, involved family members. What better reason to have a family get together than creating food memories together that will be passed down to generations!

Thanks Mrs C for inviting me to your kitchen and share your knowledge with me. :)

12 Responses to Making Tomato Passata At Home
  1. Miss Piggy
    April 29, 2013 | 2:14 am

    What a great post! You’re so lucky to have made an Italian friend who’s included you in her passata day. Jealous!

    • Emily
      April 30, 2013 | 12:32 pm

      Thanks Mel! It will be silly of me to miss this rare opportunity that I can get hands on experience to make something from scratch. It was hard work i.e. aching arms and patience but when she let me try the passata, oh boy, it was totally worth the effort.

  2. Barbara Strickland
    June 2, 2013 | 9:46 pm

    I did not know what passata was. Your receipe is wonderful. I was also looking for a sauce to preserve over winter. I am a first time gardener, but I did not plant Romas. Could I use what is in my garden instead of Romas. Also where can I purchase the Passata Machine. I there a subsitute. PLease leave a message to my e-mail.

  3. bianca
    July 7, 2013 | 10:25 am

    hi, I was looking for passata recipes when I stumbled onto this site
    I was wondering what camera you used to take these wonderful photographs? They make the process look as delicious as the passata itself :)

    • Emily
      July 8, 2013 | 10:59 am

      Hi Bianca,

      Thanks for stopping by. I used Nikon D90 post processed with a filter from my phone’s photo editor. :)

  4. Adrian Abrate
    July 25, 2013 | 11:11 pm

    Loved the article. I am planning on making my own Passata this spring when tomatoes are in season.

  5. Shaz
    August 19, 2013 | 5:29 pm

    Hi
    Great tutorial and we have a glut of tomatoes here and was unsure what to do with them as do not like waste so will give this a go.
    Please can you let me know how long I can store it for?
    Would be good if it lasts for a good 6 months or so
    Thanks again for a good and easy to follow recipe :)

  6. Margaret
    December 29, 2013 | 8:24 pm

    Thanks for the easy step by step…it’s not only about memories, but for me it’s also about using local ingredients. You try to buy Australia made Passata in a supermarket…impossible! In this land of plenty, I’d rather make my own than buy imported, but if I had the chance I would buy premade local stuff to support our farmers and producers.

  7. viviana creagh
    February 5, 2014 | 12:08 am

    thank you for taking the time to share can you tell me if the passarta machine removes the seeds and if so in the absence of one-is there another easy way to do this thanks regards viviana

    • Emily
      February 6, 2014 | 9:29 am

      Hi Viviana,

      The passata machine remove the seeds and skin. However in the absence of a machine, The Kitchn has mentioned that you can take plain canned tomatoes and run through a sieve or a food mill (the actual article can be found here)

      • ÐJ
        August 31, 2014 | 2:50 pm

        Why do I have to boil the tomatoes before putting in an electric tomato press? Can I not press uncooked? Is the liquid not sterilized when bottled and boiled? Is salt optional? I would prefer not to use any.

        • Emily
          September 1, 2014 | 11:15 pm

          This is to loosen the skin of the tomatoes before running them through the tomato press. I am not sure if you can press them uncooked as all the passata making recipes do specify to boil the tomatoes. As for the yellow liquid (I gathered that’s what you meant?), it is to remove the “bitterness” from the passata.

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