Ever wanted to know how to make to tomato passata in your own backyard, just like all the Italian families? Every year, my friends and I get together to make a batch ourselves. This is the story of one summer morning in my backyard.
Six friends. Five hours. Two hundred kilograms of Roma tomatoes. A glorious summer morning in my backyard. One hundred and eighty eight bottles of tomato passata.
For the last three years a group of friends and myself have gathered in late summer to make tomato sauce. None of us have Italian Heritage but we know Italians. Three years ago we managed to convince our friend Basil to show us how it was done. That first year we borrowed equipment and made about 12 bottles each. Magic. By the next year we had managed to accumulate a few of the crucial pieces of equipment ourselves but we still needed Basil’s help and guidance (and crucially his machine). That year we made about 18 bottles each.
This year we were all on our own. We had everything we needed, including the machine. So with an essential piece of advice from Basil ringing in our ears (“For goodness sake, don’t burn the sauce!”) we set to it.
Not knowing how long it would take us, Matt and I decide on a 6am start. There is a silent collective groan from the rest of the group. Except from Jill. She is quite vocal about the 6am start given she has a big night planned for the previous evening.
Matt and Megan start to wash and squeeze the tomatoes to remove some of the seeds. I peel the onions. Janice washes and picks the basil. A text from Stuart. Did we need help stirring the tomatoes?
The first pot of sauce is on. Taking heed of Basil’s advice, we take turns stirring to prevent the sauce catching on the bottom.
Jill arrives. We give her a dark corner to wash the bottles. She seems reluctant to remove her sunglasses.
I’m in the kitchen when I hear the machine start. I breathe a sigh of relief as it begins it’s maiden run. Matt and Janice take charge of running the tomatoes through the machine. The sauce is deep red and thick.
Megan fills the bottles, complaining that she can’t see the level of the sauce through the dark amber glass of the beer bottles. We warn her if they break it will all be her fault. Stuart caps the bottles. I wrap them in newspaper. Jill packs them in the 44 gallon drums.
Basil appears with a bag of hazelnut croissants under the pretext of bringing us morning tea. We know its because really he wants to check what we are up to. Apparently we aren’t doing to bad a job because he doesn’t look to perturbed and doesn’t feel the need to hang around for too long.
Five hours disappear in a flash. Soon we are cleaning up and lighting the burners under the drums. All that is left to do is wait.
The next day I unpack the drums. Only two breakages. Megan didn’t do such a bad job after all. Thirty one bottles of sauce each. That’s a lot of pasta.
Matt thinks that next year we should do four hundred kilograms of tomatoes. We shall see.
How To Use Homemade Tomato Passata
Bottles of our homemade tomato passata crop up in a lot of my cooking throughout the year, including in the following recipes:
- A Really Useful Tomato Pasta Sauce Recipe
- The Best Pizza Sauce
- Homemade Baked Beans
- Oven Roasted Ratatouille
- A Simple Bolognaise Sauce
*A big thank you to Matt and Megan for their photography skills on the day. And for letting me use the photos.