Passata – squashed, saucy tomatoes

When I met The Husband, he fended for himself and it wasn’t long before he informed me that a kitchen should never be without onions and tomatoes:  no tasty main meal (other than breakfast), could exclude onions.  Add tomatoes, he maintained, and you have the basis of a good meal.  I didn’t disagree, but over the years, I’ve learned that there are some dishes that don’t need onion.  However, it’s the tomatoes that have my attention, today.  We both love them and have our own associations with their cultivation.  The Husband, when he was beef ranching in Zimbabwe, and had the dubious pleasure, on occasions, of overseeing the harvest of the fruit for the local cannery.  He also talks of the dire gastric consequences, for workers, of eating not just sun-ripe but sun-hot tomatoes.  Talk about learning the hard way….

Brinjal and tomatoes (Moneymaker) from our 2016 crop

Tomatoes and brinjals are all members of the deadly nightshade (Solanum) family, as are potatoes and Pepino.  You’ll see the similarity looking at their flowers, not the leaves, which are poisonous.

I remember my parents (my father, actually), growing tomatoes every year until they moved into a retirement home.

Mum & Dad outside their house in Marshall Street, Grahamstown, a few months before they moved into the retirement home. And the last picture I took of them together.

Dad grew Moneymaker tomatoes from seed.  Rarely anything else.  This variety is a medium-sized, high-yielding tomato with excellent flavour.  They were sewn in June and would germinate in very cold weather – the little seedlings felt the cold.  They’d often be blue.  Really.

Before they retired and living in a small town, they would go home for lunch.  The pinching back and inspection of the annual tomato crop was a lunchtime ritual.  Pinching out the side shoots and staking them ensured tall, robust plants, that would eventually be weighed down with delicious red, sweet fruit.  I remember tomato-filled trays on every surface in the kitchen and sometimes the diningroom; tomatoes were never stored in the fridge.  It ruins the flavour.  Tomatoes served from the fridge infuriated The Dad.  Now it infuriates me…

For some reason, Mum didn’t often preserve tomatoes.  Only twice do I remember my mother “doing” anything with them:  once when a hail storm damaged the not-yet-ripe crop, she made green tomato chutney and on another, she made ketchup.

Now me, on the other hand, I’ll bottle anything.  Almost.  The other day, Sannie Boervrou laughingly warned The Husband that he might end up in a jar!  Besides that, and enjoying tomato, both tinned (bottled) tomatoes and a basic tomato sauce are useful and versatile.  So, the other day, I decided that I’d make passata.  I’d done it once before, very successfully, courtesy of a gift that still keeps on giving, but not since, as it takes an enormous quantity of tomatoes and a considerable amount of time to make a relatively small quantity.

My first attempt at making passata in 2014

So, knowing that the end of the local season is nigh, The Husband was detailed with bringing home a 5kg box of tomatoes – if he could find some at a good price.  He did.  Then a Mevrou Markmaatjie* gaveme five kilograms of overripe tomatoes!  Perfect.  So, I set to it last Sunday, prepared for a day in the kitchen – it’s a two-step process – not difficult, but long (and which is partly why I didn’t get this out last week).


The basic ingredients, other than tomatoes include garlic, onions, carrots and celery as well as, of course, olive oil.


In terms of quantities, I doubled up, but below is the ingredient list and quantities from Caldesi’s Italian Cookery Course:**

For the first step


200ml olive oil
2,5kg cherry tomatoes (I used “ordinary” tomatoes)
200g carrots, diced
200g celery, diced
225g white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic
10g salt (which I omitted)
5g freshly ground black pepper

Chuck all these ingredients into an enormous saucepan (my stock pot just coped with the double quantity).  Cook over a medium heat, stirring and squashing the tomatoes to break them up.  Bring to the boil and reduce heat and simmer for about 50 minutes.


Caldesi says that the mixture should then be passed through a sieve or passetutto to remove the skins.  I tried that once and it’s seriously time-consuming and tiring.  So, this time round, I followed her alternative suggestion and stuck in the stick blender and puréed the mixture.

For the second step

Additional Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil
100g white onion, finely chopped
1 fat garlic clove
salt (which I omitted) and freshly ground black pepper
3 sprigs of basil
2 tablespoons sugar, as necessary (I find that if I don’t add salt, sugar is often not necessary;  also if the tomatoes are sun-ripened, even off the vine, they are generally sweeter than those that ripen artificially)

Heat the oil in another, large, clean pot (I used the base of my pasta pot) and add the onion.  Stir and season with salt and pepper.  Cook until soft (7 – 10 minutes).  Add the basil and garlic.

Add the puréed mixture and cook until it reaches a sauce-like consistency.  Depending on the water content of the tomatoes, this could happen relatively quickly or could take a while – anything from 10 minutes (I should be so lucky) to an hour.

Pour into sterilised jars and boil again.

The quantities in the recipe should yield about 1,4 kg.  My 5 kg of tomatoes produced 11 jars (and a bit).


As you can see from the picture, it’s possible to make passata with tinned tomatoes if you don’t have fresh ones.

This batch

I’m thrilled with this batch:  it’s delicious and some of the half-filled jar was used to make us a quick pasta supper that night.  It consisted of homemade pasta, with passata stirred through it, and served with a drizzle of basil pesto and a locally made mature Gouda.

* Mevrou Markmaatjie – Mrs Market Friend
* *Caldesi, Katie 2012:  Italian Cookery Course, Kyle Books, Great Britain

© Fiona’s Favourites 2016

0 thoughts on “Passata – squashed, saucy tomatoes

  1. Fiona – forgive a silly question from one who doesn’t have pressure canning system OR who has only done preservations that utilize brine, vinegar, salt methods to way lay the ‘nastys’ that I was raised to fear – (like botulism! LOL) – does the boil bath really seal and no worries without salt and/or pressure canning?!? Cuz seriously, this concept so foreign to ‘those who do’ around me in my neck-of-the-woods/world – LOL 🙂
    Thanks, as always, for your assistance/guidance! 🙂

    1. Funny you should ask, TamrahJo! I have been thinking about doing a post on preserving, more generally. That said, the method I describe is the same as used by our grandmothers to preserve and sterilise. Always use jars that are already sterilised. My omission of the salt and the sugar in this recipe was because they are not essential to the preserving process (you can tell because the quantities are so small). Tomatoes are full of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) which is a natural preservative. That said, it is an acid, so make sure that the lids of your jars are not damaged in any way.

      Trust that helps!

  2. Where are those teleports when you need them? I’ll be there in a flash to taste this yummy Passata you made Fiona. My mouth is watering already! 😀

    Thanks for sharing this delightful recipe. I might even try it one day as there are no teleports available yet. 😆

    Great photos as well. Around here we also love tomatoes and onions. All kinds of vegetables are our favourites. ♥

    1. Ah, your comment has made me smile, Sofia. 😀 Do give it a bash – it really isn’t that difficult. And you can quite safely “forget” about it. Well, almost, as I did because a friend dropped by and we (he, The Husband and I got nattering over a glass of wine….) Good thing it was a large quantity!

      1. Now that sounds like fun. Be glad there are no teleports available now, otherwise you would have had another one nattered over there. 😆

        I will definitely try it one day and when I do, I will let you know for sure. Don’t hold your breath though. I’m very slow walking into a kitchen if I don’t have to. hahahaha!

          1. Well, thanks. That’s very sweet of you. 😀 Now I have to go and find that teleporter maker. 😆


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