Saucy tomatoes: otherwise known as Passata

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.  You’ll see the similarity looking at their flowers, not the leaves, which are poisonous.

Dad’s tomatoes

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.  Now, the same is happening around our home. 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.  It’s a standing joke among some of our friends who warn The Husband that he might end up pickled and/or in a jar!  Besides that, and enjoying tomato, both tinned (bottled) tomatoes and a basic, traditional Italian tomato sauce, are useful and versatile.  Since first making it in about 2014, I make passata whenever I can get my hands on a goodly quantity of tomatoes.  The recipe is courtesy of the Katie Caldesi’s 2012:  Italian Cookery Course (Kyle Books, Great Britain) a gift for my 50th birthday.


Be warned, though, if you embark on this journey: passata 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

This year (2021) we have a bumper crop of tomatoes so Passata is back on my agenda.


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

In terms of quantities, I generally double up the ingredients for the two-step process:

For the first step


200ml olive oil
2,5kg cherry tomatoes (I use both cherries and “ordinary” tomatoes – more often the latter)
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).

You can download a printable version of this recipe here.

Quick pasta supper

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.

Final word

I first wrote this post in 2014, so not only was it due for an update especially given this year’s fantastic (and currently ongoing) harvest, but I have promised a recipe to Mary – she of the famous flatbreads.  So, Mary, this is for you!

Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post script

If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:

  • re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I am adding them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
  • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts.

I blog to the Hive blockchain using a number of decentralised applications.

  • From WordPress, I use the Exxp WordPress plugin. If this rocks your socks, click here or on on the image below to sign up.

Original artwork: @artywink
  • lastly, graphics are created using partly my own photographs and Canva.


Scotch Easter Eggs in Africa

Two weekends ago, being Easter and a long weekend, the market regulars took it upon themselves to do something a wee bit different for the Saturday Market.  We couldn’t do a night market like we had, the Friday before Christmas:  for many Good Friday remains sacred and the market takes place on church property next to the hall, in the shadow of the church spire.

A sunset view of the spire

So, when the notion was flighted, the challenge was two-fold.  What could I do that was different, and which didn’t need “instant” cooking?  I don’t have the accoutrements for that.  It needed to be something that could be eaten for breakfast and/or taken home. Besides, there are other people that do bacon and eggs, and the philosophy of our little market is mostly collegial rather than competitive.  It’s too small, and the custom too limited to kill each other with competition.

My approach to an offering is based on both my own leanings towards meat-free and understanding that there are increasing numbers of people who don’t do meat and/or gluten.  What could I do that involved eggs (it was going to be Easter, after all) and no meat, preferably eaten with the minimum of cutlery?  It couldn’t be quiche or frittata – for the same reason as it couldn’t be bacon and egg…

I experimented with spinach, egg and tomato.


The theory was good:  egg on a nest of spinach and onion, baked in the oven to be served with a tomato relish.

The results shared among friends on the social media got mixed reviews.  The Husband’s:  it was imminently edible but not on the run, let alone cold.


There was a torrent of unrepeatable, hilarious repartee on my personal Facebook page in response to this picture.  Instagram followers were much more polite.

The vegetarian option was abandoned.  Sometimes I do know when I’m defeated.

I settled for a single offering and one which harks back to my childhood and yet another occasion where I chose a dish based on its name.  I don’t recall which birthday it was, but remembering where we lived the time, I must have been around about this age:

My sister and I (at the back), 1974, in Bots, Grahamstown

Even then, I used to spend time browsing through Mum’s cookery books and one recipe that appealed to me was Scotch Eggs.  It was in this book that now forms an important part of my collection of recipe books.


As luck would have it, Mr J’s mama had presented us with a clutch of little eggs from her fowl family, and my dummy run was a great success.


This time, the response on both Facebook and Instagram was enthusiastic, to say the least.

Decision made, plans were set in place and all that had to be done was the work.  A production line was called for.  Not difficult at all:


Scotch Eggs


As you see, and as usual, I made the recipe my own by adding chopped fennel and parsley to the meat;  I used two variants of a local Worcester Sauce instead of a commercially available one.

Other tips

  • To ramp up the recipe to make a large quantity (I did 16), I used medium eggs and worked on 105 to 110g of mince per egg.  Weighing out the mince helps with managing portion control and also keeps the final product uniform.  It was a lot less hassle than I thought it would be.  Actually, it made things a lot easier.
  • For perfect hard-boiled, “peelable” eggs, the first thing to remember is that in this instance, fresh is not best.The Husband, as a former poultry farmer who before he retired, was in large scale free range egg production, really knows his eggs:  an egg’s flavour is best developed about three days after it’s laid.  A fresh egg is impossible to peel.  Because eggs have a really long shelf life and because aesthetically you want a perfect egg, you can comfortably buy your eggs 7 to 10 days before you need them.
  • To hard-boil a large quantity of eggs that have no blue ring around the yolk, place room temperature eggs into a pot of cold water.  Bring to the boil.  Boil for 6 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  For a medium egg, boil for 4 minutes.  All of this with the caveat that altitude does affect the length of cooking to get the perfect product….


It seems that the eggs, served with a choice of homemade tomato chutney or curried beans*, were a hit:  sold out and requests for more.


Also on offer at my Easter table was the pickled fish, a South African tradition.

*Recipe to come in the next while.

© Fiona’s Favourites 2016