Passata di pomodoro is best described as tomato puree made by boiling tomatoes then passing them through a strainer that separates the skin from the pulp. The result is a thick, red liquid that is the base for tomato sauce. Sure, one can purchase cans (or jars) of pureed tomatoes at the grocery or food supply store – but it has been a family tradition to make our own supply every year.
Every mid-late-August, when tomatoes are at their peak ripeness, we purchase our bushels from a vegetable supply source and plan our annual production. This is the time of year that tomatoes have that gorgeous, deep red color, with a rich taste that tickle the senses.
Prior to the tomatoes’ arrival, we clean and sterilize the glass jars – typically Mason jars, canning jars, or smaller bottles, and purchase brand new tops for each jar.
When the tomatoes arrive, we first give them a through wash in barrels of water. During the process we are always looking at every tomato for quality control. We separate out any tomatoes that have bruises, cuts or any other imperfections, and put them aside. These tomatoes are taken aside to be reviewed and we cut off any blemishes before adding them back into the production process. The goal is to not waste – because each tomato has its purpose in making sauce, whether imperfect or beautiful.
While performing quality control, several pots partially-filled with water are set to boil. Once the waters is hot, piles of tomatoes are added to each vat to be boiled until softened and skins starts to crack. Upon which, the tomatoes are taken out of the hot water – using an extra-large slotted scoop – and transfer them to a large colander, allowing water to separate out.
Next, comes the fun part: passing the tomatoes through the separator. This apparatus separates the skins from the pulp. As the pulp passes through the slotted end, this creates a thick texture we are familiar seeing – a.k.a. the “sauce”.
At this point, we add some salt – to your liking, and then pour the thick liquid into glass jars then sealed. These jars are then put through a boil to fully seal. Later, the filled jars are set to cool to room temperature, then stored in a cool space – like a basement or pantry – to use for the year.
Now, to be clear, this final puree-like product – called passata di pomodoro – is not jarred tomato sauce. It’s actually jarred tomato base for making whatever red sauce you want when cooking. In other words, one would need to flavor this passata – ex. with garlic, oil, onion, and/or whatever flavors you typically use.
My family produced over two-hundred jars for the year. And we will go through the process all over again the following August.