A year's worth of pasta sauce...

17 March, 2015

Now is the time for preserving the best of the summer harvest. For me this means tomatoes.

The best way for me to preserve tomatoes for future meals is a passata - the Italian pasta sauce of dreams.

I learned the sacred art of passata making from an Italian friend's parents. I went and spent the day with them many years ago and ever since I've been making my own according to their time honoured recipe.

Over the years I have discovered the correct amount to make to roughly last me for enough passata for pasta sauce, pizza bases and the like for a year, until it is time to make passata again.

1.5 cases (around 15 kilos) of tomatoes
6 onions
6 large carrots
3/4 bunch celery (remove the tough outer stalks and discard, or munch on as a passata making snack)
2 bunches basil
1L olive oil
2 handfuls salt (yes, handfuls - roughly 1 handful = 3/4 cup) 

Now the best tomatoes for passata are the roma style sauce tomatoes, which are more 'meaty' and have less liquid for the volume of tomato. But the second best tomatoes are a mix of any tomatoes you grew yourself.

I have been stashing excess tomatoes in the freezer over the last few weeks, in preparation of today's passata making extravaganza.

This was enough tomatoes for my current batch.

When mixed with onions (bought), celery (bought), carrots (bought), basil (homegrown), olive oil  and salt they filled three pans, totally covering my awesome 70's style stovetop.

I just love how it is called a "Grillmaster".

All the ingredients were given a good mix, then put on a moderate heat to slowly cook down to sauce.

After about 5 hours it looked like this:

Now it needed to be strained. I have a vegetable strainer attachment for my KitchenAid mixer, which is well worthwhile for this volume of sauce. There is no way I could be bothered hand pressing it through a sieve. I would rather go without pasta and pizza than do that.

But thanks to modern technology, I don't have to.

While the passata was cooking I set up my sauce straining section, and got out the passata bottles.

I still bottle in the same stubbie size VB bottles I originally preserved in back at my first passata making session. Some of them still have the string around the neck, which denoted which bottles were mine (as the whole family's passata was made over a weekend, everyone had some sort of identifying feature on their bottles).

But by bit the passata is ladled into the top part, with the strained passata going into the red bowl and the skins, stalks and generally fiberous bits going into the metal bowl.

As you can see this is a messy process. Not surprisingly my friend's parents did all this outside. But I have not that option.

As the sauce was strained it went into the bottles. In addition to the VB bottles, I also had some glass bottles from bought bottled tomatoes which were donated by family, as I knew I wasn't going to have enough and I'm out of Ball Mason jars.

Some of these were just delightful, with tomato motifs in the glass.

When all the bottles were full and I had no more passata the bottles went into the Fowler's Vacola for 45 minutes.

Luckily there was still a little passata left.

And this is the end result.

The VB bottles are enough for 2-3 meals, and I think the large bottles will be enough for 4-5.

I can't wait to do a pizza night to get stuck into one of these.


  1. I also have the Kitchenaid strainer - it was part of an "accessory pack" (received as a gift almost 20 years ago!!) & I actually never used this attachment until last year when I canned tomatoes for the first time. It was amazing & made quick work of those skins & seeds.

    I do have a tip for making it less messy. I found that the biggest mess was created by the part that drops the pureed tomato into the bowl. What I did was got a box that the sauce-catching bowl could sit on so that the top of the bowl was just under the strainer where the sauce comes out (of course, anything stable that the bowl can sit on will do, so long as it is the right height). After doing this, I had virtually no splashing outside the bowl & it was a MUCH neater process.

    1. You know, I had thought about that when I was about halfway done and just thought "Bah! The mess is already made." So I didn't bother. But I will do this next year for sure! Cheers.
      I also have intentions of using the grinder in the pack to one day make sausages. Might be a while before I get around to it though. :)

  2. I wish I had that attachment for my KitchenAid. I have a strainer that I hand crank. If I'd known they had one I probably would have gotten that instead of the hand cranked one.

    1. It's totally worth it. It came in a box of three things, the veg strainer, mincer and a slicer. I've never used the other bits.

  3. Interesting! I've only ever done plain passata! cook the tomatoes down, purée and separate skins and seeds and then cook down to make it even thicker and then bottle it.
    I've got another 5-10kg's of tomatoes to process this could be tempting

    1. It is totally worth it. Id never go back to just regular plain tomato passata. I'd be interested to see what you think of it if you make it.

  4. An amazing post! How satisfying it must be to have that stash in your pantry! Yummmmm :-)

    1. Cheers! Having this in the stash makes me feel a little more comfortable. Jackie French calls it the "siege mentality" which is so apt.