RECIPE: 120kg tomato pasta sauce

by - February 16, 2014

Don't you just love the picture? This is a family friend who lives in Italy making the yearly passata for pasta sauce which is bottled and preserved.

Our family back in Italy do the same thing and everyone gets involved. Teenagers are given the tomatoes to wash and chop, adults grind the tomatoes down and cook them, even the children poke the basil in the bottles. I still have a 3cm scar on my finger from my youth when I was cutting the tomatoes and got demoted to basil poker with scornful "she'll never make a cook" looks from my aunts. No sympathy there then!

To make the above you need a whopping 120kg of San Marzano plum tomatoes. It's all about the tomatoes and the variety is key to the quality of the sauce.

Wash and clean the tomatoes, probably using a huge tub for this. Cut the tops of the tomatoes then squeeze the excess water out of them.

Roughly chop the tomatoes.

Place into a HUGE copper kettle over hot coals and cook until simmering. Wait for the sauce to thicken slightly, stirring with a big spoon. (My grandfather made one out of a plank of wood for this job and it looks like the one in the picture is made in the same way.)

Then sieve through a special tomato press to remove the skins and the pips.

The skins and pips can be re-pressed to extract a concentrated sauce, to add to the thinner sauce from the first press.

Bottle (or jar) the sauce into sterilised, clean bottles, inserting a sprig of basil.

Seal the jars tightly or use a bottle capper with metal caps.

Fill another large kettle with water. Add the bottles or jars to the water and heat with coals until boiling, cooking the tomatoes further and preserving them. Leave them in the water until the embers die down.

This is usually the good time for a BBQ and a beer as you will be exhausted (and covered in tomato sauce).

The following morning remove the bottles from the cold water checking them carefully for any cracks or breakages.

They will need to be stored in a cool place until required, like a garage or cellar.

The preserved passata can then be used in the same way as shop bought throughout the year for sauces.

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