Tomato Passata

Kate Punshon - Thursday, May 14, 2020

Capture the essence of summer ripened tomatoes in this traditional Italian passata recipe. Just three ingredients, tomatoes, basil and salt and three simple steps, pulp, bottle and preserve. Then into the pantry for storage until needed. Its simplicity, intensity and vibrancy stand proud in the pantry.  Waiting for its  central role in many of Italy’s favourite dishes that are so revered. 

It can be rustic and chunky or silky depending upon the equipment used, but it must always have a rich red colour, the dense consistency of pulped not liquidised tomatoes and a fresh vibrant flavour. Passata is different to sugo. Passata is uncooked whereas sugo in its simplest form is a cooked tomato sauce with onions, garlic and seasoning. Passata is often used as the base for a sugo.

This recipe details two different methods to pulp and preserve the tomatoes as not everyone has a food mill and preserving unit.

Start your own Passata Day ritual and reap the rewards through the year of having a majestic bottle of goodness that adds love, life and lusciousness to your family meals

Preparation time:  45 minutes
Cooking time:       30 minutes
Quantity:               4 x 500 ml bottle


4 kg ripe red tomatoes
Washed, dried and individually picked fresh basil leaves – one per bottle
1½ tablespoons salt


Clean dry sterilised jars or bottles
Compatible seals and/or lids for selected jars or bottles


The following method outlines the 3 basic steps  of (1) making tomato pulp which can be done by hand or using a food mill  (2)  bottling and then (3) preserving  the passata  for longer term storage. A preserving kit or the stock pot method can be used. 

Step 1:  Make Tomato Pulp

Make a skinless and seedless tomato pulp. A food mill does all the hard work and separates the skin and seeds out while pulping the tomatoes. A food mill could be a mouli, passa verdura (Italian equivalent), a tomato press or specialised attachment to a KitchenAid or equivalent. The traditional passata consistency, a rich dense sauce, is obtained by using a food mill.
An alternative method is to manually skin and peel the tomatoes then pulp them using a food processor. Instructions for both methods are detailed below.

          Manually peel and seed tomatoes method
  1. Insert a small sharp vegetable knife a short distance from the stem. Using a slight inward angle, cut in a circular motion all the way around the stem. Remove any blemishes. Repeat the process until all the tomatoes have been prepared.
  2. Place several tomatoes at a time in a large pot of continuously boiling water for approximately 20 seconds. Remove and place in bowl of cold water when the skin has just begun to blister or shrivel. This will soften the skin for the next step. Do not overcook at this point.
  3. Peel the skin off and discard. If a tomato is difficult to peel, place back in the boiling water for a few more seconds. If tomatoes are under ripe, they can be difficult to peel even after their hot water bath.
  4. Place a fine strainer over a bowl. Cut the tomato in half and gently squeeze over the strainer to release all the seeds. Place the tomatoes in a large bowl for later use. Repeat the process until all tomatoes have been peeled and seeded.
  5. Reserve the pulp and add the salt. Discard the skin and seed mass.
  6. If you are using a food processor, roughly chop the skinned and seed tomatoes prior to turning on the machine. Then proceed to Step 2: Bottling the Passata
  7. If  using a Food Mill  proceed to step 3 in the Food Mill instructions below.

          Using a Food Mill Method

Several types of food mills are readily available for home preservers. These include the Mouli or Passa Verdura (Italian equivalent), a fruit and vegetable strainer attachment for a KitchenAid or equivalent or a stand-alone electric tomato press.
Follow step 1 and 2 in the above to prepare and blanch the tomatoes so the skin is easily removed by the type of food mill you are using.

  1. Place blanched tomatoes in the food mill. 
  2. If using a mouli or passa verdura turn the handle to start the process of separating the juice and pulp from the seeds. You may need to empty the strainer from time to time as the skin and seed mass accumulates and interferes with the separation process. Give the mass a second run-through if necessary, to ensure you extract as much flesh and juice as possible. This step will enhance the flavour and increase the pulp yield.
  3. Reserve the pulp and add the salt. Discard the  skin and seed mass.
  4. Proceed to the next step - Bottling Passata.
  5. If using an attachment on your KitchenAid or equivalent or a tomato press, pass the tomatoes through according to the attachment instructions.
  6.  Reserve the pulp and add the salt. Discard the seed mass.
  7. Proceed to Step 2: Bottling Passata.

Step 2:  Bottling the Passata

  1. Place a basil leaf in the bottom of each prepared sterilised bottle. The basil flavour will be infused in the passata as it stores.
  2. Using a jug and/or funnel pour in the passata leaving a 3-4 cm gap from the top of the lid.
  3. Close bottles in accordance with the type of bottle/jar sealing method used

Step 3:  Preserving the Passata

Use either the Preserving Unit Method or the Stock Pot Method. The principles are the same. The difference is a preserving unit will have an internal removable rack for bottles to sit on and a tap to easily draw off the water. Some units may have an in-built thermometer.

          Preserving Unit Method
  1. Place sealed bottles/jars in Fowlers Preserving Unit  or equivalent.
  2. Cover with water, bring to the boil and hold at gentle boil for 30 minutes.
  3. Turn off, remove lid and allow to stand for 5 minutes before removing.
  4. Using the tap draw off some of the hot water so the level is sufficiently below the bottles to be able to safely remove them without scalding yourself.
  5. Remove from hot water bath and place on a board to cool.
          Stock Pot Method
  1. Line large stock pot with some sheets of newspaper or a cut-down cake rack. Place the bottles on the newspaper or rack, in the pot, allowing space between each bottle so they don’t touch. This lining will protect the bottles from direct heat and prevent cracking.
  2. Cover with water, cover with lid, bring to the boil and hold at gentle boil for 30 minutes.
  3. Turn off, remove lid and allow to stand for 5 minutes before removing.
  4. If possible, remove some of the hot water so the level is sufficiently below the bottles to be able to safely remove them without scalding yourself.
  5. Remove from hot water bath and place on a board to cool.

Step 4: Storage

  1. Label and store in a cool dark place in the kitchen or pantry
  2. Once opened, keep in the fridge and use within a week


  1. Vine ripened red tomatoes make the best passata. Colour and flavour come from both the juice and skin.  Allowing them to develop their full flavour and colour potential on the vine will produce a more intense passata.
  2. If using home-grown tomatoes allow them to colour-up and develop their full flavour and you’ll be rewarded by a majestic tomato flavoured passata. If using store bought tomatoes that haven’t been vine ripened, allow them to ripen as much as possible before use. The flavour will not be as intense but will be better than using only partially ripe tomatoes.
  3. When making large quantities, the acidity in the tomatoes may aggravate sensitive skin. This can be prevented by using disposable gloves.
  4. When filling bottles or jars, leave a 3-4 cm gap. Allowing room for the passata to expand while boiling will prevent the lids from blowing off.
  5. Salt is used as a seasoning and helps to preserve the passata.
  6. A blender or vitamiser is not recommended as it will liquify the sauce, produce a bitter flavour from any remnant seeds and significantly change the consistency of the final passata

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