Passata – What is it?
Passata is uncooked tomatoes with skin and seeds removed. Its name derives the Italian meaning “pass through,” since the fresh skinned tomatoes are passed through a sieve. Passata has a long history in Italy and with Italians around the world. As a matter of fact, there is a Passata day in Australia.
“Passata day is an annual Italian tradition that’s celebrated around Australia, often in January when tomatoes are at their best. It involves families coming together, chopping tomatoes, boiling them [long enough to make skin removal easy] and then bottling the mixture for cooking throughout the year.” (SBS.com.au).
Passata allows the taste of fresh tomatoes to be used in sauce, soups and other recipes throughout the seasons other than summer.
Which Tomatoes for Passata?
Tomatoes with fleshy texture, less water content and fewer seeds are preferred. Roma tomatoes are the most frequently recommended, as they develop a rich taste when cooked down. Local grown or vine ripened store tomatoes can be used. But this is problematic in the winter. Canned whole tomatoes, without additional ingredients other than salt, that have minimal heat processing should be used. In reviewing the suggestions from the internet, it seems for whole tomatoes, Sclafani, Cento and Tuttorusso brands are highly rated. These are available in many supermarkets, upscale grocery stores or online.
Make Your Own Passata
Start with fresh tomatoes, your yield is about 40%, 2 ½ lbs of tomatoes should make about 1 lb of passata. Slice the skin in X pattern on bottom of tomato. Peel the skin off the tomatoes. Place tomatoes in boiling water for about 1-minute, remove and place in ice-cold water. Place the tomatoes in a sieve and the sieve in a larger pot, or you can use a food mill, and process until only seeds and tomato veins remain. Voilà, you have passata!
Passata should not be used in recipes that call for chunky or cooked down tomato products (e.g., crushed, puree, paste, etc.). It can be used in stews and soups and makes a great starter for sauce. Remember, you need to cook the passata to release the tomato flavors. You can add any other ingredients you like with your sauce during cooking.
You can keep it in a container in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. It can be frozen in a freezer container for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator and use within 24 hours. If you are really ambitious, you could can tomatoes at the end of their local season, processing a generous amount and then home-can. Be sure to follow normal canning safety guidelines.