Italian Food

How to make a Tomato Preserve (Passata di Pomodoro)

A  special “made in Italy” product, the passata di pomodoro, plain tomato preserve or Tomato purée.

“Made in Italy” is synonym with history, creativity, imagination and culture. It is a true way of life, recognized and sought after all over the world. We are a country where the homemade and the handcrafted are still strong: this article will give you a little example of it.

Just a few years back if you wanted to make a red sauce pasta, tomatoes ( like all agricultural products ) were available just when in season, so the only way Italians could enjoy their beloved tomato sauce pasta in the middle of the winter was to figure out an easy way to store the tomato or the tomato sauce they could use for their pasta. Nowadays, preparing a nice tomato preserve is still a good idea if you want to have a sauce made with fresh ripe tomatoes without preservatives.

Agriculture, Gastronomy and Animals: how to prepare “passata di pomodoro”

Attilio loves country-style living and has recently decided to move, with his wife Marta and their children, from Rome to Capena. With their help, let’s see how to prepare at home a quintessential Italian product, the “passata di pomodoro” (plain tomato preserve, used as a base for other, more complex sauces), all natural and without added nasties.

Boxes of fresh ripe tomatoes ready to be cooked into a tomato preserve

The ideal time to do it is August, and the best type of tomatoes for this recipe are the “San Marzano”, which in Italy have an average cost of between 0.55 and 0.80 cent per kilo. Attilio bought 100 kg of “San Marzano” called “Roma tomatoes” in the US and obtained 105, 75 cl bottles of “passata”.

Peeling and cutting the tomatoes

Let’s get organized

First of all, gather and organize all you need to proceed: an electric tomato strainer, some large containers such as plastic buckets or baskets, a funnel, a larger container to boil the tomatoes and a support for it. Of course, this will have to be fire resistant, as you will need it to boil the sauce.

A tomato strainer

You’ll also have to sterilize, by boiling them, the jars where your “passata” will be preserved.

Step one: prep the tomatoes

Wash the tomatoes, let them air dry and chop each of them in four or six sections. Make sure to dump any rotting fruit, then begin to crush the tomato pieces with the electric strainer. After this procedure, do not dispose of skins and leftovers, but rather sift them once again, to gain even more matter for the preserve.

Bottling the tomatoes for purée

Step two: bottle and cook

Once this is done, it’s time to nicely bottle your strained tomatoes into the selected jars, using a funnel. Make sure to close them properly before going on to the next step!

Wrapping the bottles in newspaper sheets

Wrap each jar in newspaper sheets and place something soft, such as hay, at the bottom of a large, fireproof container, then lay the jars on it. Once you have done so, make sure to place something heavy like a brick on top of the last layer of bottles, to avoid they move while cooking. Add water to cover the bottles, then light the fire and keep it going for 45/50 minutes. Extinguish it and wait for the water to get cold –if you prepare the preserve in the evening, you may let the water cool overnight– before moving the jars.

Put some hay inside a fireproof container and place the wrapped bottles on it
Cooking the tomato

Your jars are now ready to be taken out of water and paper, stored and enjoyed!

Watch the video about how to make the Tomato purée  or passata di pomodoro:

You can also first cook the tomatoes all together in a big pan and then refill the bottles and freeze them.

We would like to thank Vincenzo D’Auria from for his explanation on how to make an Italian tomato preserve.


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