Making tomato passato the traditional way

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A little introduction of how I came to learn the "Italian ways"

In 2012 I was attending a high school in Milano in Italy. I went there after applying for a student exchange program at my high school in the USA and being rejected from the program based on my grades...

I was 15 years old and I didn't understand why the school was not helping me out to go out into the world and experience a different culture. At that moment, my mother and I had a talk, and we agreed to leave to school in the US for good, and apply at the same school in Italy. This school is the Waldorf school. During the last months of school in the US, I practised a bit my Italian through tapes and books, but being that non-studious kid, I stopped after learning how to order a cappuccino, "salve, vorrei un cappuccino per favore". I took the time spend time with my good friends before leaving off to the land of olive oil, wine and pizza!

Arriving in Italy I knew little of the language. I stayed with a hosting Italian family who were able to speak broken English.  This family was from the south of Italy, as well as the north. So in the kitchen, it created a wonderful mix of flavours on my taste buds! 

I have so many anecdotes from my time spent in Italy, I was 15 and no family around. Lot's of learning experiences, and good times to remember. But mainly, this post is to talk to you about my second time making passato!

It all started after a few weeks of being in Italy, living in the northern part of Milano.  Around the month of September, we went to my family's father's parents house to make some passato for the year ahead. As a tradition, almost each Italian families gather during this month, to make the best base for making meals.

The father had brought back around 200kg of tomatoes. Which is a lot of tomatoes! We then set up the milling machine which had an engine, something very useful when processing lots of tomatoes. I forgot to mention that we had a wood fired pizza oven! So of course during that time, we ate lots of focaccia and pizzas.  There's something about focaccia that you cant forget, it's such a simple and delicious piece of dough! With a drizzle of olive oil, salt and rosemary, what can go wrong? During the whole day, we milled, heated, stirred, and canned the passato di pomodorro.  During that time I made notes of the process, and definitely learned from the best!

Jumping ahead of my stay in Italy, I came back to America with the knowledge and experience of a real Italian, if not more than some of my Italian friends who did not enjoy or make sense of cooking well and traditionally.  As I go back home, all I could think about was the amazing food I had over in Italy. So to put me back in that mindset, I started cooking like an Italian. 

It's only after three years that I decided to take the job of providing and making passato and other canned goods for my family. 

My first batch of pasato, I made 80L of sauce. It was A LOT to handle by myself. But I pulled through, and enjoyed some delicious tomato sauce for a whole year. 

Now one year passed, and hear I am making another batch of passato again!

 

 

My recipe and set up for making passato:

Ingredients: 

-Tomatoes, I have to say the more the better. Please try not to use GMO'ed tomatoes, try to source locally from trusted agriculturers. I used 40Kgs this time

-Salt, fill a small bowl

-Fresh basil, a few stalks with leaves, it'll depend on the batch size

 

Tools, set up:

- A sturdy table to install milling station and to cut tomatoes   -A food milling machine, you can find cheap one here, but Ideally an indistrial

- A propane burner                                                                       -Propane

-Lare stock pot, I used my friend's 80L pot                                -Long mixing paddle

-An oven                                                                                       -Small funnel to pour sauce in jars

-Acess to water                                                                            -Lots of jars, mason, or anything with a sealing cap

First step: Washing and selecting tomatoes

For the washing step, its best to use two large pots or bins, one to dump the tomatoes and wash the biggest dirt, the second to dump and rinse for the final stage. You can use a spoon or two of sodium bicarbonate in the first washing bin/pot the get the cleanest og tomatoes

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Second step: Cutting tail ends and cutting off beaten parts

Cutting the end tails helps you get the most flavorful passato. I used a large kitchen knife and buckets to load tomatoes in. Buckets also make it easier for transport.

 

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Third Step: Heating the tomatoes

For this step, I forgot to get some footage, but the idea is to soften the tomatoes for easy milling after. I poured them into the 80L stockpot, and let them heat and lose their water, for about 25-30 minutes. Remember to constantly stir, so you don't end up with a sticky pot, and burned tomatoes.

After heating them, pour them back into buckets or bowls, ready for the milling station.

Fourth step: Milling the tomatoes

For this step, you can use a vegetable mill, I first started with that, but then upgraded to an industrial mill. This mill (bottom photo) works perfectly to separate the seeds and skin from the flesh and juices. It definitely made the job easier and cleaner.

Scoop tomatoes into the receiving funnel, and activate by hand the handle, push the contents slowly with some type of tool, wood or plastic preffered.

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Sixth Step: Cooking the passato 

Pour all the sauce into the pot, start heating the burner, add salt and fresh basil bunch.

Seventh Step: Clean + sterilize jars + relax

You should take this time to clean, arrange and sterilize your jars and lids. I used an oven, heating it at 110°C-120°C for 10-30 minutes, mostly, I heated the oven, placed the jars inside, heated for 15 mins, then turned off the oven and let the jars inside.

I dumped all my lids in a boiling pot of water, this will sterilize them. Even if they are new, dump them in.

WATCH OUT this step can be very tricky, don't burn yourself. Use an oven mitt to get the jars out and ready for pouring.

Also use thius time to pour yourself a nice glass of wine, up to here, you definitely deserve the right to relax! Remember, the Italian way is to enjoy NOW and do the "important" after.

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Eight Step: Pouring/Canning

Use the funnel to get a clean pour. I used a small pot to pour because it would take a very long time pouring with a ladle. 

Put on the sterilized lids and close them slightly, not too tight, but enough that nothing will drip.

Ninth step: 

Heat up your big stock pot with water. As you can see in this time-lapse, the time has gone by since the start of the operation.

When the water starts boiling, drop some cloths in the water, anything from old rags, t-shirts, or even bedsheets will do. This is to prevent the jars from hitting the bottom of the pot, or each other, resulting in broken jars and wasted passato.

Drop the jars carefully, I used a silicone oven mitt, which allowed my hand to stay dry and protected from the boiling water.

Leave the jars in for 15 mins, this will heat up their contents, and when you carefully pull them out, it will speed up the sealing process. 

For the next hours, you will hear your jars popping, this means the trap air inside has been evacuated and the jars are now airless, and sealed.

 

After all these steps, let the jars cool, and store in a dry and cool place to store. Enjoy a nice jar of your homemade passato for the next 11 months!