Passata (Fresh Tomato Sauce)
If you grow your own tomatoes and the middle of August you have a glut – I always make a batch of this delicious, thick tasty sauce which then is ladelled into clean 300ml cream containers and frozen. This is then used as a base for pizzas, Bolognese, lasagne, moussaka or any recipe that calls for a tin of tomatoes.
Start by skinning the tomatoes which seems a bit tedious with so many tomatoes but it is worth it because the skins are tough and refuse to break down. Slit each tomato at its base with a sharp knife. Do this twice making a cross. Place the tomatoes in a large bowl then pour boiling water over. Leave for about 2-3 minutes then pour off the water. When the tomatoes are cool enough to hand – starting at the base of the tomato where you have made the cross, carefully peel off the skins. They should come off easily especially if the tomatoes are really ripe.
In a very large casserole pan heat the oil then add the chopped onion and fry gently for about 10 minutes until they have softened. Add the dried herbs, sugar and garlic and stir well before adding first the red wine, salt and pepper and finally the tomatoes. I tend to cut the tomatoes in half as I add them to the pan. Turn up the heat, stir well and bring everything to a bubble then turn down the heat maintaining a gently simmer and leave uncovered for two hours. Stir occasionally.
After the cooking time your tomatoes will have reduced down and thickened. If you would like a really smooth passata then give a quick blitz with a stick blender.
Taste for seasoning then leave to cool in the pan then freeze in containers as above. This passata will freeze for a year. When ready to use thaw in the fridge.
If you find yourself with a glut of tomatoes and a shortage of freezer space the sauce can be bottled. This recipe will fill 6 x 1lb glass jars with screw top lids. First of all make sure the jars and lids and clean then pop them into a cold oven. Turn the oven on to 100 degrees centigrade and once the oven has reached temperature leave the jars in there for 20 minutes then turn it off. Once the sauce is cooked and blitzed then ladle it onto the jars and screw on the lids. Choose your largest casserole pan and lay inside a small tea towel or napkin then set the sealed jars onto the cloth, tucking it in between each glass jar so that they don’t touch each other. Cover the whole lot in cold water and make sure the water covers the jars. Bring to the boil and simmer for just ten minutes then turn off the heat, put a lid on and leave the jars in the hot water for 40 minutes. A vacuum seal will form within the jar to ensure the contents are safe to store.
Dry the jars and store in a cool place for a year.
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