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 plastic cream containers and frozen or bottled into glass jars. 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 overnight in the fridge. If storing in glass jars in the freezer allow 3/4 inch head space in the jar to allow for expansion.
When I run out of freezer space I preserve the sauce in glass jars. The glass jars and lids need to be sterilised so to do this I thoroughly wash the jars in hot soapy water, rinse then place into a cold oven. Switch the oven on to 100 degrees celsius then once to temperature I leave them in for 15 minutes then turn the oven off. I leave the jars inside until I am ready to fill with the hot sauce. The lids I boil in water in a saucepan for 10 minutes.
Once the jars have been filled, screw on the lids then place in a large saucepan with the jars resting on a small cloth so that they don’t bang together. Fill the pan with water so that it completely covers the sealed jars. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes without a lid on the pan. After the time turn off the heat, cover with a lid and leave the jars of sauce to stand for 40 minutes. This method will form a vacuum seal inside the jar.
Remove from the water, check to make sure the lids are screwed on tight then label and store in a cool place.
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