Homemade tomato sauce (passata di pomodoro) is one of the most popular preserves in the Italian cuisine. It is considered the queen of preserves because it is delicious and incomparable to the one you buy. Its preparation is very simple and quick; the only special equipment you need is a food mill. You can either consume it fresh in summer or canned in winter. I remember preparing it each summer with my grandmother in our country house where we had a wonderful garden, brimming with tasty vegetables. Although originating in South America, tomatoes have become staple in Italy since introduction to Europe during the 16th century. Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, a carotene with high antioxidant properties. Do you know that lycopene, unlike other micronutrients, becomes more bioavailable after heating and processing? Therefore tomato sauce is an excellent source of lycopene. In addtion consumption together with olive oil improves absorption: let’s enjoy a delicious homemade tomato sauce with some olive oil too! This is a special recipe from my book – Love is Eating.
PASSATA DI POMODORO (TOMATO SAUCE
900 g (2 lbs) ripe S.Marzano or Roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 pinch sea salt
Fresh basil leaves
1. Put the tomatoes and the basil in a large, heavy saucepan, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, cover and cook for about 20 minutes. Add 2-3 basil leaves and cook for an additional 4-5 minutes
2. Pour the tomatoes into a food mill over a large bowl. Let drain for 2-3 minutes and discharge the liquid. Puree the tomatoes until just the skin remains in the bowl of the food mill. You can store the passata in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. However if you prefer to keep it longer, you should preserve it, using for example the following canning method.
3. For canning, use previously sterilized jars (350 g, 13 oz) and new canning lids. Pour warm passata into the hot jars and fill them up leaving a gap of 1 cm (½ in). Place 1-2 basil leaves on top of each jar and screw on the lid. Put the jars in a large pan, cover with cold water (about 2.5 or 5 cm, 1 or 2 in). Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 35 minutes. Allow water to cool, remove the jars from the pan and place on a dry towel. To check the seal on the cooled jars, press gently on the lid. If it springs back, the jar is not sealed. Store sealed jars in a cool, dark place.
Note: When you purchase tomatoes check that they are firm, very red and ripe. The best time to buy is July and August, those hot, sunny months when the warmth of summer sun brings out the full flavor and richness of the tomatoes.
Ask your grocer which of the local tomatoes are the best for canning, but I suggest the oblong S. Marzano and the Roma tomatoes. – Paola