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No time? Preserving is great!

So its tomato season and this is the time of year to make passata. As a non-Italian, I have a romanticised view of the family tradition of coming together to make passata. This year, I was swayed by lovely articles in The Age and Tomato, as well as SBS’ Italian Food Safari and decided it was finally time to tackle making passata. I roped Saskia in and dispatched Mr M off to the market to acquire a suitably large number of tomatoes.

In preparation, Saskia and I started our passata making research. A few recipes in, a couple of factors brought our plans unstuck – one, the need to cook the tomatoes for between 6 and 10 hours and two, the need for some sort of sieve or de-seeding/pulping apparatus. Hmmm.

Thankfully, Maggie Beer came to the rescue –  in her book, Maggie’s Harvest she provides a simple method of how to preserve tomatoes. Saskia and I convinced ourselves that preserving tomatoes was a better idea than making passata, particularly given there were only two of us (no hordes of family or friends), with no time, equipment or know-how. We also rationalised that ordinarily we rarely use passata in our cooking – whole canned tomatoes are used much more frequently.

Preserving the tomatoes was a simple and comparatively fast process. From approximately 1.5 kg of tomatoes we made 4 1L jars of tomatoes (although they do reduce quite a bit).

I am yet to use my tomatoes – I will let you know how they are when I use them!

Preserved tomatoes

From Maggie’s Harvest.

Pickling jars


  • Wash and dry very ripe but firm tomatoes. We bought some from the market and the gorgeous little ones are from our friend U’s garden.


  • Cut away the entire stem area, and any imperfections, then halve and pack tightly into preserving jars.
  • Note that no water is added and the jars are not sterilised before use as the heat from the tomatoes will sterilise the jars.


  • Seal the lids then wrap in a tea-towel and place in a preserving pan, or large saucepan. Cover with water.
  • Cook for 1 hr and 15 minutes at 92C.


  • When the time is up, invert them so that the hot tomatoes sterilise the lid.
  • Stand the tomatoes upright on a wad of newspapers for between 24 and 48 hours before storing.


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10 Responses to “Preserved tomatoes – the time-poor man’s passata”

  1. Hannah says:

    I’ve wanted to join in a tomato-bottling day ever since my years of watching (and rewatching, and rewatching) Looking For Alibrandi. I think I wanted to be Pia Miranda.

    And I think all your rationalisations make perfect sense! Who wants smooth tomato gloop anyway? We all need some texture in our lives 😀

    • Emily says:

      I confess, the Looking for Alibrandi thing really does inform my romantic vision of passata making.

      And yes, I have managed to convince myself that the preserved tomatoes will be more useful in the long run. I think next year I will try to con my way into some kind of family passata making extravaganza (hello my Italian friends!), so I have had the experience, but I am not on my own (or with one other person) trying to deal with several kilos of tomatoes.

  2. Reemski says:

    I can’t believe how absurdly simple that looks?!

    • Emily says:

      I know! It was very very simple indeed.

      We considered adding some flavourings but thought that it was better to go without – that way the tomatoes can be used for different cuisines.

      I will report back on how they taste etc once I get around to using them…

  3. Wow. I never knew that you could make passata like that. It looks so cool!

  4. TruffleMe says:

    Wow, great idea. I looked at tomatoe sauce recipes and gave up before I even started. But now I know what to do with our excess tomatoes from our veggie patch next summer. This looks very do-able.

  5. limewire says:

    lmao fun info bro.

  6. Julie Carter says:

    You are right Emily, it does seem like a lot of work but it is so worth it.
    At this same time last year, we ran our first passata making day. We invited friends and family and ended up with about 40 eager helpers. Through contacts at Flemington markets, we sourced 200kg of roma tomatoes. I think there are as many recipes for passata as villages in Italy, but most Italians we spoke to in Sydney bottled the fresh passata with our own basil leaves and a little lemon juice, rather than cooking it first.
    We used three passata machines and passed the tomatoes (that had been quartered) through twice. Our only problem was finding enough bottles and cleaning them. We then placed the bottles in a half 44gallon drum, on newspaper, covered with water and brought to the boil. Then we simmered for 30 minutes.
    Lunch was pasta con sugo, insalata, pane and of course vino!
    This year we’ve sourced an electric passata machine which will really cut down on the time. The bottle issue was such a pain, we’re buying new jars. There was such a demand, we are running two this year – on the 20th and 27th March. We found the teenagers and kids were just as involved as the adults. They must have watched Waiting for Alibrandi. If anyone is interested, you can contact us on info@culinaryinterludestuscany.com

    • Emily says:

      Wow that sounds like an amazing undertaking! I would be very interested in coming along to a passata making day – though incredibly I have plans for both the 20th and 27th. Very unfortunate. I’d love to hear how it goes!

    • Beck says:

      Hi Julie,
      Sounds great. We are looking at getting a ‘community’ electric passata machine that our various local groups can borrow for their tomato days (we all have the traditional hand turned ones). Where did you source yours and about how much was it? Would you recommend that brand?

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