With tomatoes in excess supply during summer – particularly late summer – what better than to preserve them as passata for use with your pasta during the winter months?
Here is a recipe with two different methods using the same ingredients. Take your choice! They're both excellent – especially if you use freshly harvested, lusciously ripe tomatoes from your own garden or from Tucker Patch. The heritage varieties grown at Tucker Patch make especially tasty passata – that's if you can bear to cook them, because their flavour when eaten fresh is so much better than any you can buy in your local supermarket.
500g brown onions, chopped
1 bulb garlic, separated into cloves and roughly crushed
5kg ripe red tomatoes, roughly chopped
½ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 bunch basil, leaves only, roughly chopped
Method 1: Stovetop (courtesy of Pat Burrows)
Gently fry the onions and garlic in the olive oil in a large stockpot until softened. Add the tomatoes, stir together, increase the heat and cook until soft (about 20 minutes). To make sure the ingredients are all properly mixed and cooked, press down with a potato masher. Allow the mixture to cool until it won't burn you when you work with it.
Mix the basil through then pass through a sieve or a mouli if you have one. (You can also add some lemon juice at this point if you wish – it will increase the acidity and further reduce the risk of botulising in the jars.) If you're using a sieve (as I do), press the mixture through in small batches, leaving just the seeds and skins, which you can discard (and put in the compost).
Put the resulting mixture (without the seeds and skins) back into the stockpot and boil until it reaches the desired consistency – depending on the juiciness of the tomatoes, this may be up to 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, sterilise your jars and lids. The easiest way to do this is to make sure they're clean and dry (you can use the dishwasher if you have one), then put them in the oven at around 80–100°C for 20 minutes.
When the jars are cool enough to handle (or use a clean, heat-proof glove), pour the hot passata into the jars. Make sure any air bubbles are removed by tapping the jars gently on the work surface. Wipe the rims with paper towel or a clean cloth and seal the lids on – but not too tightly. (If you do them too tightly, the next step will not be able to eliminate the air and vacuum seal the jars.)
To make sure the jars are absolutely sterile and vacuum seal them, heat-process them before storing. Put enough water in your stockpot to fully immerse the jars (probably in threes or fours, as most pots won't hold more than that), bring it to the boil and insert the still-hot jars. Boil for at least 10 minutes. Cool and store for up to a year. Once opened, refrigerate and use within three days.
Method 2: Roasting (courtesy of Sean Raynes)
According to the theory, the roasting method should intensify the flavour even more!
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Spread the tomatoes on baking trays, scatter the onions and garlic over them and drizzle with the oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and mix everything together. Roast for an hour and then leave to cool for half-an-hour.
Mix the basil through then follow the remaining instructions as for the stovetop method. You will probably only need to boil the mixture (after seeds and skins have been removed) for about five minutes to thicken it, as the roasting process removes more moisture than the stovetop method.
Enjoy your passata!