‘Everything that was done with respect to food, was, and often still is, an excuse for a festa.’ Preserving the Italian Way, Pietro Demaio
It's time. Do it now. Don't wait. Get up early. Hit the markets. Don your aprons. Roll up your sleeves.
It's passata time, which means making lots of tomato sauce to fortify you against the winter gloom. Imagine all those ruby red bottles lined up, waiting to be turned into heart-warming pasta dishes, bowel-busting curries, petulant pizzas (ok, so pizzas can't be petulant, but I can't let that to get in the way of my alliterative stream of consciousness).
An all-out massive Italian passata-making day is a celebration on so many levels: of the miracle of the vine-ripened late summer Roma tomato; of the fact that many hands make hard work so much more fun; and of how great sauce-laden pasta – shared around a big table – tastes at the end of a hard day’s work.
Making sauce – as well as sausages, cheese, pickles, jams and wine – was a big part of traditional Italian village life. Every household, every village, every region, had a slightly different, tried-and-true recipe. Of course, everyone thought theirs was the best. Many of these were well-kept secrets and only handed down within the family. Often, it was a question of adding a dash more of this, or cooking it ‘just so’. It was a matter of pride to share the results afterwards – perhaps even giving away all the salamis that you made that day, knowing full well that they would return in the form of a dozen misshapen salamis from your friends and neighbours in coming weeks.
It's this ethos that underpins the passata making day. The beauty of it is that it has evolved over the years in our urban setting and with different people taking it on--for example, we cheat by using a blender to pulp the tomatoes. If you always thought it was too hard, think again - when you've done it once, you'll do it again. And again.
The tomatoes are cheap this year (around $12-$14 a box in Melbourne), the sellers prolific (use your Italian network if you have one to find out where the trucks are waiting to sell by the box load), or simply hit the markets. If you want to know how to do it, just read the instructions below.
And as if you needed more convincing, here are the tantatlising photos by my beloved, George Mifsud, from last year's session .
Happy tomato day!
Download Passata making instructions.
They've been cut up, salted, mushed up and in the pot they go...
Bottles have been washed and sterilised...