At the heart of Italian cooking there are fresh, simple ingredients; a love of texture and flavour over presentation and the communal table.
Each year, usually around mid Autumn, entire families come together for their annual passata (which really is fresh tomato sauce) making weekend. It’s laborious work but everyone plays a part, and all participants end up with sealed bottles, filled to the brim with sauce, to see them through the year. Fundamentally, it’s a celebration of gastronomic tradition.
The best tomato sauce is made using a unique sauce machine or food mill, the kind that separates the seeds and skin from the flesh. Not everyone owns one so a food processor, that simply whizzes the entire tomato to pulp is a great alternative. The application, flavour and colour will be the same but the texture will be coarser.
Tomatoes store incredibly well and it’s worth taking the time to process as many as you have room to store. Fill containers with the tomato sauce; place a lid securely on the container and place in the freezer where it will keep perfectly for about 12 months.
Very simple tomato sauce
2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 litres tomato sauce
½ bunch basil
extra virgin olive oil
Choose a large heavy based saucepan and heat about a ¼ cup of olive oil. Add the onions and cook until softened and turning golden. Add the garlic and ½ of the basil, including the stems and cook for a few minutes – it will become quite aromatic.
Add the tomato sauce and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and cook for about 1 hour or until sauce is thickened. Season with salt, remove the basil stems and throw in the remaining basil leaves, stir then taste the sauce. The tomatoes should taste fresh but not raw and the sauce should be a perfect balance between sweet and salty. If the sauce tastes a little sour then the addition of a little extra olive oil will sweeten the sauce. Serve simply tossed through pasta and sprinkled with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.