By Alison Peake

    Whether it’s sun dried, sauced, tinned, or fresh, the humble tomato is a staple in the kitchen.

    We use them in salads, in stews, casseroles and pasta sauces, and as pizza topping but have you ever wondered how to make the versatile tomato passata we buy in jars?

    The multitude of varieties available in supermarkets may look similar but just like oils ain’t oils, passatas ain’t passatas.

    You might be surprised what’s in some bottles of tomato sauce and if you are wanting to limit sugar or salt in your diet it pays to read the label. Aside from tomatoes some brands also have preservatives, sugar, salt and flavourings. But of course, like so many things in life, there is no substitute to making your own.

    Although used by many different cultures Italians particularly are known for their love of tomato passata, which to them is liquid gold. Passata making days are a tradition still practised by many families in the western suburbs.

    So, making your own … is it easy? Yes and no. Is it messy? You bet!!

    Urban Harvest Local and Slow Food Melbourne are helping people rediscover food traditions like making passata offering folks a chance to enjoy the process of getting together as family or friends to make the most of fresh, local produce.

    Partnering with expert Lina Siciliano from Rose Creek Estate and Villa Varapodi Winery and Olive Grove we hosted a passata making session.

    One cold and windy Sunday we headed to the Williamstown and Newport Anglers Club to make our very own batch of passata.

    Different regions of Italy have minor variations to the process so Lina taught us her family Calabrese method which aims to add flavour while maintaining the quality of the vine ripened Roma tomatoes.

    Purchased from Sicilian vegetable growers the Farandas of Werribee South we know these tomatoes were sun ripened for maximum flavour and minimum water content.

    Adding only fried onions and fresh basil to the cooked tomato base the pulp is processed through a hand cranked machine to remove seeds and skins, then bottled and processed in a water bath to ensure they have a shelf life of 12 months plus.

    60 kilos of tomatoes and 4 hours later 16 hard working women had bottled 100 jars of passata!

    If you want to learn how it is done follow Urban Harvest Local on Facebook where we’ve posted an instructional video made on that day. You can also find us at Slow Food Melbourne farmers’ markets in Spotswood and West Footscray to discover local produce and other food traditions that still thrive in the west.



    Photo credits – Mandy Heather with the bottles, Lina Siciliano is the presenter
    Photographer Amanda Mccarthy

    Rose Creek Estate –



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