There are several traditional tools for the kitchen I would not be without. One is the mezzaluna, which I use to chop my herbs for the Tuscan herb blend I make often. The other is a passatutto, or food mill. The main reason I bought my food mill was to make pomorola, the Italian tomato sauce which is in every family’s pantry.
Instead of a food processor, which purees everything together, the food mill comes with three different plates to provide three different textures and removes skins and seeds at the same time. I use it to give a silkier texture to chicken liver crostini, which are the traditional beginning to any meal in Tuscany. When I want to add some beans to my minestrone, I add half of them whole and then put the other half through the food mill to give a creaminess to the soup.
But I wait all year long for the vine-ripened tomatoes to make the Italian pomarola, tomato sauce. Once you have tasted a homemade version, you too will take time to make your own. The sauce is so simple, kids can help make it.
Pomarola can be simply made to use in summer, but a true act of love is to make enough to last all year long for your family. Cooking seasonally is so important in Tuscan cooking. To preserve a little bit of summer and have your own sauce for some winter stews is priceless.
If you do some math, there are 52 weeks in the year and you probably use tomato sauce 3 times a week for pasta or cooking, so that is 150 jars of sauce. That may seem insane, but many Italian families make more than that for their yearly supply. My local farmer where I get my tomatoes starts preserving tomatoes in July, using mixed tomatoes, peeled and left in large pieces. Then in August when the tomato harvest is in full swing, they start making the sauce.
What kind of tomato?
Here in Tuscany, we have a rich meaty tomato used for sauces called the Fiorentino. It looks like a round little pumpkin and is mostly tomato pulp and little seeds and skin.
The tomato was brought to Italy around 1650, after the discovery of the New World and was fully embraced. Who could imagine Italian food without tomatoes?
When tomatoes are in season, July and August, they are perfect for making tomato sauce. They have been ripened by the sun and are best if they have not been stored in the refrigerator for a long period of time, which kills the flavor and the texture.
The Fiorentino tomato is easiest to get in Tuscany.
Pomarola – Tuscan Tomato Sauce recipe
- 1 kilo fresh fiorentini tomatoes
- 4 basil leaves
Remove the stems from the tomatoes.
Crush with your hands into the pot.
Add torn basil leaves and salt to taste.
Put on medium heat and cook until the tomatoes fall apart, which, when ripe, can be 15 minutes.
In small batches, puree the tomatoes in the food mill (passatutto) using the disk with the smallest holes.
When you think you have pureed it all, keep going! Most people stop too soon and leave lots of the tomato pulp on the skins. When you see the skins rolling up, you are done. Keep pureeing until no more pulp comes from the skins. (look under the food mill and scrape the pulp off and you will see when it is done.)
Place the pureed pulp into a pot and recook until reduced by 1/3. This removes the extra water. Taste to see if you need more salt.
Now the sauce is ready to be saved for the coming winter.
Most families save beer bottles and have their own manual capping machine which makes it very easy to bottle. If not, you can buy Mason jars for sauce. Once the sauce is made, then you need to prepare the bottles for storage by boiling them. It is important to sterilize the bottles first using boiling water.
Then pour the hot sauce into the jars, leaving about 1/2 inch at the top. Screw on the top, or if using the beer bottles, place on the cap and seal. Put the bottles into a pan of boiling water and boil for 15 minutes.
Remove and let cool – you should hear and see the lid “pop”. Store in the pantry until ready to use, once opened must be refrigerated.