DIY passata - to make or to buy?

  • By
    Natalie Hardwick - Senior writer - bbcgoodfood.com

Is it always worth making your favourites from scratch? Our DIY series puts shop-bought and homemade to the test - this time, passata…

Jars of passata

After onions, garlic and lemons, tomatoes are the most used ingredient in my larder. Since said usage is often in ragus, curry sauces and soups, it begs the question - why have I never made my own passata? Perhaps because I presumed it would involve an expensive blender, sackloads of tomatoes and lots of tedious chopping.

But the clue is in the nature of the thick red nectar- passata is simply sieved tomatoes. Happy to bypass borrowing a blender, I set about making my own, my only reservation being the fact it's nigh on impossible to perfectly wash a sieve.

Vine tomatoesThe cost

Cost of 500g carton shop-bought passata:
£1.07

Cost of 1kg tomatoes and half a bulb of garlic to make 800ml homemade passata:
£1.65

The recipe I used:
Sara Buenfeld's tomato passata

Sadly I didn't have access to a rustic bounty harvested by my own fair hand so had to hit the local greengrocers for a bag of beef tomatoes. These are the cheapest around, and they offer a price advantage over ready-made passata. When poured out next to each other, the homemade passata was around one and a half times the quantity of the carton. You could even go more high end with your choice of tomato and still make a saving.

The making:

This recipe is pretty much foolproof - quarter your tomatoes, halve your garlic and throw into a pan with olive oil. You don't even need a spoon as sporadic shakes are all that's required. The cooking process is complete in 15 mere minutes, at which point you cool the mix.

Tip:
Plunge your hot pan into a sink of cold water to speed up the cooling process.

The sieving part was pretty fun - I gave up after about three minutes and yielded a decent amount of passata, but the more economical may wish to persevere for longer.

The taste:

The homemade passata was remarkably lighter and thinner than the shop-bought. The shop-bought was really concentrated and almost bitter - like a cross between tomato soup and purée. It was also a pure and unadorned tomato hit - the garlic in the homemade version was a pretty heavy aftertaste but the overall finish was fresh and the sugar was a great addition.

GazpatchoThe verdict:

If you want a thick, intense sauce, shop-bought will deliver, but homemade is lighter and more flavoursome - it was so good I'd drink it as a gazpacho. However, the garlic flavour was strong so I'd recommend adjusting the recipe if that's not your thing.

 

For me, the best approach would be to make a passata batch while cooking the dish you're putting it in. An extra half an hour won't make much of a difference when you're having a kitchen session, and you should have a batch leftover for next time when you need a speedy meal.

Not sure how to use passata? Try it out in pizza sauces, lasagne and curry.  

Have you made your own? Let us know if you think it beats shop-bought…

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