American substitute for Passata

I’m following a British recipe that requires Passata. Sounds like crushed tomatoes to me. If anyone here is familiar with both, should I be okay using crushed tomatoes instead? I found conflicting information online about whether Passata is cooked/uncooked. I’m looking for something like what’s commonly sold in British supermarkets.

1 Like

You can use crushed tomatoes but I would run them through a sieve to make it smoother and remove the seeds. If you have a WholeFoods closeby they tend to have passata or Parmalat strained tomatoes

1 Like

I would try running canned tomatoes (crushed or whole) through a blender or food processor. You may then need to cook it down a bit to get the slightly gloopy consistency of passata. Or just use a jar of Marinara, which I think is pretty similar.

BTW I’m surprised that it’s not widely available in a country where Italian cooking is so widespread and influential.

Maybe try making fresh:

http://www.mylittleitaliankitchen.com/the-queen-of-pasta-sauces-passata-di-pomodoro/

I’d agree with Robin about blending and cooking it down a bit to thicken slightly. It should be smooth.

I’m also surprised that it’s not widely available in America (assuming the OP is in America) - although Google suggests Americans may know it as tomato sauce.

I agree with honkman. I always use crushed tomatoes and whiz them in the food processor to break them down further, but you should be able to find Parmalat passata in boxes in some American grocery stores. I would NOT use canned tomato sauce in place of passata - it’s likely to have other flavors added to it and it will have undergone a long cook time and be completely smooth. Passata is smoother than crushed tomatoes but does still have some texture.

1 Like

And, of course, Amazon.

I wouldn’t use marinara as it has garlic etc added which has a different flavor profile

1 Like

bmore, you are in Baltimore, correct? I know in the Philly area I can get pretty much any Italian ingredient at one of the many Italian specialty stores in the region. So I did a quick Google and found the article regarding Italian shops in Baltimore.

Perhaps check one of those?

Maybe not perfect, but most of the recipes incorporating passata are likely to include garlic, onions, herbs etc. so it I think it would be fine. Let’s not forget that the OP is just looking for a reasonable substitute, as the real thing cannot be easily found.

Passata roughly means “haven been passed (through)” – and in the case of tomatoes, it means having been passed through a fairly fine sieve. You don’t want to just whizz crushed tomatoes in a food processer because you don’t want the flavor of tomato seeds in a passata.

It’s been a long time since I have used a canned tomato puree in America, but that would be closest in my recollection, provided it is not too salty. I would NOT use anything with added flavors (certainly in Italy, a great many recipes using a tomato passata would not also have garlic, and most recipes in Italy that use garlic do not also use onions in the same dish (one or the other). Certainly I would not use jarred marinara sauce.

If you have time to get Mutti passata, great. Mutti is a very high quality product.

By the way, here is a picture of passatelli pasta

You see what I mean about “passed through”. Here is picture of pomodori passata being made:

The end result is a bit thicker than American canned tomato sauce.

By the way, the word “passata” like “pesto” refers to a method, rather than an ingredient. Italians also make a passata of many other vegetables or legumes, and even fruits like apricots.

4 Likes

When I tried to do that, all I got was water. I think I need a mill as shown at the recipe link and in HolyTerroir’s pictures.

I found conflicting information on if it should be cooked or not. The ones I purchased don’t taste cooked at all.

Thanks for the clues! I purchased these at Wal-Mart for $3.12: http://www.amazon.com/Pomi-Strained-Tomatoes-26-45-Each/dp/B002FBV2IQ

Oddly, I couldn’t find the term “passata” anywhere on the box.

I always forget to check the Italian specialty stores. Appreciate the reminder. From that list you linked to, I pass by three of those weekly.

Have you tried the Pomi brand? Curious if you think Mutti is much better. I read a review once that these boxed tomato purees taste flat due to the absence of citric acid. (At that time I didn’t know these were slightly different than American tomato purees.) However, I thought the box I purchased today tasted really good.

“Risotto” is supposed to be one of those methods, not an exact dish, too, right? Whenever I’ve brought that up with Italians in conversation, I’ve always gotten a “what are you talking about, who heard of risotto without rice”. Of course, my sample size is small and I don’t recall what regions these folks were from. Just a tidbit I thought you might be interested in.

1 Like

@gio I’m betting you can contribute to this convo.

I think Pomi is the closest you can find easily here, was just about to suggest theirs

1 Like

Mutti is much better, in my opinion, even though Pomi is probably one of the best easily available in America. Many of the canned Italian imports, like Cento, can be excellent. In my recollection, Cento is a common brand in an Italian deli in a big American city.

Well, in Italy a risotto MUST have rice to be a risotto, but it also refers to the way the rice is cooked: in a shallow pan, with continuous applications of liquid, stirred, etc. There are other rice dishes in Italy that are not cooked like a risotto and are not called risotti. But an Italian term like pesto refers to using a pestle to create a mash of ingredients. Many non-Italians have come think of “pesto” as meaning basil sauce, but that is only one kind of pesto in Italy. There are also pesto sauces made with walnuts and marjoram, for instance. And the word “passata” is like that, and simply means (roughly) the equivalent of “strained” or “pureed” or “sieved” foods.

However, on American menus/products I now see Italian terms applied to preparations of food that would be rather incomprehensible in Italy – like a “cauliflower risotto” without any rice in it, but rather grain-sized bits of cauliflower. Or “zucchini spaghetti” made with a spiralizer that has no pasta at all in the dish. Every now and then in Italy you will see creative language in trendy restaurants, things like “fegato lollipop” (rounds of grilled calves liver on a stick) but most of the time, no.

I think I am correct in saying that all canned tomatoes must be cooked to some extent to be canned at all. But they are not long-cooked, like a pre-made supermarket pasta sauce, and therefore the flavor of the tomato product, straight out of the can/jar, should be bright, more like a tomato juice.

Pomi strained tomatoes are made in Italy. They are the traditional “Italian Passata di Pomodori”. It’s what I use when a recipe calls for Passata, and since I live in the US I find the Pomi brand to be perfect for my needs.
http://www.pomi.us.com/project/pomi-strained-tomatoes/

I have no affiliation to Pomi.

2 Likes

A sieve is just going to drain off the water and leave behind the solids in chunks. You either want to pass them through a food mill or give them a quick whirl in a blender or food processor.

The recipe came out great! It was like tasting tomato sauce for the first time. We ate it with bread, with pasta, and finally just by itself like soup. I used the Pomi brand tomatoes, but I will try the recipe with Cento brand San Marzano tomatoes to make sure it wasn’t the method. (I never grated onions for a tomato sauce before.)

To be honest, I buy the San Marzanos because of what experts say. A few other canned tomatos – from Cento and others – taste better to me in tomato sauce. I like the San Marzanos in salsa, though.

As for passata being cooked vs uncooked, I have a theory. I think the manufacturers are able to get a thick consistency without cooking, but, at home, cooking is necessary to get rid of excess moisture. I wonder if you could just strain over double cheesecloth.

I found another brand of passata near me. This one was jarred and the word “passata” is actually printed on the label. I haven’t cooked with it, but raw, I thought the jarred one tasted better than the Pomi. I attached some pictures below.




Which recipe was that please bmore? If it was the one I referenced then I’d be interested to know. Not to claim any credit, just so as I can try it myself. I don’t have a mouli food mill though.

Maybe it is just my imagination, but I often think glass-jarred everything tastes better than equivalent products boxed or canned.

This is the recipe by British TV chef Marco: http://tenplay.com.au/channel-ten/masterchef/recipes/penne-with-fresh-tomato-sauce

I purchased great Campari tomatoes last week and immediately thought of this recipe I had watched last year. I remember the recipe called for many swirls of olive oil. I sauteed the onion and garlic for about 10 minutes, so don’t keep the heat too high. Also I omitted chicken stock from the recipe (philosophical reasons.) And I didn’t have thyme, so I dried some oregano from the garden and used that. The recipe doesn’t call for salt, but I salted both before and after adding the passata.

I viewed a couple of Marco’s Tomato Sauce videos on YouTube and they are a bit different. For those of us physically outside of Australia, the video at the link I provided is geoblocked. I had set up some fancy proxy settings in my browser – takes a while to figure out – but those don’t work anymore. I have some browser extensions that circumvent geoblocking; unfortunately, those also won’t work with this site.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold