Tomato Passata is pureed, strained tomatoes usually sold in bottles. It’s 100% tomato, no additives or flavourings, but sometimes contains added salt. It’s uniform and smooth unlike crushed or chopped tomatoes, and makes gorgeously thick tomato-based sauces. It’s known as Tomato Puree in the US (here’s a photo).
Though more widely available nowadays, and around the same price as canned tomato, I sill regularly get asked questions about it so I thought it was worth doing a little FAQ.
Tomato Passata is an ingredient that I’m quite fond of, one I use regularly in tomato-based sauces. Though increasing in popularly, it’s not as well known as crushed tomato and tomato paste. So I thought it would be helpful to do a little 101 on Tomato Passata – what it is, how to use it, why I love it so much!
What is Tomato Passata?
Tomato Passata is just plain tomato that’s been pureed and passed through a sieve to strain out any chunks so it’s perfectly smooth. It doesn’t have any additional flavourings, but sometimes has salt added.
It’s essentially canned crushed tomato that’s been pureed, but thicker. If you were to just puree crushed tomato, it would be thinner. You would have to press it through a sieve to achieve the same consistency.
How to use Tomato Passata
Tomato passata makes thicker, more intense tomato-flavoured sauces than using the equivalent amount of crushed or diced canned tomatoes. It’s brilliant for making quick pasta sauces and soups, where you can’t or don’t simmer for a long time (eg. 30 minutes+), which ordinarily would be required to break down the chunks of crushed or diced tomato to thicken the sauce.
Here are Italian Meatballs in a sauce made with Passata. The sauce is only simmered for 10 minutes, and you can see how much there is!
Where to buy Tomato Passata
10 years ago, passata was relatively hard to find in Australia. Nowadays, it’s sold at major supermarkets (Coles and Woolworths) in the pasta section, as well as fresh produce stores like Harris Farms. Of course you can find many varieties at Italian delis too.
By weight, it’s usually slightly better value than canned tomato.
My preferred passata brand is Mutti, from Italy. I find their tomatoes are sweeter and less sour than other brands, with a a rich tomato taste. I also hear Mutti is very popular in Italy – an endorsement if there ever was one! Mutti is not much more expensive than any other brand over here.
Best Substitute for Tomato Passata
If you’re in American or Canada, the best substitute for tomato passata is tomato puree. Tomato puree is very similar or identical in the way it’s made, and recipes I’ve made using tomato puree came out the same as when made using tomato passata.
To MAKE Tomato Passata using tomato paste, see this recipe – Tomato Paste Substitute for Tomato Passata and Canned Tomato.
Difference between Tomato Passata and….
Tomato paste – Passata is thinner and less intense flavoured than tomato paste which has a much thicker consistency, a very intense tomato flavour and is more sour. See how to make a Tomato Passata substitute using tomato paste.
Crushed (or chopped) canned tomato – Passata has a thicker and smoother consistency, whereas crushed tomato has thick crushed bits of tomato suspended in thinner tomato juice. Crushed tomato needs to be cooked for a while to break down into a thick sauces, whereas tomato passata is already a thick sauce consistency.
Tomato Sauce (US) – Tomato passata is not the same as tomato sauce in the US (which is pureed tomato like passata but with flavourings added). Note: Tomato Sauce in Australia is like ketchup. In America, Tomato Sauce is liked a canned version of tomato passata.
I love using tomato passata, and you can see all my recipes made using passata here. Here are a few examples: