What is Tomato Passata and How Should I Use It?

Ingredient Intelligence

Pin it button big

In many of the British cooking programs I follow and British cookbooks I use, I've often run across an ingredient that is unfamiliar to me. It's called passata (or tomato passata) and it appears to be a liquid tomato puree that comes in tall, carafe-like glass jars. But what is it exactly and why would I use it instead of tomato sauce or tomato paste?

I did a little investigating and this is what I've discovered.

It seems as if passata is an uncooked tomato puree that has been strained of seeds and skins. It originated in Italy but is used throughout Europe. Some passatas are chunkier and some are smoother, depending on the brand. Some people claim that passata can also be cooked, but most agree that it is uncooked. You will also see it spelled passato and passata di pomodoro.

How is passata different from tomato sauce or tomato paste? Well, both the sauce and paste are cooked tomato products to begin with. Tomato sauce often has other ingredients such as carrots, onions, garlic, etc. And tomato paste is cooked down and much thicker. You would not want to substitute either product if passata is called for in your recipe. If you cannot find it in your store, take plain canned tomatoes and run them through a sieve or a food mill. While most passatas are just plain tomatoes, some are sold with additions, such as basil, so read your label carefully if this is an issue.

Tomato passata can be used in any recipe that calls for tomatoes where it is not important that there be pieces of tomato. You could make a tomato sauce from passato, for example. Or tomato soup. I've seen it added to white beans to make a stew. Indeed, it is a great product for meat-based stews as well.

Pin it button big

Pasata is rarely used in the United States but I have found it in several grocery stores in the Bay Area, usually on the very bottom shelf in the canned tomato product section. I have also seen a version of it in an aseptic box put out by Pomi (see photo, left.) In general, passata is considered to be a superior product to canned tomatoes, using higher quality tomatoes and processing methods. I'm really looking forward to giving it a try!

Do you use passata? What's your favorite way to use it?

Related: Help Me Find BPA-Free Canned Tomatoes!