T is for… Tarragon Tomato Passata

This is something of a labour of love; the trouble with making your own tomato sauces is that you get spoilt and don’t want to buy the shop stuff. It is labour intensive and, unless you have really good cheap tomatoes, probably not worth it from a financial point of view. However, nothing tastes as good as home made passata and you can adapt the recipe to suit your family’s palate.

The recipe we work off is from Pam Corbin’s wonderful book Preserves, one of the River Cottage Handbooks. We have made many other lovely preserves and chutneys from this book. Recommended !

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We buy a whole box of tomatoes at a time, which has 6 lbs of fruit in it.

  • 6lbs (2.7 kgs) of tomatoes
  • 6 garlic cloves peeled and sliced
  • 300 g onions or shallots, we used a mixture of white and red
  • A generous handful of tarragon leaves and chopped stalks
  • Greek oregano from the garden as well (pictured in the slideshow- you can use any herbs that you think go well with tomatoes of course)
  • 1 and a half tsp of coarse sea salt
  • 1 tsp of black pepper
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • 75 ml olive oil
  1. Halve the tomatoes and place on a baking tray cut side up and spread and sprinkle everything else on the top.
  2. Roast for about an hour at 180 C.
  3. Remove from oven, drain off any liquid and save for stock for soups or other dishes.
  4. Invest in a food mill as it takes forever to rub through a sieve and makes your wrists ache!
  5. Purée the tomatoes through the mill.
  6. You will of course need hot sterile jars and lids ready.We only use screw top jars. Other methods are described in detail in the book.
  7. We wash our jars in hot soapy water, rinse in hot water and place on a tray in the oven at about 120 C for 30 minutes or longer. We boil the lids in a saucepan and keep them at a gentle simmer till we need them.
  8. Pour the tomato puree into the hot jars, filling them almost to the brim. Put the lids on the jars immediately. People like us who don’t have canners  make a water bath in a large saucepan with a teatowel folded in the bottom filled with cold water nearly up to the top of the jars.
  9. We then bring the pan up to simmering point (88 – 90 C) over a period of twenty five minutes, and then hold it at that temperature for ten minutes.
  10. Leave the jars to cool somewhere out of the way. Check the lids are tight.
  11. Label prettily and store in a cool place.

Pam Corbin suggests a shelf life of 12 months. Ours doesn’t last that long. It gets used in so many dishes that we have to make it on a regular basis.

Edit: For readers concerned about botulism, something I understand is a particular concern in the Western United States, please read up and take advice as I am not an expert in this area. I understand from the little I have read that you can add citric acid or lemon juice to the tomatoes to increase their acidity levels, and that one should avoid using overripe fruit, but that is a general principle with all jam and chutney making. If a jar bulges, the contents look as if they are separating, any funny colour or smell becoming apparent, use your common sense and throw away. Our very first batch of this separated because we used the liquid which we now drain off, we haven’t had any problems since, but we are not experts so please don’t read this as expert advice. Thanks!

Once you have made this, you can bravely venture into making your own ketchup too, the recipe for which is in the book as well, and I have to say is utterly delicious!

Don’t forget to comment on the Q post as there will be prizes for the best answers received by the time the last Alphabet in August post is published.

And a second PS, is that a PPS ? I am completely obsessed with the concept of Time  and set out to write a huge post on the subject, but it will have to wait for now… Time, Thought, Trinkets, Treats, Timpanni, Trees, Tickets, Toast and of course Tea and Teacakes, hot cinammon butter….there were too many. Never mind!

29 thoughts on “T is for… Tarragon Tomato Passata

  1. sallybr

    What a great concoction this is! I have fresh tarragon in my garden, growing wild and I’ve been searching for recipes to use it before everything freezes in the winter

    I was hoping you would pick tarragon for T, and you DID! Awesome!

    1. Joanna Post author

      I am sure there is a french chicken dish with tarragon that I used to make that is very good, but it’s lost in the mists of time. I would have to do a bit or searching. I have heard of people freezing their tarragon leaves in water in icecube format for using later on. Never tried it though :)

  2. Anet

    I have tarragon too that I have been drying but there is so much of it I’d like to try this “tomato passata” (a new word for me). The tomato sauce that I’ve made before tends to be rather plain, though I have roasted the tomatoes.
    So . . . you don’t peel the tomatoes before the roasting, or take off the baked peel before the puree process?

    1. Joanna Post author

      We don’t peel them (yay!) and the recipe doesn’t say you need to. Having said that we used to make it by pressing it through this :

      Cone Sieve
      and the skins used to clog it up terribly, so if you are making through a sieve it might be an idea to take them off.

  3. heidi

    I love making my own tomato passata as well- it is very close to your recipe- although I freeze the sauce because I don’t like to can and my husband doesn’t like to have home canned stuff sitting around the pantry- he’s certain it will end up with botulism!
    Yours looks wonderful!

    1. Joanna Post author

      If you have a big enough freezer then that sounds like a great idea. I noticed that the passata changes colour during the processing though. Do you re-cook yours once you have pressed/sieved it? Or does it go straight into the freezer?

      I’ve never had botulism and I wouldn’t like to :0 I hope our stuff is OK. We are very careful to pour boiling water over all our implements as well as sterilize the jars.

  4. Jeannette

    Joanna, you are a temptress!!! this looks so good that I want to make it but I would have to buy everything in, as I don’t even have a food mill! That would prove to be very expensive tomato passata the first time but it would get less expensive as time goes by….. I’ll have to think about it.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Hi Jeannette, we have been making this for a few years now and finally we caved in and bought the food mill. It really is only worth doing when the tomatoes are relatively cheap or you have some given to you. My local greengrocer often has offers on boxes of tomatoes so that’s when we make it. You could just make a oouple of little jars and see whether you think it’s worth the effort or freeze it like Heidi does. :)

  5. hopeeternal

    This sounds wonderful. I wonder what it would be like as the base for the home made tomato ketchup I made recently from (Fig Jam & Lime Cordial) Celia’s recipe …?
    Also wondering what you will be doing for the rest of the month after the letters run out: U, V, W, X, Y, Z – just 6 letters to go if you try using them all which only takes you to 28th. 3 days well earned rest, I suppose!
    ‘Meanderings through my Cookbook’

    1. Joanna Post author

      Celia and I both have this book, I know she is a big Pam the Jam fan too. I am not sure from memory what the ketchup recipe is, I have made the one in the book from this and it worked beautifully, only it comes out an orange shade rather than a red shade. I will have a look for a photo somewhere. My nephew thought it didn’t look enough like Heinz and had ‘bits’ in it. flecks of herbs, so he opted for the known variety when he stayed last time. I haven’t thought about the end of the alphabet, it was all a bit last minute, so I’m writing the posts as I go along pretty much. Thanks for reading Hope! :)

      1. hopeeternal

        If your nephew is ‘allergic’! to bits why not try the quick version suggested by Celia, using passata. I couldn’t tell much difference between home made and shop bought though I don’t eat much ketchup, but I liked the recipe as did my family. I will be making it again … and again … My recent post, with a link to Celia’s, is here:


        At least you know what is in the bottle!

        ‘Meanderings through my Cookbook’

        1. Joanna Post author

          That’s a lovely write up Hope!

          I knew I had a photo somewhere,  not the tidiest of labels :)

          Here is our version of the Pam Corbin Ketchup – I don’t know if you can see the bits. I might make a non herby version one time, but we don’t eat that much ketchup unless we are having fish and chips or something naughty like that.

  6. Misk Cooks

    Time, huh? Maybe we are related after all. People think I’m batty because I obsess over time. There are more clocks in this house than I can count. I used to collect miniature clocks but nowadays most of them are battery operation so it’s too costly to keep them running. I have a little jade clock, a marble clock, a brass clock, a Wedgwood mini clock, a clock from ginko… and so forth ad nauseam .

    As for your sauce, YUM! I was going to write-up my Red Sauce which is a tomato based passata, so I think it’s a good thing that I didn’t pursue that angle. Might do it anyway later on because it is a good one.

    1. Joanna Post author

      I want to see your clocks pleee-ase. I don’t have clocks – my obsession is with Time, it started with the first episode of Doctor Who and continued relentlessly through my science fiction years. Reading is time travel, blogging is time travel, the concept of interval, Heisenberg, Einstein, (Zeb’s eyes start rolling gently at this point), why time passes so slowly when you are little and faster and faster as you get older. Dreams, deja vue, all the associated flotsam and jetsam, and of course bread making :D

      Definitely write up your Red Sauce, I love all red sauces !

      1. Misk Cooks

        I’ll write up the Red Sauce today … as soon as I manage to take an acceptable photo of these darned little clocks. It’s so gloomy today that the flash keeps going off, and I’m getting an over-exposed photo. I’m going to have one more cup of coffee, and try once more to take a photo … fingers crossed.

  7. C

    Oooh, yum! I love tomato passata and probably eat far too much of it for it to be good for me. I can’t say I’ve ever knowingly had tarragon though. Another thing to put on the rapidly lengthening list of things to try.

    I must dig out my copy of the Pam the Jam book. I remember thinking there were lots of things in there I wanted to have a go at, but didn’t get round to last year.

    1. Joanna Post author

      You don’t have to make it with tarragon, you could do basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary. I just like tarragon and tomatoes. Tarragon isn’t that common in British cook books, I think it comes up more in French cooking. I’ve since looked up that chicken dish, poulet a l’estragon. The Telegraph calls it a ‘classic bistro dish’. Basically chicken, white wine, tarragon, creme fraiche.

  8. teawithhazel

    your tomato passata looks really amazing and it must taste especially good given that you roast the tomatoes before pureeing them..even if it is a bit more expensive to make it at home i think the joy of actually making it and the happy factor of seeing the jars lined up in a cupboard along with the ingredients being personalised makes the whole process more than worth it..

    1. Joanna Post author

      You’re right there’s something very joyous about the gorgeous reds of jars of tomato sauces. One thing my Aunt Barbara does to cheer up tomatoes that aren’t quite sweet enough is to add a little balsamic vinegar and a tiny bit of sugar when she cooks them and they transform into something much nicer :)

  9. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial

    Good morning, dearheart. Your tomato passata looks wonderful! Like Heidi, we freeze ours, but tomatoes have been so disappointing this year that we’ve not even bothered making any, and have gone back to buying tinned, although we did find a very nice range of tinned toms which is keeping my fussy husband happy. :)

    The tomato sauce we make is the one from Pam’s book, but ours did come out quite red – I think it was the roma tomatoes. We’re still making it, only with bottled passata as Hope mentions, and it’s still popular with the boys.. :)

    1. Joanna Post author

      Darling Celia, sorry to hear the tomatoes have not been good, as I know you are particularly fond of making your own roast tomato passata and I keep meaning to try your beautiful looking fresh tomato passata recipe too. We used to make demi cuit type dried tomatoes when we had lots of little ones, but I haven’t grown many in the last few years because of the blight. This year we are trying tumblers in pots and they are (shhh) doing fine!

      I remember you saying that Pete is a man who knows his tomatoes so if you have found some good tinned ones to tide you over till the new harvest that is probably the best thing. We found some fabulous Italian tinned cherry tomatoes that are great in minestrones and so on because they hold their shape, and explode in sweet hot tomato loveliness when you bite them.  Have you come across those at all?  Are roma tomatoes what we call plum tomatoes here? I always imagined they were, but there are so many different varieties out there.

  10. ceciliag

    I have everything I need right here to make this.. I am going to do it tomorrow, we are harvesting piles of gorgeous heirloom tomatoes, and i am ashamed to say i have never made a passata before.. so glad I found you.. c

    1. Joanna Post author

      thanks so much for visiting and commenting! How wonderful to have a harvest of tomatoes! The best ones for this are probably ones with lots of sweet pulp and thin skins, if they are very juicy make sure you drain the liquid off after roasting, otherwise the pasatta will separate and won’t keep well. The liquid can be used in soups and stocks. I used some in a bread dough and it came out quite well, though you do have to adjust the salt. Consider freezing it if you have space, then you don’t have all the work of pasteurising the filled jars

      PS I’ve just visited your blog and admired your fabulous tomato harvest, I am tomato red with envy ;)

  11. cityhippyfarmgirl

    Joanna that looks wonderful. I can just imagine the beautfiful smell of the roasted tomatoes. I’ve never preserved anything with tomatoes in it…besides old faithful chutney that is.
    Oh to have a walk in pantry with oodles of bench space for all those preserves!

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thanks Brydie, they do smell great, but not as wonderful as baking bread. Our pantry is the top half of the garage. Brian has put up some Ikea shelving to hold all my baking stuff and general excess. there’s always a wish for more storage space though ;)

  12. bagnidilucca

    I have been working every day for the past 2 weeks from early in the morning until very late at night behind the scenes at our fashion festival. I am very keen to get back to my normal lazy life and do things like this. It looks fabulous!!!

  13. emilysincerely

    Yum! I have wanted to make homemade ketchup for a while now….on that never ending list. Your Passata looks wonderful. I will have to revisit this and growing tomatoes when Morther Nature decides to share some rain with us. Either that or I need to stay here at my parents and make it here and somehow get it back home with me…

    1. Joanna Post author

      This is an excellent recipe, whether you make the whole thing from scratch or use bought tomato passata. Maybe add citric acid to the passata before processing to up its acid levels, I worry slightly having read this stuff now about botulism. It’s not mentioned in Pam Corbin’s book.

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