Friday, February 19, 2010

Tomatoes aka Pomodora

Tomatoes are in season now in Alice Springs, which really means they are a good price in the shops and they're in season in the southern states of Australia. It must be late summer or autumn. (Local tomatoes are a rarity.)
I'm happy that tomatoes are good, but sad that there are never ample quantities of tomatoes in Alice Springs to warrant a big Tomato Gathering.

I do love a Good Tomato Gathering and a good tomato.
I don't think I had ever really tasted a good tomato until I wen
t to Italy many years ago and ate fresh sliced tomatoes on a plate with olive oil and oregano. The tomatoes were sweet and red all the way through. Not the pale orange tasteless fruit I was accustomed to.
My favourite is a roma tomato, it looks good and tastes good and can be used fresh and in c
ooking. My second favourite is the ox-heart type. They don't look great. They're weird shaped and have imperfections. But they taste fantastic.
Tomatoes must be ripe to in order to really appreciate their flavour, both fresh and in cooking. I refuse to put tomato in a salad unless it is sweet and ripe. And not a fan of sun-dried tomato, unless they're home made, by me.
On the off-chance you come across enough tomatoes for a Tomato Gathering, a tomato puree making session is a lot of fun, and will ensure great tasting pasta dishes for the next twelve months.
Here is my favourite recipe for tomato puree, taught to me by the Italian parents of a friend in Melbourne. But before you begin there is a lot of must haves, that extend beyond the notion of implements.


  • One very large pot
  • One very large wooden spoon for the very large pot
  • A large gas burner or plenty of wood and something to put the pot on
  • Large quantity of clean glass bottles with clean screw top lids.
  • Vegetable knives
  • Tomato puree machine (preferable electric)
  • An old bath tub (not essential)
  • Lots of large clean bowls or food grade buckets
  • Lots of clean pieces of cloth (old table clothes)
  • Lots of helpers
If you don't have an electric puree machine, then perhaps make smaller quanities. It is very tiresome using a hand cranked puree machine. A moulee will drive you crazy, so don't attempt it, and opt for preserved whole tomatoes instead.
One last tip - this is an outdoor activity. Don't attempt to do it in a kitchen unless it is an outdoor kitchen.


  • Boxes of ripe roma tomatoes
  • Salt
  • Fresh basil


  1. Wash and sort through the tomatoes. Throwing away any that look rotten or not worth cooking. You many need to spread the tomatoes on a table.
  2. Cut each tomato in halves or quarters and put them in a pot. This is a good chance to cut out any bad bits.
  3. When the pot is full, put it on a fire or gas burner. Heat through until the pot begins to boil and the skins begin to pull away from the tomato flesh. Stir the pot regularly with the large wooden spoon to prevent sticking.
  4. Pour the tomatoes back into the box they came from, which has now been washed and lined with two layers of cloth. Drain off excess liquid.
  5. Now you are ready to start pureeing. Feed the partially cooked tomatoes into the puree machine. You may need to catch the puree in a clean bucket or bowl underneath the long spout. Another bucket will be needed for the skins and seeds which will be great for compost.
  6. Once the full batch is done, add some salt to the puree and stir it through. (Don't bottle the puree until you have put through all the tomatoes from the pot, as the puree will get thicker the further you get to the bottom.)
  7. Pour the mixture into the clean bottles and put three leaves of basil in the top of each. Screw on the lids tight.
  8. Place all the bottles long side down in the bottom of a bath tub which has been place over a fire (or the pot for the puree). Between each layer of glass bottles, but a layer of cloth to stop the bottles moving against each other. Pour water over the pot/into the bath tub with a hose.
  9. Heat the tub/pot and let the bottles boil for about three hours.
  10. Let the bottles come to room temperature before storing.

Make sure you have a large quantity of your favourite pasta ready to go at the end of the day. The fresh puree is great as a simple pasta sauce, particularly when fresh.

1. Salt the tomatoes and let them drain overnight. Feed them through the puree machine as per the above recipe.
2. Puree the tomatoes raw (uncooked). This works, but you need to feed the tomatoes through at least three times to get all the pulp.