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a spoonful of sun and tomato

  • Writer's picturestevendesair

A passata day in the life of nonna Monteleone

Updated: Aug 21, 2023

Text by Katrien Elen, photo's by Eva Donckers - original article

On Passata day Nonna leads the project. She usually starts early. When the family arrives, the first batch is already simmering on the fire. She doesn't have the patience to wait. Then nonna distributes the tasks according to her highly personal script. She is very precise about this. For example, she knows perfectly who gets to turn the passing strainer or who best scoops the passata into jars. For example, her daughter is never allowed to turn the jars closed, because, according to her, she is not strong enough. And if the jars are not properly sealed, you can lose kilos of tomatoes, nona’s big fear.

With the whole ceremony, they spend a few days. While everyone rolls up their sleeves, there is busy chatting, and at the end of the day nonna provides something to eat, often a pasta with last year's passata. Nonna's passata is very pure. Except for a very small amount of salt and a basil leaf from the garden, she doesn't add any ingredients. The secret to preparing with passata is not in the spices. Above all, you have to let the sauce simmer long enough, until only flavor remains.

Throughout the year the family cooks with the passata they make in August. It is forbidden to touch the new passata before the old batch runs out. So they don't have a cellar with passata from 2016, 2017 ... Often in August only a few jars remain and it is urgent to make new ones. As with grapes, you have good and bad years, depending on weather conditions. Nonna also makes passata with her own tomatoes. She likes those better. After all, they are "her" tomatoes.'

Getting started yourself? Wait for the tomato season and try one of these recipes

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