303 - Summer in a jar
By Lauren Gosnell
One of the great Fall traditions among some Italian families is the making of passata – skinned, crushed tomatoes that are jarred and stored to make the base of tomato sauces throughout the rest of the year.
At Gio Rana’s Really Really Nice Restaurant, Gio shuts his restaurant down one day each September to bring his family and friends together to prepare the year’s supply of passata, some of which is used at the restaurant too.
September is when tomatoes are at their most flavourful. Bushels of beautiful, ripe plum tomatoes are required to make just a few jars of the simple uncooked tomato purée.
The tomatoes are halved and any bruised bits are discarded. Then they are boiled to loosen their skins before they are added to a milling machine, which will crush the tomatoes to pulp while removing both skins and seeds. The pulp is poured out into sterilized preserving jars.
Every family varies in their passata recipe. Some prefer to add seasonings to the purée now while others leave it unadulterated, preferring to flavour their sauces when they cook them later.
Gio likes to add a sprig of fresh basil to his passata before sealing the jar for the merest herbal note.
At Gio’s restaurant, you can taste the difference a homemade passata makes to a good tomato sauce when it is poured over simple dishes like polenta and giant meatballs.
The smooth creamy porridge-like meal of ground corn is splendid comfort food for the approaching cold weather. But it is the gentle tomato sauce that brings back the tastes of the last days of summer.
Gio Rana's Really Really Nice Restaurant
1220 Queen St. E.