Passata Day in Sydney

  • 0
  • February 10, 2016

Sometime in the year 2000 I was sitting in a cinema with husband #1 (not Mr Travelling Pantaloni) watching ‘Looking for Alibrandi’ and two things struck me:

Looking for Alibrandi

1) I’ll never feel that rush of new love again, and

2) I really must get myself invited to a tomato passata making day

Fast forward to 2016 and although I had felt the rush of new love with Mr Travelling Pantaloni, I STILL hadn’t been invited to a passata making day, despite being married to an Italian.

Mr TP’s family stopped doing them years ago but my sister-in-law’s family does the occasional one. I’ve been bugging her for years about it and finally this year, after a hiatus of six years, they decided to put the ‘factory’ back into operation, and just like that I was in! My instructions: turn up at 6am and wear old clothes.

Growing up in an Anglo-Aussie household we had no such traditions. None.  So I was practically wetting my pantaloni at the excitement of it all, but confusingly almost everyone else (i.e. all the Italians) were dragged there kicking and screaming ….

And so we met at Nonna’s house early on a rainy Saturday morning a few weeks ago for ‘operation tomato passata’.

30 cases of tomatoes had been purchased, the equipment had been dragged out of the garage, the tomato cutting station had been set up, and we were ready to go!

30 boxes of tomatoes

With a bit of instruction from the old hands I took my seat and started to cut and squeeze the tomatoes. So many tomatoes!

tomato day

Everyone gets roped in, and everyone had a job, even the kids.

inserting the basil, tomato day

stirring the passata

inserting the basil passata day

It was loads of fun, and even though I’m not part of their family (although I think they have kind of adopted me) it was easy to feel the sense of family, and feel the connection they have with each other.

What I really loved about it was being part of something  – particularly being part of something that had been going on (probably in much the same way) for generations.

Most there have Sicilian roots, but there were a couple of Calabrese thrown in and it seems every family has their own recipe and their own way of doing things, although while there they were happy to do it Nonna’s way.

This tomato cutting business is harder than it looks. Not difficult in a technical sense just hard on your hands. I think it’s all the squeezing that did it.

Once the first fifteen boxes of tomatoes were cut, we tomato-cutters had a break while those on the ‘squishing machine’ (I didn’t find out what it’s called) caught up. I then had a go at everything else that was going on …


tomato passata

Looks more like a scene from a horror film!

Filling the bottles

filling the passata bottles


capping the passata bottles


passata bottles

There’s a lot of bottles in this drum!

passata cooking drum

passata day

With the experts!

Thanks for inviting me along – see you next year!

Does your family have an annual passata making day? Do you enjoy it?

Until next time, safe travels,

The Travelling Pantaloni

Passport stamp for Travelling Pantaloni





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  • Paula says:

    What a fantastic story! I guess the tradition comes from growing so much excess in the garden. All I could think of was 30 cases!! That’s a lot of tomatoes. I am envious of all the wonderful dishes you will be making from that sauce.

  • Cristina says:

    Great photos! The ‘tomato squeezer’ is called a spremipomodoro. My family makes passata too-even the nipotini. In Canada we do it in early September right after coming back from Italia. It’s a family tradition! Ciao, Cristina

  • Carmen Pricone says:

    Loved your recount of your experience. Glad you got to be a part of it. You will certainly now have the tomato making bug…I am looking forward to our tomato / passata day. X

    • Robyn Hayes says:

      Hi Carmen! Yes I think I do have the bug now! We are thinking of doing one at home on a much smaller scale using my mother-in-law’s method. She apparently boils the sauce before she bottles it. I’d love to see photos of your day!


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