Aug 13, 2009

Pommarola homemade tomato sauce recipe

Pommarola – fresh tomato and vegetable preserves – is an Italian summertime activity more than a genuine seasonal recipe. After the tomato harvest, families get busy peeling and canning tomatoes into preserves-form for the winter. This recipe expands well, and most households make gallons of it when the flood of tomatoes reaches its peak in August.

pommarola homemade tomato sauce

Mason jars filled with the final product are a delicious pantry staple. With an incredibly long shelf life.

Fresh, ripe ingredients are key, and fortunately organic heirloom, Roma, or plum tomatoes can be found in virtually every farmer's market. It is best to choose red and firm fruits for this preparation, in any variety that don't release as much water as vine-ripened or slicing tomatoes, which could extend cooking time.

Early this morning we took in 4 overflowing crates of tomatoes from the orto, the vegetable garden, which yielded 5 kg (11 lbs) of finished product. Yesterday we made double that.
Below I have listed quantities and ingredients that yield about 5 jars of pommarola:

4 lbs Roma (plum) tomatoes, cored and cut into pieces
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 rib of celery - leaves and all - cut into pieces
1 large onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 bunches of fresh basil
3 tbsp Kosher sor sea alt
150 ml (3/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil
4-6 clean 10-oz capacity mason jars and capsule screw caps*

Choose a wide, heavy-bottomed pot, with a tight fitting lid, and arm yourself with a sturdy wooden spoon: your best friend for the hours to come.

Wash all the vegetables and without drying them, place them - with the salt, basil and olive oil - in the pot (remember, it has to be big enough to hold everything). Place the pot on the fire and let the ingredients cook over a lively flame, covered. Once the tomatoes begin to fall apart and exude liquid, uncover and simmer, stirring occasionally, with patience.

pommarola homemade tomato sauce
We are preparing massive amounts of Pommarola these days, which make our cooking times average around 3-4 hours, but for the quantities listed above, you should be looking at no more than 1 1/2 hours.

When all the vegetables are soft, and the derived rich and soupy tomato sauce has taken on a deep color, sexy texture and delightful aroma, it will be time to take the pot off the stove.

The next step is the hardest work, so try to recruit helpers.

Crank the sauce through a food mill and occasionally discard the pulpy stuff. This is key, because otherwise during storage, the skins and seeds of the tomato – and all other vegetable discards – turn your pommarola bitter and oddly textured.

If the resulting sauce should appear too watery, cook it uncovered for an additional 20 minutes, to thicken. Test it: if a silky spoonful on a flat plate no longer gives off a large watery halo around the dollop, it's done.

Transfer the sauce at once into clean mason jars, scooping it with a ladle. Fill each leaving a 1/4" gap, and screw the lid on. Now place all the jars huddled together, and cover them with a warm wool or fleece blanket in a dimly lit room, away from drafts, overnight.

This rather mysterious-sounding procedure is the technique that guarantees pasteurization. Thanks to the heat, jars are hermetically sealed, and through natural vacuum, air is expelled. The result will be that the capsule in the lids of the jars will no longer "pop" when pressed down. If the capsule still pops, repeat pasteurization process with a new lid. Once the jars are vacuum sealed, they can be stored in your pantry for 10 to 13 months!

As active participant and valid helper, I get to take home part of the stash. This incredible bounty will last me a year, and I will use my pommarola with profuse abandon: to dress pasta, as a base for vegetable and meat stews, to make pizza, as a dip, or instead of ketchup on my burgers.

Also, since this sugo is already cooked, all I have to do on the day is pour some out in a serving bowl (any left over in the jar needs to be refrigerated), add my cooked and drained pasta al dente, a curl of butter and a generous hand of grated Parmigiano. VoilĂ , "pasta al sugo" - ready and steaming on the plate.

And every time I will open one of the little red jars in the middle of winter, I will close my eyes and smell the delightful aroma of these precious summer days.

*Safe and hygienic preserving is obtained by using new jars and special lids with soft rubber gaskets that ensure a "venting" effect during pasteurization, and that provide an effective, long-lasting vacuum seal. Furthermore, the paint must be suitable for contact with the foods on the inside. The jars and lids we use are The Quattro Stagioni line by the Italian manufacturer Bormioli. To learn more about the technical features visit the Bormioli website.


  1. Looks like a lot of work... that is well worth it when the winter months roll around!

  2. I am impressed. That sounds way hard!

  3. Fantastic recipe and i would like to try it sometime...I always enjoy your post..Thanks for sharing,..Unseen Rajasthan

  4. are those jars shippable...could you send me a few :-)

  5. and come winter, those little wisp of the scent of summer will be all worth it.

  6. Many friends still do this around where I live! p.s. penso spesso ultimamente al tuo post sul bidet...mi manca tanto durante il viaggio in America. LOL!

  7. Blogged hopped and found you! So glad I did. I haven't had a chance to scroll through your previous post. I am very curious to know, how you got to long you have been there...etc...I LOVE ITALY!!!! I lived in Mercogliano for 2 years. I so want to go back!!!

  8. Wonderful pics, nice cultural background, and great recipe. Now I know why my Italian-American bride cannot drive past a farmer's tomato stand or resist buying yet MORE Mason jars at a garage sale... But I do love the result!

  9. There is something so satisfying about canning your own foods. They sit in the pantry like jewels. They remind us of the seasons past. Of the way Mama would have made it.

  10. What a wonderful concoction, easy to achieve too. I shall hunt for cartons of these tomatoes as I cannot grow tomatoes here.

  11. Damn, that looks good! Time for dinner.

  12. I'm coming over, I'm starving!
    and . . . my little Italian Belle . . what's for afters? ~ Eddie

  13. ummmm, soon, but for me it's salsa. I did about 60 large jars last year and it proved not enough. I might want to start sooner than later. This looks delicious too.

  14. Okay, not even my favorite blogging chef can make tomatoes look good to me. Stewed and/or treated tomatoes just look like umm...something, well, not appetizing to me. I have to pass on this one. :)

  15. Hi Lola

    this is a lovely post thank you. It takes me back to all the years my parents made tomato sauce, sugo and green tomato chutney on balmy summer nights. We did the bottling and jarring outdoors...

    Happy Days

  16. Lola, we finally broke down this year and for all of about E30 got the kind of puree-er that is horizontal and conical-shaped - I don't know the right word for it - much easier to crank, faster, and works just as well - the sauce goes down a sort of chute and the skins/seeds get pushed out on the side. Makes sauce-making much easier...

  17. I'm coming straight over - looks so scrumptious! (I'll bring zabaglione with me for dessert!)

    Hope you're having a wonderful week!

    xxLOL LOLA:)
    PS Have you managed to check out yet the scent named after us BOTH?!!

  18. I want to make this!
    Is it like a sauce that goes over noodles? Or do you eat is straight out of the jar? : )

  19. Now that is something you can truly enjoy.

    Love Renee xoxo

  20. The trouble with me Lola is that I read your lovely posts with all these culinary ideas; I mean to do them, I really do and then the weekend dawns and I think about doing them - and then get a bit too lazy.

    I did do your Italian version of bread pudding ages ago and thoroughly enjoyed it though


  21. I also would like some jars, pleaaaaaase!!!

  22. Lola, You explain how to cook the beautiful tomato so well!! That's a great blend, and looks superb ! The sweetness of the vegetables, yumm, now I am getting hungry and it's to early!! Lola, you do a wonderful job!! :) Chuck xx

  23. ooh, ooh, ooh. I'm so making this over the next week. I have TONS of roma tomatoes and basil this year. I'll post a photo on my blog when I'm done.
    xo jelly

  24. I am glad my memory pointed me in this direction again so many years later. I asked my husband to bring home a box of beefsteak tomatoes for fresh eating from a farm stand last weekend.
    They didn't have any beefsteaks so he bought a LARGE box of regular field tomatoes. Not even Romas though. I think pommorola sauce is in order. I will have to get rid of a lot of liquid before I even start to cook them.
    I remembered this post and had to come by to see how you made yours. I will be busy this weekend making sauce and I hope it tastes as good as yours. I will think of you every time I open a jar in the coming year.

    1. Great! this is the typical end-of-summer activity here! And I'm so happy this post could be of assistance in your ritual on the other side of the ocean!
      Have fun, and enjoy the taste of summer each tipe you pop the lid of your pommarola!!

  25. This is by far the best recipe I have ever found. My sister and I get together and bicker over recipes but always find a way to agree. Thanks so much for this!

    1. Thank you for visiting and leaving your kind comment!