Sauce for the Year

Despite always making passata when required, back in 2013 I wrote a post about not being bothered with making my own tomato sauce in bulk. Since then I have seen the error of my ways and have been making a years supply each season. Back in April I blogged about getting prepared in the post entitled Passata Preparation.


So last weekend with 75 kilograms of ripe red tomatoes on my kitchen table the task of turning them into passata began. The process is as simple as anything can be, as all you need is tomatoes, heat and a pan. Unlike when I make sauce for eating straight away there’s no oil added to the pan for my stored passata, meaning I can use it for many different sauces throughout the year. So after washing I cut the tomatoes into quarters and add them to a saucepan and turn on the heat.


They’ll steam for a few seconds and then release their liquid. Don’t worry if there’s a slight odour of them catching, just give them a stir and they’ll soon start to break down.


As I don’t have a traditional passata maker: One of those huge round pans sat above a wood burner, or a modern external gas ring as many people use today I make mine in the kitchen. I use my three largest pans and on a 30 degree Italian summer day it’s like being inside a furnace as they bubble away. Remember to give them an occasional stir as they break down.


If you only half-fill the saucepan the cooking process takes 25-30 minutes and you’re left with soft tomatoes in their own juice. I then pour them into a bowl and begin the procedure again. I rinse the saucepans between each batch but there’s no need to wash them thoroughly. I continue until I have around six large bowls full of cooked fruits, (this makes around 10 litres). Once they’ve cooled sufficiently it’s time to put them through the passapomodoro machine an it’s at this point that your kitchen can start to resemble a scene from a Shakespearean tragedy.


As you ladle the cooked tomatoes into the machine and turn the handle they give a satisfying squelch as the sauce is pushed out and the skins, seeds and dry pulp is dropped out of the rear. Now my tip is to pass the discarded pulp through once more and you’ll be surprised how much more liquid will be squeezed from it. It’s always best throughout this process to cover the work surfaces as after an hour or so it can look like Titus Andronicus has run amok in your kitchen.


I then bottle the passata and store it in the fridge and freeze it in blocks as explained in my April post mentioned above with the hyperlink. This year I made 51 litres of the sauce with the process taking two days of cooking and 5 days of freezing in batches of two person servings. So there’s now 153 blocks in the freezer, plenty for the forthcoming year to make pasta sauces, curries and soups with.


It may seem a lot of work but the time it saves throughout a year is considerable and when you calculate that it costs as little as €0.15 a litre it’s well worth it. But for me the bonus is knowing that it’s all fresh with no additives and even on the coldest of winter days it’ll still be bursting with the flavours of an Italian summer.

Macbeth and the Black River

Today as I stepped outside the front door there was the aroma of tar in the air. There’s something about the smell of tarmac that I like, it always conjures up black images. I’ve always imagined that when Macbeth visited the witches to know more; only to be shown Banquo’s  lineage, that the cave smelled like men resurfacing a road. Horrible sight! Now I see ’tis true; for the blood-boltered Banquo smiles upon me, and points at them for his. The kettle clicks and as I pour water over an English tea-bag another raft of treacly-tarry-scent rushes past. I go to the top of the lane where I can hear voices, the shouts of men mingle with the hum of machinery, I spot a yellow, ‘Men at Work’ sign on the strada, and beyond that lies the source of that heavenly smell.

We purchased our house several years ago and in all that time, the road leading to our little borgo, (ancient village) has been a pot-holed mix of rocks and rubble. Readers will recall weeks ago most of the rubble that made up the road was washed away down the hill. Driving up the road had been something of an art form. You get to know which holes the car can cope with and which ones to navigate around; some are so close together you felt sometimes that you were on Top Gear testing out a new all-terrain vehicle.

I wander down to take a closer look, and am met by a man who tells me that the road is closed today. I tell him we had no notice of this from the comune and he smiles and says the same. Apparently they were supposed to be working on the road down in Perano, but because the weather forecast talks of thunderstorms the council are worried the road will be washed away again, so it must be surfaced today.


The men started work nearer the top of the road and as the day moves on they work their way down to the main road, taking with them the delicious aroma, which is a god-send, beacause as the day progresses, the heat of the afternoon makes the odour cloying. By five o’clock they are gone and by eight o’clock I see the signs have been removed. I am like a child on Christmas morning, and have to be the first to drive upon the new smooth black river that was once a troublesome track. With the determination and madness of Macbeth towards the end, I grab my car-keys and gun the engine. Here let them lie, till famine and the ague eat them up. Were they not forced with those that should be ours. We might have met them dareful, beard to beard and beat them backward home.

I pull out of the drive and onto the strada, I’m ready for anyone who challenges me to not be the first to use the road. Why should I play the Roman fool and die on mine own sword? Whiles I see lives, the gashes do better upon them. I hear a whining sound. Can it be true,? Is someone already the first to use the blackness that stretches out before me. Like Macduff appearing and calling, Turn hell hound, turn, around the corner appears a boy on a scooter.  And like Macbeth; literatures greatest anti-hero, I am defeated.



It isn’t surprising that even today Shakespeare is still relevant. Phrases and words created by the Bard abound in everyday conversation. Today whilst watching BBC news, within the space of ten minutes, two phrases were used, despite being misquoted these new phrases still owe their usage to the greatest playwright of all time. The first was “All that glitters is not gold.” From the Merchant of Venice, written in 1596, the original text read:

There is a written scroll! I’ll read the writing.

All that glisters is not gold

Often have you heard that told.

It is now universally accepted that ‘glitters’ is appropriate usage of the phrase, and some modern productions of the play now use modern counterpart, only the most pedantic of us would demand the use of the word ‘glisters’.


The second phrase was, “The be all and end all.” Again misquoted, the actual phrase, “ from Macbeth comes from his soliloquy in act one, scene 7.

If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well

It were done quickly. If the assassination

Could trammel up the consequence, and catch

With his surcease success; that but this blow

Might be the be-all and the end-all here,

But here, upon this bank and shoal of time,

We’d jump the life to come.

I was lucky enough to play Macbeth in a touring production of New Zealand back in 2007, and although this wasn’t my  favourite soliloquy it was always a lovely crafted piece of dialogue to recite, unlike the horrid ‘Is this a dagger’ speech. Macbeth, the play lends itself to many phrases being misquoted, possibly the most famous being ‘lead on Macduff’ and ‘the crack of dawn’, when the actual phrases are, lay on Macduff  and the crack of doom.

Another phrase in common usage is, ‘there’s method in my madness’, again it’s a misquote, this time attributed to Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, Written in 1602, in act two, scene two, Lord Polonius says:

Though this be madness, yet there is method in ‘t. Will you walk out of the air, my lord?

The fact that these phrases, and many more are still part of everyday parlance is testament to the genius that was William Shakespeare, I wonder how many modern writers will coin phrases that become everyday speech hundreds of years after they have ceased to be?