Tomato Passata, Sauce and Paste. Do you really know the difference?

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We can find tomatoes in our diet under various forms, such as tomato purée, tomato pulp, tomato passata, sauce and paste. But are you sure to know the difference between tomato passata, sauce and paste?

What’s inside these products beside tomatoes? And more important, what Italian law says about it?

Here the difference between the five most popular tomato products: peeled tomatoes, tomato pulp, tomato passata, sauce and paste. Product description, label and suggestions.

tomato passata, sauce and paste

Difference between tomato pulp, tomato purée, tomato passata, sauce and paste.

What is Tomato Passata?

Tomato Passata is the translation of Italian passata di pomodoro. Passata is an Italian word that comes from the Italian verb passare, in English go through. This is because the tomato passata is obtained through a mechanical process whereby tomatoes go through the blades and the holes of the machine used to make passata. Sometimes tomato passata is called tomato purée and viceversa.

Tomato passata is the product obtained directly from fresh, riped tomatoes. The red fruits are peeled and seeds are taken off by hand or by a tomato strainer machine or by a simple food mill. Tomatoes are chopped, crashed, smashed until you get a red and juicy sauce. Tomato passata can be rustic or silky, it depends from his consistency.

tomato passata recipe


For Italian law, the addition of water in tomato passata is not allowed. That’s in order to avoid the presence on the market of products that don’t come from fresh tomato, but from tomato paste. It may be added salt, acidity regulator (usually citric acid), spices and other aromatic plants. Among the tomato products, tomato passata is the only one with the obligation to report the origin of the tomato on the label.

Usually you can find tomato passata on the market in glass bottles 0r jars. Check the label: if you find other ingredients such as onion, oil and celery, then, by italian law, they can not be named “tomato passata”. They are in fact tomato sauces.

You can use tomato passata to make pizza, or just add it in many pasta sauces, such as sugo all’amatriciana, penne alla vodka, lasagna, spaghetti with tomato sauce or fresh egg noodles with bolognese sauce (Ragù alla Bolognese). There are many Italian recipes that require the use of the tomato passata recipe.

Do you want to make tomato passata by yourself? READ the authentic Italian Tomato Passata Recipe

Tomato sauce (or Pasta Sauce)

basic tomato sauce recipeThe list of ingredients you can find in a tomato sauce is more or less long, depending on the type of sauce. Tomato sauce can contain tomato passata or pulp and paste, in addition to oil and salt. Known as pasta sauce, sometimes you can find celery and onion as well. In fact it’s enough to put the sauce into a saucepan, reheat and season your pasta. Among these, there are tomato sauces with meat or vegetables.

Do you want to know how to make a basic tomato sauce? READ Basic Tomato Sauce Recipe with Fresh Tomatoes

Tomato paste

tomato pasteTomato paste is a product based on tomato extract. Tomatoes, through industrial processing plants and after careful cleaning to be deprived of excess water, are crushed and preheated to high temperatures ranging from 85 ° to 100 ° C (185F to 212F).

Inside the evaporator, tomatoes go through different stages: its concentration level is gradually increased to reach the required density. The result is tomato paste or double tomato paste.

In the first case, by Italian law, the degree of concentration must be in a range that varies between 18% and 28%, while for the double one the consistency must reach a level between 28% and 30%. So that you have an idea: 5-6 kg of tomatoes are necessary for 1 kg of tomato paste.

Tomato paste is the perfect ingredient to add extra color and flavor to recipes that require long cooking times such as meat sauce, soups and stews.

Peeled Tomatoes

peeled tomatoesPeeled tomatoesare made with fresh, healthy, riped tomatoes. They are whole tomatoes; once blanched then it’s necessary to peel them.

Easy to make by yourself, you can find them on the market in glass jars or aluminum cans. In most cases Italian law allowes the addition of a little of tomato juice, water and an acidity regulator (citric acid) and it gives the possibility to add salt.

Alongside traditional peeled tomatoes, made with long tomatoes, plum type (San Marzano), there is a variant made with cherry tomatoes. They are not peeled, as explained on the label. On the packaging it is not necessary to write the origin of the tomatoes.

Tomato Pulp (or Chopped Tomato)

tomato pulpThe preparation of tomato pulp is the same as peeled tomatoes, but unlike them, tomatoes are chopped and the seeds are taken off. Also in this case, it’s not necessary to write the origin of the tomatoes on the label.

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