What is passata? Passata is basically just uncooked, crushed and sieved tomatoes. What makes it so special? Usually, high quality ripe tomatoes are used for passata, resulting in a well flavoured tomato base that is generally superior to standard canned tomatoes. Passata is an excellent base for sauces and perfect as a pizza sauce.
Passata is available in Italian delis. In Europe, passata is widely available in supermarkets. You'll find it near the pasta sauces and canned tomatoes. Usually it is sold in a tall jar or a carton.
For some reason, although it is found all over Italy and Europe in general, passata doesn't seem to be sold widely in the United States. That's a pity because it's a great store-cupboard ingredient to have on hand.
If you are having trouble getting your hands on passata, you can purchase it online. Amazon stocks good quality Cento Tomato Passata made from Italian San Marzano tomatoes.
If you do not have the real thing, you can make a reasonable substitute at home. Use the best quality tomatoes you can find, drain them and sieve or purée in a food processor. Don’t use tomato paste (a product which is known as tomato purée in the UK and Ireland ).
I think the confusion mainly arises from the fact that there are so many processed tomato-based products with similar names on each side of the Atlantic. For example...
In the U.S. this refers to a basic processed tomato sauce. In Europe, tomato purée is a concentrated paste which is known as tomato paste in the States.
As we said, tomato paste is a thick concentrated paste, usually used in small quantities in sauces. It is known as tomato purée in Europe.
To add to the confusion, lately I’ve come across recipes for something described as cooked tomato passata. These may replicate the flavour of passata but really you do not need to cook tomatoes for passata.