Nonno Franco's Passata

Because a good pasta sauce will make you look like a star in the kitchen.


Italian cooking is all about simple fresh ingredients with a whole lot of heart, and one of the essentials in any Italian pantry is a good pasta sauce. So we are bringing you the best sauce from the best source, Nonno Franco!

Nonno Franco, is my beautiful friend Nastassia's grandfather. He is a loud and proud Italian man who makes his own limoncello, and comes from a small Roman town called Cave, which is famous for its chestnuts. Nonno Franco tells me he learnt how to make this sauce by listening to his fellow Italian comrades at the pub.

Back in the day he would get up at 2am and make the now famous sugo (sauce), my friend Nastassia recalls waking to the sweet sweet smell of nonno's passata. He now has it down to a fine 2.5 hour art, but he assures me in his thick and deep Italian voice that initially, "I had a lot of disasters." So the recipe I am about to share has been perfected over the last 15 years and if my taste buds have anything to say about it, it is pretty damn perfect! But the real lesson here is if you do have a disaster day in the kitchen, with practise comes perfection. So keep at it lovelies!

Nonno Franco is everything I love about Italy. His fabulous garden, or as he humbly puts it "nothing to show," was magic. There were fresh heirloom tomatoes fruiting, a jungle of herbs, and the parameter of the garden was lined with a grape vine, for the vino of course!

When produce is fresh, it tastes good basta (very good)! So if you attempt to make this pasta sauce (and I hope you do!) I'd suggest going to the markets for the freshest and the finest. If you're lucky enough to have a nonno style garden at your disposal, then of course use that.

Oh and let me finish off by saying that this sauce goes beyond pasta. Spread it onto pizza bases, add a few spoonfuls for some Italian flavours & colour or make a hearty bolognese with some mince meat.

Without further ado I present to you the perfect Nonno Franco Pasta Sauce.

Nonno Franco's essential pasta sauce


Prep time: 1 hour 15 mins Cook time: 1 hour 15 mins Serves: 15 (700g)



  • 40 large -70 small tomatoes ( makes 15-17 / 700g pasata bottles)
  • 1//2 a kilo of basil
  • 2 Tablespoons of ground chilli
  • 1/2 - 3/4 of onion per bottle (700g) - 10 onions for the above


  1. Place tomatoes in the sink and pour boiling water over them until they are covered - about 4 kettles in Nonno measurements.
  2. Cut your onions and basil into squares while your tomatoes soak in the water so the skins loosen.
  3. Place onions, basil & chilli into large pot which you will be cooking your sauce in.
  4. Place this on the stove and let it sautee for the caramelising of the onion and infusion of basil and chilli.
  5. Once tomatoes have soaked for about 5-10 mins, start peeling the skins off the tomatoes, but be sure to squeeze the juice of the tomatoes into your pot so that the sauce isn't too thick. ( note: skins don't go in add these to your compost)
  6. Chop tomatoes rustically, and start adding to the pot with the onions. Only add about 15 tomatoes to begin with so that they breakdown ( they won't all fit otherwise) keep adding tomatoes as they start breaking down.
  7. At this point also add a generous amount of salt "salata come il mare" (salty like the sea)
  8. Let your sauce bubble for 30-45 minutes and then with a hand blender, blend until smooth and be sure to check for any tomato pieces with a spoon.
  9. Start filling your jars with a funnel. Important to note is that you should do this when the sauce is still hot, the reason for this is when you put your lids on they will seal themselves with the heat.
  10. Popping and Locking!
  11. And there you have it your essential pasta sauce.
  12. When it comes to prep time, place some garlic and olive oil in the pan and heat for 20 minutes. Perfetto! Mangia Mangia!

Mangia mangia!

Don't forget to share Nonno Franco's recipe by clicking on one of the links below.

Da Tavola x