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food mill - tomatoes - help

Ordinarily, for tomato sauce for pastas, I would just puree the canned tomatoes in a blender, which works okay for getting a sauce-like texture. However, I just bought a food mill (Oxo), and milled the tomatoes. Tomatoes came out as juice, which was not what I was expecting. Is this normal, or, did I somehow do something wrong? I used the middle disc (not the finest, not the coarsest).

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  1. I think that I use the coarsest disc, and I usually use the food mill after cooking the sauce. It usually still has texture to it.

    1. Yes it's normal. You just need to cook that juice down to the desired consistency.

      1. What kind of tomatoes are you processing? If you're looking for a sauce that starts out fairly thick before it's cooked, you need a low-moisture sauce tomato, such as the Roma. Salad tomatoes have too high a water content.

        I have an Italian-made mill that is designed just for tomato processing; it kicks the skins and seeds out the side and puts just juice and pulp into the bowl. Relatively cheap, made of plastic, easy to clean.

        7 Replies
        1. re: Will Owen

          Tomatoes are Muir Glen plum variety, supposedly low-moisture. What brand is your mill?

          1. re: Will Owen

            Where do you buy such a thing? I have been wanting one for years.

            1. re: sarah galvin

              I don't remember where I got it - it was some sort of commercial sale, not a yard sale, because it had never been used. "Super Passapomidoro Velox Universal" is what it's called on the box; "Per Alimenti" is embossed in small script on the machine, but that just means "for food"...like, duh. Copious instructions/descriptions in four or five languages, detailed line drawings, stuff like that. It's nicely made, body of polypropylene, nylon drum rotates with sprung steel blades to do the scraping, and a stainless-steel screen through which the pulp and juice are forced. It was insanely cheap, and I don't imagine the full retail price would have been more than $25 or so. Go spend some time with Google, is my suggestion.

                1. re: sarah galvin

                  Neglected to look on the other side of the box, where the machine is identified as a "Passatutto" rather than "Passapomidori", thus claiming a range of use beyond just tomatoes (plus photo of machine with a pile of different vegetables in the hopper). If you're Googling you might try both names. And now that you've awakened my curiosity, so will I...

                2. re: Will Owen

                  About that same food mill... I borrowed one and I'm in the middle of running some tomatoes through. The tomatoes have been quickly blanched and I've removed the skins myself, rather than having the press do it. But it looks to me like there's quite a bit of tomato pulp coming through with the seeds. I'm tempted to take the seed mixture and pass it through the mill one more time. Is there a benefit to doing that?

                  1. re: CindyJ

                    Yes, I highly recommend two passes to get all the juice and essence from the pulp..

            2. Thanks a mill-ion for all your responses. I'll just keep plugging away.

              1. I've used the Williams Sonoma tomato mill with San Marzano's for a few years now. Yes, the mill extracts most of the skin and seeds and produces a juice or puree. I find that it's helpful to mill the remnants one more time to extract all the essence of the fruit. This makes the juice much richer when reduced. Sorta like what happens when pressing the skins of grapes for red wine.

                As clamscasino says, the trick is to reduce the sauce. This should be done in part in the pan or the pot when the juice is introduced to thinly sliced garlic sauteed in olive oil with, crusched red pepper, salt, oregano and/or fresh thyme (or whatever else you start with). It will reduce further when the starch in the wet pasta combines with the sauce. Unlike the traditional Italian "gravy" this sauce sticks to the pasta with a silky sheen. A few cups of the milled sauce are usually sufficient for a pound of pasta if it's going to be served and eaten immediately from the finishing pan. If you're planning on letting it sit for any period of time you may need to increase the amount of sauce to avoid the pasta from becoming dry. The goal is for the pasta to be wet but not drenched.

                You could also mill larger batches of sauce to produce a more traditional soupy sauce. But I find that you lose the silkiness since the pasta is swimming in the sauce rather than the sauce sticking to the pasta portions.

                1 Reply
                1. re: pondrat

                  As a sidenote, I find adding sliced cherry tomatoes at the first reduction stage can give the best of both worlds... smooth sticky sauce and some texture to compliment it...Whole foods has excellent canned cherry tomatoes if you don't want to go the fresh route.

                2. I have a Victorio Strainer which I have used for years (and years and years) and have very good success with. I use it for tomatoes and also for fruits, etc. The thickness of the product seems to be determined by the product you put it.
                  I just googled VS and find there seem to be places where you can buy one. It was THE strainer in the 70s in this area.

                  1. "the trick is to reduce the sauce. This should be done in part in the pan or the pot when the juice is introduced to thinly sliced garlic sauteed in olive oil with, crusched red pepper, salt, oregano and/or fresh thyme (or whatever else you start with). It will reduce further when the starch in the wet pasta combines with the sauce. Unlike the traditional Italian "gravy" this sauce sticks to the pasta with a silky sheen"

                    pondrat, your prose is the perfect description!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: alkapal

                      "prose" !!?? I'm quite flattered...Thanks alkapal...

                    2. We had a similar problem with Roma tomatoes we were using for canning. We skinned, cored & seeded and quartered them, then cooked them for 20 minutes (the recommended time (per the recipe)). Then we ran them through a Foley food mill, twice. We were disappointed by how thin the sauce still was. We expected the resultant "juice" to be much thicker. We threw a lot of skins out, but we were worried that maybe we threw some of the good juice out, too.

                      Is the cooking time for Roma tomatoes longer than for regular tomatoes?

                      Also, we had the problem someone mentioned below that we added spices (again, as per the recipe) early on, but the spices were super concentrated by the time we cooked it down. Cooking it down longer would have really made the spices overpower.

                      Here's the recipe we used http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribu... It doesn't say which kind of tomatoes to use and although I've read several places to use Roma tomatoes, I can't really find a tested tomato sauce recipe that calls for Roma tomatoes...


                      19 Replies
                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        I have learned a trick with Roma's from a salsa recipe. After chopping, put in a tub and add 1/2 c pickling salt and let sit overnight. In the morning, pour off the resultant water and the salt goes with it. The result is a less watery product and takes much less time to reduce.

                        Another way I have been doing romas is to char them on a grill until blackened. Drop them into cold water to peel and this seems to produce less water and less time to thicken. Also produces a nice smokey flavour.

                        1. re: sarah galvin

                          Fascinating. I may try that! Thank you!


                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                            You are welcome. Sunday is my tomato day! I am actually teaching 3 friends how to can tomato sauce. I am tempted to use the salt method (by the way I buy tomatoes by the case, so the 1/2 to 1c. pickling salt would be for 40 pounds). But I really liked the flavour of the grilled tomatoes. Either way, they take way less time to reduce, thus also reducing the risk of burning.

                        2. re: The Dairy Queen

                          "We had a similar problem with Roma tomatoes we were using for canning. We skinned, cored & seeded and quartered them, then cooked them for 20 minutes (the recommended time (per the recipe)). Then we ran them through a Foley food mill."

                          I'm confused...you skinned, cored & seeded them by hand? And only passed through the food mill later? Isn't that the work the food mill's supposed to do?

                          1. re: Jim Leff

                            Yes, skinned, cored and seeded by hand, then ran them through the food mill--as per the recipe. Could we have skipped those "by hand" steps?


                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                              I'm just confused. I ordered a food mill last night because I found a source of great tomatoes and want to make a slew of sauce and I never again want to skin, core, and seed tomatoes by hand.

                              So I don't get why someone would own one yet still do it by hand. That's what the food mill's for, no?

                              1. re: Jim Leff

                                Yes, that is my thought as well. I've not canned tomato sauce, but I have used the food mill to either process tomato sauce that I've made with whole ones (or chopped coarsely without peeling etc.), or to process the raw tomatoes before making a sauce.

                                1. re: Jim Leff

                                  Jim, I think you're looking to the wrong, misguided person to clear up your confusion. :) Unfortunately, I'm a complete newcomer to canning. (I'm on canning batch 5 for this year: one of green beans, one of spaghetti sauce, and three of salsa).

                                  I completely agree with your impression of what food mills are supposed to do. My impression was the same, that they help you avoid the manual seeding and peeling, so, I was a bit disappointed that the canned tomato sauce recipe I used (linked above) called for peeling, seeding, quartering and THEN running through a food mill...but, to be honest, that's more or less what all of the tested recipes from I found from reputable sources said to do.

                                  I would have been happy to skip the manual seeding and skinning process, except that I will also say that I have had the fear of God put into me re: canning and tweaking anything in the recipe that might also affect the acidity of the sauce, ie., anything that might reduce the ratio of tomatoes to everything else.

                                  I have since ordered a couple more canning books and will look in those to see if I can find a tested recipe for canning tomato sauce that skips the food mill step.

                                  However, if you're not canning your tomato sauce and are just using it fresh, I am in complete agreement that you ought to try jumping straight to the food mill and see what happens.

                                  If anyone else knows of a reliable, thoroughly tested recipe for canning tomato sauce that skips the manual peeling and seeding, I would love it if you would provide a link to the recipe!


                                      1. re: Jim Leff

                                        I haved canned more than my share of tomatoes in my day .... sauce, catsup, juice... and I have never heard of any one peeling and seeding the tomato and then putting it through the food mill. until now.
                                        If you have no other way to prepare the tomato then of course you would hand peel and seed to start or, and this would be my preference, cook the tomatoes and then run them through a sieve of some sort... the later being the easier way.
                                        If you have a food mill, then you can use that, but of course it is a bear to keep clean for large amounts. I found them great for small amounts, but large amounts needed constantly cleaning out to make room for the next batch which is why I ended up with the Victorio strainer.

                                        1. re: The Old Gal

                                          Interesting discussion, everyone, thanks.

                                          Old Gal, I think I found your Victorio strainer here:
                                          or here:

                                          why does it require less cleaning than a food mill?

                                          1. re: Jim Leff

                                            When you use the food mill the unwanted part builds up on top of the colandar part so eventually blocks the holes through which the good stuff goes. You can do the back and forth bit for only so long then you have to stop and clean it out and start over. It's OK for small jobs, but for canning it can be a pain.
                                            The VS spits the unwanted out one way and the good stuff out the other so you can go on and on for a long time. In fact, though I don't have one, I think there was a motor that could be attached.

                                          2. re: The Old Gal

                                            Hmmm...maybe I need to look for a different spaghetti sauce recipe, one that doesn't call for both manual peeling/seeding + food mill. We found this recipe on the UofM website and we didn't really challenge it because it called for all ingredients that we had on hand... My canning partner is pretty insistent that we used only tested recipes from reputable sources and the UofM Extension is a source we trust. Plus, we're partial to the UofM because we're complete homers... Oh, wait, that can't be it. ;-) We give the slight edge to UofM in all matters of crops because, well, at least they know what's in season for us at any given time whereas when we stray too far from recipes from Upper Midwest sources, they call for all kinds of crazy produce we just don't get here, or, more accurately, often produce that isn't available here simultaneously. ;-).

                                            But, you've motivated me to keep looking for another recipe, The Old Gal! Thank you.


                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                              Don't do that. If you liked the recipe keep it, just save yourself some steps.

                                              1. re: The Old Gal

                                                *nervous about changing the recipe* I

                                                'm so worried about changing any of the steps because I don't want to accidentally change the acidity ratio... You don't think there's a risk of that?


                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                  As long as you get rid of the seeds and the skins, no matter how you did it, there doesn't seem to be any reason the process should not work.
                                                  I thought about the wording of your recipe and think they decided that it was too much work to put them through the food mill on the first go, but in case you didn't get everything, they thought it OK to do it the second time since there was much less. That is only a guess. There is nothing here that would change the acid ratio. I assume the recipe calls for acid...lemon juice or vinegar.

                                        2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                          Not sure if you are canning plain tomato puree or adding spices and other ingredients. If it's just plain tomatoes, I've always followed the method in Putting Food By. For sauce, you wash your firm, red, perfect tomatoes thoroughly, and then slice off the stem and blossom ends. Chunk up the tomatoes in manageable pieces and put in an enameled or stainless kettle (no aluminum or cast iron). Bring your pot of tomatoes to a simmer over medium heat, stirring often until soft. Now you can put the tomatoes through a food mill or fine sieve. Bring the resulting juice to boiling, boil gently until thickened but don't turn it into tomato paste. Depending on the size of your batch it will probably take a little over an hour. Don't forget to stir often to prevent scorching and sticking. You then pour your puree into pristine clean pint jars that are hot, hot, hot, I mean boiling water hot, leave 1/2" headroom in pints. I use 1 tablespoon commercially prepared lemon juice for each pint to ensure proper acidity. You may also add 1/2 teaspoon salt, I know I do. Set on your lids and bands according to directions and process in a boiling water bath (212 F) for 30 minutes. Take out the jars. Pretty simple. Works great as a base for sauces, soups, etc.

                                2. Here's a follow-up to the sub-discussion about my Italian mill: last week I bought a dozen Roma tomatoes at a farmer's market, and let them finish ripening for a few days. Then I split each one in half lengthwise and salted and peppered each cut face, then smeared a good layer of olive oil on a foil-lined baking sheet, and laid the tomatoes on it face-down. This went in a 375ยบ oven for half an hour, then I turned the tomatoes face-up and gave them another half-hour. Then I turned the oven off, opened the door part-way, and let them sit in there until just warm. Ran them through the machine, the gooey parts draining into a bowl and the solids popping out the side, just as they're supposed to, and then I ran the solids through again to get whatever soft bits there were still clinging to them. Wound up with exactly a pint of rich and very flavorful sauce, and cleanup was dead easy.

                                  Next time I'll roast some onion, garlic, and poblano pepper along with the tomatoes, and add some herbes de Provence as well. I'll also take some pictures to post; took some this time, but it turned out I should have used the flash.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Will Owen

                                    This sounds similar to a traditional technique for handling summer tomato overload. You build a wood fire, put a metal cooking surface in it. Put a round of tomatoes on that, as they reduce and flatten on the bottom, flip them, then when they're nice and cooked and reduced, take them off, replacing with new ones. You also roast some onions and garlic in their skins at the same time, at a rate of about 2 onions and one head of garlic to five kilos of tomatoes. All this gets passed through a food mill or a seive, seasoned with salt and pepper, and there you go.

                                    Or you can spread it to dry in sheets (either in the sun or from the fire) and save for later.

                                  2. I may be playing the devil's advocate, but is it really necessary to strain tomatoes? I know it results in a smoother sauce, with mainly pulp and no seeds or skin. But it seems like over the years, tomato sauce styles have become a lot more rustic. Even Marcella Hazan now just calls for "cut-up tomatoes" and no straining, before or after cooking. Am I missing something by not straining?

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: btnfood

                                      Not at all, I rarely peel my tomatoes or remove the seeds when I am using fresh in a recipe where they will be cooked. I think it's an old school presentation thing. If your chunks are largish, you will have that lovely rolled tomato skin effect floating around. I've done batches in the past where I pushed my raw tomatoes through the grinder attatchment on my kitchenaid mixer. I then simmer the resulting product until sauce consistency and preserve it in jars for later. The skin pieces end up so fine, they are not noticeable. Admittedly, this works best with my romas, which are a bit meatier with far fewer seeds.

                                      1. re: btnfood

                                        I rarely use a food mill when making tomato sauces.

                                        1. re: btnfood

                                          Removing the skins, I do believe, is a cosmetic thing. There are, or were, two reasons for removing the seeds. One is that the seeds of some tomatoes are (or maybe used to be... there are so many new varieties) very bitter. Sometimes they open during the canning process and add the bitter flavor to the sauce. The other reason is that older people have a great deal of trouble with the seeds getting under their false teeth. Modern dentistry may have lessened that problem also.

                                        2. Could it be because you're putting a canned tomatoe thru the mill? As most posted commented on below, they often use the mill as part of the canning process. The tomatoes you put thru are already pretty soft to begin with, which is possibly why they came out as mostly juice. Just a theory.