Whenever I visit Sicily, I buy plastic vacuum packs of tomato concentrate, "stratto", in the local market.

It's a whole other story to the slightly metallic commercial tomato paste you usually buy in shops. The flavour is intense, sunny and full of umami. Come the summer, once the tomatoes are ripe, every Sicilian household makes their own tomato sauce. This is how they have fruity, sweet tomato paste year round.

Brent & Kilburn Times: Preparing the tomatoes for the grinding machinePreparing the tomatoes for the grinding machine (Image: Kerstin Rodgers)

I am staying near Ragusa in a family farmhouse and guest house called Tenuta Cammarana. Owners Silvia and Giuseppe, an architect and a sculptor, spend the winter in Rome and from April in Sicily. The house is beautifully styled, with cookbooks and art books in the library, and there are fresh ingredients from local farms, such as the daily ricotta and almond granita. They make their own olive oil and grow carob trees, which they transport to a local cooperative to be used in pharmaceuticals or made into syrup.

Brent & Kilburn Times: Sicilians use Rico di Parma or Piccadilly tomatoes to make their concentrateSicilians use Rico di Parma or Piccadilly tomatoes to make their concentrate (Image: Kerstin Rodgers)

Silvia also showed me how to make a refreshing drink from jasmine flowers, a local recipe that adds ten of the heavily scented flowers to a litre of water.

To make the tomato concentrate, special terracotta majolica dishes with a blue and yellow tin glaze, known in dialect as 'fanguotto', are used. These absorb the heat and aid in dehydrating the tomatoes. I've also seen it made on large wooden tables.

Italians have tomato grinders in the way that British households have electric kettles and toasters. It's just as basic and essential! You will need one, either electric or manual, for this recipe. The Sicilians use two types of tomato: Rico di Parma, like beef heart tomatoes, and Piccadilly, more like plum tomatoes, which are native to Southern Italy despite their British-sounding name. If they consider the tomatoes too acidic, they will add a local white onion, enormous in size, from Giarratana village.

Brent & Kilburn Times: A white onion is added to the tomatoes while cookingA white onion is added to the tomatoes while cooking (Image: Kerstin Rodgers)

Once the paste is prepared, it has to be dried in the sun, which is no problem in Sicily. This summer in the UK, we've had the kind of relentless sunshine and lack of rain which is perfect for this recipe.

Silvia and local grandmother Sebastiana laid out a white netting fabric over the table containing the fanguotto dishes, knotting it underneath, almost as a bridal veil. It felt like a sacred routine.

Brent & Kilburn Times: The tomato puree is dried in the sun under a netting 'like a bridal veil'The tomato puree is dried in the sun under a netting 'like a bridal veil' (Image: Kerstin Rodgers)

Sun-dried Sicilian tomato concentrate 'stratto'

Large terracotta dishes
White cheesecloth or netting
Tomato grinder

3 kg fresh ripe tomatoes, washed
1/2 white onion (optional)
3 tsp sea salt


Cut up the tomatoes into chunks, taking out any damaged bits and the hard core. Add the onion.
Put the tomatoes, onion and salt in a large saucepan on a medium heat, keeping the lid on to bring it up to boiling temperature. Remove the lid once it is boiling as you are trying to reduce and extract the water from the tomatoes.
Using a tomato grinder, pour the mixture through, which separates the juice from the fibre of the tomatoes. Repeat three times.
Pour the juice into shallow terracotta dishes.
Lay the three wide dishes in the sun, covering with cheesecloth or netting to keep off the insects, stirring occasionally.
Bring the dishes in at night or if it rains. In August, this should take three days. Eventually the tomato juice shrinks and fills only one dish.
Scoop it into clean glass jars and top with olive oil. You can also vacuum pack the tomato concentrate.
This can be used in sauces, stews or on toast. It's so delicious I even spoon it directly onto freshly cooked pasta as a sauce in itself.

Brent & Kilburn Times: Cernia alla matalotta- making strattu, Sicilian artisinal tomato concentrateCernia alla matalotta- making strattu, Sicilian artisinal tomato concentrate (Image: Kerstin Rodgers)

Cernia alla Matalotta (serves 4)

A local Sicilian fish dish using grouper or sea bream. This is a recipe from Guiseppe's mother, Maria.


3 tbsp olive oil
1 large white onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp sea salt
1 large Grouper or Sea Bream fish, cleaned
1/2 glass white wine
1 tbsp stratto tomato concentrate, diluted in a glass of water
a handful of chopped flat leaf parsley


Take a large deep frying pan and heat the olive oil on a medium heat
Add the onion, garlic and salt. Fry for a few minutes until the onion is golden
Place the fish in the pan and let it brown on both sides.
Pour in the white wine, let it evaporate. Add the 'stratto'.
Continue to cook the fish for 15 minutes with the lid on.
Serve hot with parsley.

Brent & Kilburn Times: Pesto trapanese- making strattu, Sicilian artisinal tomato concentratePesto trapanese- making strattu, Sicilian artisinal tomato concentrate (Image: Kerstin Rodgers)

Pesto alla Trapanese (serves 4)

This is a Sicilian almond pesto from Trapani which can be paired with pasta or spread on bread.


50 g fresh basil leaves
2 tbsps Stratto paste
50 g almonds
1 tbsp grated pecorino
1 tbsp pine nuts
1 clove garlic
3 tbsps olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
basil for garnishing


Mix all the ingredients in a blender. Cook pasta in boiling salted water and drain. Stir in the pesto while the pasta is hot
Garnish with basil leaves.

Visit Tenuta Cammarena near Ragusa by contacting info@tenutacammarana.it https://www.tenutacammarana.it/