Recipe | Tomato Sauce — by Bri DiMattina

Bri DiMattina’s grandparents both immigrated to New Zealand from Italy as children, meeting and moving to Nelson when they had their children. Her nonna and poppa’s food garden was enviable, Bri recalls, with every inch of their quarter acre property filled with vegetables and other edibles.

Influenced by her chef mother and her gardening grandparents, Nostrana is a nod to where Bri is from and who she is. The Stromboli-inspired recipes in Nostrana include: zucchini arancini, polenta & corn fritters, tomato sauce (recipe below) and a divine lemon-chocolate pizza dolce tart.

— Read the full interview about Bri’s garden and life of seasonal cooking here.

Bri DiMattina in her edible garden.

Words by Bri DiMattina, Nostrana

Tomato Sauce

This recipe in Nonna’s book has ‘Mum’s’ in the top right-hand corner, so this is actually my great-grandmother’s recipe, from Napoli. Simply put: we grew up on this. It’s one of those sauces that gets better as it ages. A bottle of this is pure gold.

I used to make this with supermarket tomatoes, but decided I needed something fleshier and with less water content. This was before heirloom tomatoes were readily available, so I contacted an Italian guy in Wellington whose family had had the foresight to bring tomato seeds with them on the journey here from Stromboli. He had been growing them, and seed saving, every year since.

Months after we spoke, an envelope turned up in my letterbox. It had my address in tiny cursive writing on the front and nothing inside, or so I thought. On closer inspection I found about a dozen loose seeds in the far corner of the envelope. Since then, the tomatoes I have dubbed ‘Stromboli tomatoes’ have been grown in my garden every year, with me carefully saving the seeds.

The change in tomatoes has made a difference to the sauce. It’s not the end of the world if you use the standard reds. Honestly, the sauce is so good that I would use any tomatoes rather than have no sauce at all!

ALSO TRY: Zucchini Arancini — Recipe by Bri DiMattina

RECIPE — Tomato Sauce

MAKES: 3 Litres


1.8kg heirloom or homegrown

tomatoes, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

1 cooking apple, chopped

475ml malt vinegar

450g brown sugar

55g salt

1 1/2 tsp ground white pepper

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp allspice

1 tsp ground cloves


Combine all the ingredients in a large, heavy-based saucepan. Bring to the boil then simmer uncovered over low heat for 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

Use a stick blender to puree until smooth, and then strain through a sieve. Alternatively, use a moulis to puree and strain.

Reheat if necessary, and use a funnel to transfer to sterilised bottles (see note) while hot. Seal bottles tightly.

This will last for months in a cool dark place, and is best stored in the fridge once opened.

NOTE: Add more cayenne if you would like a spicier version. The heat of the cayenne is very prominent for the first few days, but mellows into the sauce as the flavours combine with time.


To sterilise jars or bottles for preserving, give them a good wash then put them on a tray in the oven at 120°C for 10 minutes.

Bri DiMattina is a second-generation Italian-Kiwi, a home gardener and trained chef who inherited her love of good food from her chef mother and her Italian nonna. After a career in the food industry, Bri moved to Mangere Bridge (Auckland). There she began growing a ‘food forest’ using permaculture principles, finding joy in harvesting and cooking homegrown produce.

Recipe extracted from Nostrana: Flavours from my Italian kitchen garden by Bri DiMattina

(Photography by Lottie Hedley, published by HarperCollins, RRP $55)

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