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Sugo Festa: The secret sauce

For anyone who grew up in an Italian family or had Italian neighbours the annual bottling of tomato sauce is a familiar scene. This momentous day on the seasonal calendar goes by several names to many Australian/Italian families: sugo festa, pommodoro, conserva, salsa, passata or tomato day. It is always done late summer or early autumn, usually on a 30 plus degree day, so you can feel really sweaty with your tomatoes.

The purpose of this tradition is to make the sauce when tomatoes are at their peak of ripeness and flavour. Traditionally before crops were genetically modified tomatoes were not abundant in winter so you needed to preserve them while they were in season. In past generations, it was unheard of to buy in the supermarket ready bottled passata, and Lego’s sauce was not found in any Italian kitchen.

As I have grown older and now have my own children I want them to understand the importance of where our food comes from. It is the process of slowing down and appreciating how we can still create beautiful food together as a family and as a culture.

Continuing our culinary traditions may just be the secret to longevity and avoiding chronic disease. The rise in obesity and diseases associated with weight gain could be attributed to people eating a diet that is too removed from the diet of their ancestors.

You may have heard of the book and nutritional organisation “Nourishing Traditions”. The basis of this organisation is the life work of Dr Weston A Price. Weston Price (1870-1948) was a dentist who travelled around the world to isolated indigenous and traditional cultures. He discovered that those cultures that were not exposed to Western diets were in optimum health. His subjects were free of dental cavities, gum disease and they were strong fit communities.

As an Australian born Italian I still honour many of the traditional dishes I grew up with. The benefits of the traditional Mediterranean diet have been researched and proven to support cardiovascular health. A traditional Mediterranean diet is mostly comprised of an abundance of fresh vegetables, legumes, fruit. Fish and meat are eaten in moderation with the inclusion of olive oil. Carbohydrates are not discouraged but there is very little processed sugar and they lead an active lifestyle.


Tomatoes contain a certain carotenoid called lycopene. Studies show that a diet rich in lycopene is associated with reduced risk of prostate, gastrointestinal, breast, ovarian, liver and pancreatic cancers. Lycopene’s anti-cancer properties are related to how it protects DNA from damage. It has been shown to inhibit abnormal cell proliferation and inhibit the production of IGF-1, a promotor of tumour activity.

Lycopene has also been found to inhibit cholesterol oxidisation, therefore reducing LDL’s. Lycopene supplementation has shown positive results in reducing systolic blood pressure in symptoms of hypertension.

Lycopene absorption is increased significantly by cooking and processing. Commercially bottled sauces and pastes may have higher lycopene but are so reduced, their fructose content becomes very concentrated. Unfortunately, the sugar and salt content outweigh any nutritional benefit. It further supports the benefit of making your own and nourishing our traditions.

For further information and consultation on your diet, nutrition and how to make the secret sauce make an appointment with Holy Mackerel Health today.

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