Never too late to learn - what is passata, and why?

I just bumped into a new (to me) ingredient: passata. I gather that it is some sort of tomato-base sauce, but my brief internet search brought up such a wide variety of things that I can't say I know what it is. I'm sure many, if not most (all?) of you are familiar with it, so please enlighten me (and let me know what to avoid if that's relevant). Thanks.

 
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