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Tomato Paste: What is it good for?

Can anyone seriously tell me what's the point of tomato paste?

Especially considering the fact that we already have tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes (the latter which is for some reason less popular ) on the shelves of all American grocery stores?

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  1. The paste is a concentrated form of the tomatoes you listed. Therefore, it does not add liquid to a dish, but it adds tomato flavor, to a degree. It mainly adds body and unctuousness to a dish. It also thickens a sauce. And can act as a binder. It definitely adds an umami quality

    1. I suppose you could get to tomato paste if you cooked a larger can of crushed/pureed tomatoes down long enough. Personally, when making dishes that only need a small amount of tomato, I'd rather buy a small, lightweight tube or can of paste than lug home a big can and spend time and energy boiling it down to the right thickness.

      1. I use it when making pasta sauce...add it to canned or chopped fresh tomatoes. As dirtywextraolives, it adds body and flavor.

        1. you can make pizza sauce out of it!
          also if you make things too watery (pasta sauce), you can add it because its concentrated.

          1. Just a small dab in a salad dressing adds an interestingly different flavor and texture.

            1. The point in my kitchen is to use it AS paste, not to reconstitute. I buy good double-concentrated tomato paste in a tube and use little dabs of it in a million things.

              I don't enjoy sauce made from reconstituted paste, but again, that's not what I (nor, I imagine, most hounds) use it for. It's its own thing, not a sub for the other tomato products you listed.

              1 Reply
              1. re: LauraGrace

                Yup, discovered the tubes a few years ago, and love the convenience. Before that, I'd use a spoonful from the can, then freeze the rest, breaking off bits as needed. Paste adds a slight sweetness that I don't find in tomato sauce.

              2. Oddly, a big spoonful of the stuff transforms borscht. It makes it rich and velvety without making it taste at all of tomatoes!

                1. I have a tube of double concentrated tomato paste in the frig and it will last me about a year. I use it in small quantities, most often for a tomato sauce that has come out a little watery or to add a dash of "pink" to a cream sauce. In large quantities I find the flavor too concentrated and would much rather use a good homemade tomato sauce for a pizza. (And once in awhile I find a new recipe to try out and if it asks for some tomato paste, I don't have to open a can....in fact haven't had a can of tomato paste in the house for maybe 20 years.)

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: escondido123

                    I have one of these "double-concentrated" tubes in the pantry but never used it. Since it's double should I use half as much as I'd use regular paste...?

                    1. re: CallAnyVegetable

                      I never measure it, but just squirt in what I need.

                  2. I buy tomato paste at the Italian market (in the tube) and use it all the time. As learned from Lidia Bastianich, I push the onions aside in the skillet and make a spot to "brown" the tomato paste. ( cook it a bit before combining w/other ingredients) It really works.

                    1. Sort of a side discussion...do you use it as is, out of the container, or do you use the Lidia routine..make a hot spot in the pot, then saute the paste to get the raw tomato flavor out of it...to add another dimension to it. I've started to saute it since watching Lidia, and I must say it does intensify the flavor and deepens it.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: njmarshall55

                        The only dish I do the saute bit in is lentil soup. I do like what it does to the flavor, so I'm not sure why I haven't done that in other applications.

                      2. According to my grandma, you cannot make "gravy" without it. "Gravy" being the Italian-American tomato-based Sunday sauce. She's 93, you argue with her.

                        Seriously, it does add a nice hit of tomato flavor without the liquid that is in other canned tomato products. I never reconstitute it into sauce, but use it to add flavor or thickening to a dish.

                        1. I use it in lots of sauces to "embolden" the flavour - but it is absolutely essential in my goulash - I spend a lot of time thickening it as it is, and if I used some other tomato product I'd be there simmering for days. I use a little tube I get from my local Italian deli. It seems to taste a lot better than the canned, plus less waste.

                          1. Its kinda out of place since i'm reading alot of home uses, but in restaurant cooking, i've seen it used primarily with stock preparation, specifically veal or beef. But this was in quantities of using something like 200# of veal bones and maybe 50#-75# of mirepoix. All of it would be roasted in standup ovens with some tomato paste over the bones

                            1. I'll add a squirt of tomato paste in additional to fresh tomatoes when I'm making sauce, curry, or stews. Not only does add extra tomatoey flavor but it's sometimes necessary when you're using tomatoes that are less than ripe or out of season.

                              1. I use small mount in gravies, soups, stews, sauces. Either straight, or browned. It brings in complexity and umami. I also use it to thicken my homemade spaghetti sauces.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: JMF

                                  I think you've hit it with the umani bit. Whatever they do to concentrate the paste brings out the umani in the ingredients, and then passes the depth and complexity on to the finished dish.

                                  When I make a big batch of fine-textured spaghetti meat sauce, I use canned tomatoes (pureed before adding), plus a small can of tomato paste. It gives a rich, full flavour without having to simmer for hours on end.

                                2. Some tomato pastes have distinctive flavors of their own. Hunt's sells a tomato paste with basil, garlic, and oregano added. My father always used it instead of plain tomato paste in his spaghetti sauce.

                                  1. After opening a large can of tomato paste, I freeze portions in small popsicle containers - easy to store and slide out into the pot. I often add a smidge of 'kırmızı biber salçası' (Turkish red pepper paste) from the jar in the fridge every time I use tomato paste - ups the umami factor of the tomato. Use 'tatlı biber salçası' (made from sweet red peppers ) or 'acı biber salçası' (made from hot red chili peppers) as your taste buds dictate.
                                    Thatsa' not Italian, but thatsa' good!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: CRF

                                      Your flavorings sound intriguing. You can freeze/store even easier and takes up next to no freezer space: dump the remainder of the tomato paste in a sandwich-size baggie, squeezing out the air, pat flat, and zip tightly. That way you can very easily break off whatever size chunk you need for a recipe.

                                    2. Consider that many pastes you use including chilli paste use, for their base, tomato paste, onions and garlic. Tomato paste is a flavor builder. For example in Step 3 of making Ciambotta (the Italian iteration of Ratatouille created by Cook's Illustrated) you "Heat 2 tablespoons oil in Dutch oven over high heat until shimmering. Add eggplant, onion, and potatoes; cook, stirring frequently, until eggplant browns and surface of potatoes becomes translucent, about 2 minutes. Push vegetables to sides of pot; add 1 tablespoon oil and tomato paste to clearing. Cook paste, stirring frequently, until brown fond develops on bottom of pot, about 2 minutes. " This simple procedure adds lots of flavor it would, otherwise, not have.

                                      1. The thing I love about it is that it has no salt. It's perfect for adding umami or that extra depth of flavor when your dish seems lacking but is already salted enough. And I will definitely try sauteeing it next time!

                                        1. achilles007 - Here's another example of a good use of tomato paste: I volunteer with a teen youth group who has planned, dug, planted and maintained their own vegetable and herb gardens at our county
                                          Ag. Center since April. Today we reaped the benefits of their work, and made homemade pizzas for the group's lunch. The county had donated one of the steam table bins full of cold sliced tomatoes, so we used 6 quarts of the tomatoes to make the pizza sauce. After cooking it down for an hour or so, it still was just not quite rich enough. Plenty of herbs, garlic, onion, etc. but just not tomatoey enough. We added a 15-ish ounce can of tomato paste and cooked it another hour. It was delicious, and several of the adult volunteers asked for the recipe. (We hadn't used one, I just 'winged it', as the teens said)

                                          1. I keep tomato paste in the pantry for all sorts of purposes but my favorite is for making a quick fried egg inside a heavy scoop of paste in a frying pan on Sunday morning and transferring it to a toasted everything bagel for a nice breakfast.

                                            Give it a try!

                                            3 Replies
                                              1. re: pine time

                                                pine t, I suppose my breakfast belongs in the
                                                "Things you shouldn't laugh at till you've tried..." thread!

                                              2. re: HillJ

                                                Sounds like shokshlick - an Israeli favorite for breakfast.

                                              3. I prefer to use whole san marzano tomatoes in juice (not puree), as I like them to be as un-processed as possible. Thus, I will use paste to add flavor and as a componet to tighten up a sauce. I will also use paste for slow braising applications.

                                                1. I use concentrated tomato paste in tubes in a number of dishes, but most frequently when I'm making a meat sauce for pasta. After I've browned the meat, I add a generous squirt of tomato paste, mix it into the meat, and cook it for a few minutes before adding crushed tomatoes, etc. I think it adds another level of flavor to the meat and the sauce.

                                                  I also use tomato paste in some pan sauces and when making lobster stock.