recipe time! how to make delicious tomato paste.

Say you’re like me and have 11,000 tomatoes emerging from your garden every week, and you’re to the point of using them to pelt random strangers as they walk down the street, because you’ve already exhausted all other uses. Rather than risk assault charges, you could instead make the easiest tomato paste ever. It takes a long time, but there’s very little effort involved.

First, take a whole pile of tomatoes, like this. (This is about twice what the original recipe is written for, so I adapted it to about 6-8lb of tomatoes. That monster tomato is 4lb itself.)

many tomatoes

Wash the tomatoes and chop them up. Put them in a big bowl and mash them up a bit… I found that squeezing them by hand is by far the easiest. The more liquid you can get out, the faster they’ll cook down.

Get out your double-boiler. Since you, like me, probably don’t own a double-boiler, you’ll just rig one up. First, find a big bowl made of metal or glass (just not plastic, or you’ll be sad). Second, find a big pot that that bowl can rest on top of, with plenty of room for boiling water underneath. (Personally, I think you could do all of this in a heavy-bottomed nonstick stock pot, but you’d have to stir and check the heat way more often to make sure it’s not scorching.)

Fill the stock pot with water, but leave at least an inch of space under the bowl. The point is that you want to be able to boil the water, but have it not touch the bottom of the bowl. Get water boiling on the stovetop, put the bowl on top, and throw 4 tablespoons of butter in it. Once it’s melted, add your tomatoes.

making tomato paste

Stir in 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, 1 tablespoon of salt, and a teaspoon of black pepper. If you want, you could also add things like basil, oregano, thyme, red pepper, paprika, garlic, onion, etc. That’s all optional, though, and since you’ll probably use your tomato paste to make things like pizza sauce, you can always add those seasonings later. (Seriously, this is so good on its own you could just eat it like tomato soup. I considered it.)

Now comes the easy part: let it cook down. You should come back and stir it occasionally, and also be sure to check the water level regularly. You don’t want to let all the water boil off, so refill it as necessary. I only had to check the water and stir every hour or so.

Since I had a very large number of tomatoes, I did this over the course of three evenings, storing it in the fridge in between. If you do a smaller batch, it won’t take anywhere near as long.

Once the tomatoes have cooked down to about 1/4 their original volume, pour the entire contents of the bowl into your food processor or blender, and process til as smooth as possible. A purist will strain this product, too, but I didn’t find it necessary at all.

If there’s still a fair amount of liquid in the paste, put it back in a pan and cook it til it’s paste-like. Mine was still a little bit runny when I put it in the fridge the last night, but in the morning it was perfect:

homemade tomato paste

If you really want to make it easy on yourself later, divide this into sections of an ice cube tray, freeze, and then store the cubes in bags to use individually. We just keep a container like this in the freezer.


(Adapted from Joy of Cooking)

6-8 lb tomatoes, chopped and mashed

4 T butter

2 T brown sugar

1 T salt

1 t pepper

Melt butter in the top of a double-boiler. Add mashed tomatoes, brown sugar, and seasonings. Reduce to 1/4 the original volume, then puree. Return to double-boiler and reduce to paste-like consistency. Freeze. Makes about 1.5 cups tomato paste.

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