Homemade tomato paste is surprisingly easy to make in your kitchen. All you need are tomatoes, salt, olive oil, and a food mill. And time. Lots of good old-fashioned unattended time.
Homemade tomato paste, or conserva di pomodori , boasts a deep, mellow, caramelized flavor that’s wholly unlike the acidic taste of canned tomato paste, according to author Rosetta Costantino, who doles it out by the teaspoon to add depth to all manner of braised dishes. We ain’t arguing. And although it’s something you may have never even considered making at home, it’s unthinkably easy. And unspeakably satisfying. Here’s how to make it from scratch. Originally published August 27, 2013.–Renee Schettler Rossi
How To Use Homemade Tomato Paste
“When my grandmother was young, she and her neighbors around Verbicaro never put up whole tomatoes or tomato purée,” says author Rosetta Costantino. “Instead, making conserva (tomato paste) was the way they preserved their tomato harvest for the winter. In my grandmother’s day, people used conserva for their winter tomato sauce. They would sauté some garlic, then add a few tablespoons of conserva and some water and simmer until the conserva dissolved. Today, most cooks use conserva to add depth to sauces made with canned tomatoes or to ragu. Most Calabrians keep their conserva in crocks in the pantry, sealed with olive oil.”
Special Equipment: 1-pint canning jar
Homemade Tomato Paste
- Quick Glance
- 50 M
- 6 H
- Makes about 1 pint
- 10 pounds very ripe plum or salad tomatoes*
- 1 to 4 tablespoons kosher salt, depending on personal preference
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil for the baking sheet, plus more for topping off the jar
- 1. [Editor’s Note: Before making this recipe, consider that the quality of your homemade tomato paste is directly related to the quality of your tomatoes. Use only fully ripe, fragrant summer tomatoes for this homemade tomato paste, preferably from a farmers’ market or home garden. It’s not worth going to the trouble of making it with standard supermarket tomatoes. The author uses the San Marzano tomatoes her father grows, but you can use any type of ripe plum tomato or salad tomato.]
- 2. Core the tomatoes. If they are plum tomatoes, cut them in half lengthwise; if they are large, round, salad tomatoes, cut them into quarters. Remove the seeds with your fingers. Place all the tomatoes in an 8-quart stainless steel pot and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes release their juices. Boil briskly for 30 minutes until the tomatoes soften and the juices reduce.
- 3. Pass the tomatoes through a food mill fitted with a fine disk to remove the skins and any remaining seeds. Return the tomato purée to the same pot and set over high heat. Stir in the salt, reduce the heat to mediumish, and simmer until the purée has reduced to about 1 quart (4 cups), 45 to 55 minutes. Turn the heat down as the purée thickens to prevent it from bubbling and splattering furiously, and stir often to prevent scorching.
- 4. Lightly slick a 12-by-17-inch rimmed nonaluminum baking sheet with oil. Using a rubber spatula, spread the thick tomato purée in an even layer. It should cover the entire baking sheet.
- 5. Preheat the oven to 200ºF (93ºC) and turn on the convection fan if you have one. Position a rack in the center.
- 6. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat (keep the oven on) and stir the purée with the rubber spatula so that it dries evenly and doesn’t form a crust. Re-spread the purée with the spatula into a rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. Be fanatical about spreading it evenly; if any part is too thin, it may burn. Because of evaporation, the purée will no longer cover the baking sheet. With a paper towel, remove any bits of tomato that cling to the edges or exposed bottom of the baking sheet, or they will burn.
- 7. Return the baking sheet to the oven and continue baking until the tomato purée is no longer saucelike but very thick, stiff, and a little sticky, about 3 more hours total. Every 20 minutes, stir and carefully re-spread the purée as before. The rectangle will become progressively smaller as the remaining water evaporates. Taste and, if desired, add more salt.
- 8. Let the tomato paste cool to room temperature, then pack it tightly in a clean jar with a spoon, tamping it down to make sure there are no air pockets. Level the surface with the back of the spoon. Cover the surface completely with olive oil so that the paste is not exposed. Screw the lid on the jar and refrigerate. It will keep in the refrigerator for at least a year. When using this homemade tomato paste, dole it out by the teaspoon to add depth to dishes. Always salt the dish after you have added the tomato paste as its quite salty. After every use, level the surface of the paste and top with more oil so the paste remains completely submerged.
Sun-Dried Tomato Paste Recipe Variation
- In Calabria, even today, conserva, or tomato paste, is dried under the hot Mediterranean sun. The tomato purée is simply spread on a large wooden slab and brought inside at night. It dries to a thick paste in 3 to 4 days. If you’re expecting several consecutive days of 100ºF (38ºC) weather, you can dry the tomato purée under the sun instead of in the oven. Follow the recipe in every other respect, and set the baking sheets out in the sun at step 4. Be sure to bring the baking sheet in at night to protect the tomatoes from getting damp.