It comes in a little can or a tube, and came from tomatoes. Your pasta sauce, braising liquid and chili recipes all call for it, so let’s ask the big question: how do you go from tomato to paste, and why use it instead of tomato sauce?
Here’s the process: fresh tomatoes are cooked down to reduce their moisture, then they’re puréed and strained to remove the skins and seeds. After that, the tomatoes are further reduced and concentrated into a thick paste that can be used to add a lot of tomato flavor without adding the volume or liquid of tomatoes or tomato sauce.
So rather than reduce the liquid in that chili for two hours while your friends wait hungrily, cut some of the canned diced tomato, add a little tomato paste and watch what happens. Try adding it to ground beef dishes like meatballs and meatloaf — the concentrated umami from the tomatoes really pump up the meat’s flavor. Or, hey, it’s chili season, so why not add a few dollops of tomato paste as part of our super-easy chili con carne method?
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