I love how a couple of tablespoons of rich, wonderful tomato paste adds such a deep tomato flavor to whatever it’s added to. I haven’t met a tomato sauce that didn’t love tomato paste!
Tomato paste is an excellent source of potassium, B vitamins, iron, and the potent antioxidant lycopene. Studies show men who eat more lycopene have a reduced risk of stroke. To get these health benefits, it is recommended that you consume 4–8 milligrams of lycopene daily, and 1 tablespoon of tomato paste provides approximately 4.5 milligrams.
Most of us always have a can of tomato paste in the pantry, but did you know you can make your own tomato paste?
All tomato paste is, really, is tomatoes that have been reduced down and down and down some more.
To make tomato paste, peel and seed your tomatoes, and then dice them into little pieces. Put tomatoes in a single layer in a medium-large saucepan. Toss some salt over the tomatoes and cook at medium heat, uncovered, stirring once in a while, until you have tomato paste! Be patient because it can take a couple of hours for this to happen. Keep the heat low enough that the tomatoes aren’t boiling, but high enough that there’s steam coming from them.
If you have too many tomatoes to stick to a single layer in a saucepan, put your oven to work. Cook the tomatoes, with a good couple of shakes of salt, at 300 degrees. Cook uncovered in a roasting pan or dutch oven, stirring every 30 minutes until you’re left with tomato paste.
If you’d prefer to buy your tomato paste, that’s fine, but do make sure that the paste you buy lists just tomatoes and salt on the label. Many commercial tomato pastes contain high fructose corn syrup and other additives.
Now it’s time for your Trick:
Freeze your tomato paste in ice cube trays. Most dishes call for about the 2 tablespoon amount that the average ice cube tray compartment holds. When the paste is frozen, pop the frozen portions in a plastic bag, taking it out as needed. Doing this will save your leftover homemade or canned tomato paste from spoiling at the back of the refrigerator.
For a deeper flavor, leave the seeds in and the skins on. But the catch is, you’ll need to put your tomato paste through a food mill to strain those babies out later.
And your Recipe:
Skillet Sausage Lasagna
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 shallot chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 3/4 pound Italian pork sausage meat
- 2 14.5-oz. cans diced tomatoes
- 1 6-oz. can tomato paste or use homemade
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 8 ounces Bow Tie pasta cooked
- 2 cups shredded part-skim Mozzarella cheese
- 1/4 cup chopped basil leaves
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Add shallot and garlic; cook and stir until soft. Add sausage meat; cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink. Stir in tomatoes and tomato paste then season with the salt and pepper. Add the cooked pasta and stir well to combine. Remove skillet from the heat; add the Mozzarella and basil. Cover the skillet and allow the cheese melt. Serve hot.
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Do you think it would be possible to make tomato paste in the slow cooker? That would keep it hot but not boiling wouldn’t it?
I don’t think it would, for 2 reasons. The first being that the idea is to let the moisture and steam OUT. However, a slow cooker works by keeping that steam IN, so you would have to keep the lid off at the very least. Second reason being that to properly use a slow cooker it should be 1/2-3/4 full. If it calls for only a single layer it would be 1/4 full at best.
I slice tomatoes 1/2 – 3/4″ thick, and dry until very dry. I can just save at this point. Sometimes I sprinkle Italian seasoning on the slices before drying, to just eat and enjoy, or later add to an Italian tomato sauce needing a little thickening.
For the ‘paste’ I reconstitute the dried slices in a small amount of water, Run through a colander or ricer and have paste. If too thin, do as with the squash(see below in frying pan):
Butter nut squash: cut in half, lengthwise, remove seeds, bake upside down until done. Cool. Remove flesh. Place in a food processor with as little water as possible. I like mine smooth. Freeze in serving size containers. When ready to use: thaw, pour contents into a large frying pan to reheat. The large surface and use of a spatula to move squash back and forth, allows steam to escape and squash to thicken to desired consistency very quickly.