Real Tomato Power: Tomato Paste

Ingredient Spotlight

Don't underestimate the culinary power within a spoonful of tomato paste. This thick, concentrated paste is your secret weapon when it comes to rich yet effortless sauces, stellar marinades, and soups that demand second helpings.Tomato paste is made from fresh tomatoes that have been cooked down and down and down some more. Maillard reactions from the long cooking give the paste an intense, umami-rich flavor. When used in cooking, tomato paste works as a flavor-booster by adding its own deep savory notes and enhancing the other flavors in the dish.

A little goes a long way with tomato paste, which is why recipes typically only call for a tablespoon or two. If you're making a sauce or a soup, stir the paste into the vegetables along with the other seasonings just before you add the liquids. Tomato paste can also be whisked into a salad dressing or marinade, or even spread thinly on a sandwich like mustard.

You can find tomato paste sold in cans or in tubes. The cans are great for when we need a lot of paste at once, but any unused paste needs to be used or frozen within a week or two. The tomato paste in tubes is protected from the air and keeps for much longer if we're just using a tablespoon at a time. If you find yourself with a glut of tomatoes, you can even try your hand at making your own.

Here are a few recipes that put tomato paste to good use:

Sweet and Tangy Homemade BBQ SauceEggplant Caponata SandwichesTomato Cilantro ShrimpRoasted Red Kuri Pumpkin and Coconut SoupBraised Lamb Shanks and Root Vegetable Puree

Do you ever cook with tomato paste?

Related: Weeknight Meal Tip: Ways to Doctor Jarred Tomato Sauce

(Image: Inga Nielsen/Shutterstock)

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