Show of hands. How many times have you actually finished a can of tomato paste? Be honest now. Here, I'll go first: Approximately zero. I tend to use tomato paste in recipes that require only a tablespoon or two, and then I stash the rest of the can in the fridge, furtively and guiltily, knowing it will not see the light of day again until it grows a thin layer of fuzzy organisms and goes to its final rest in the recycle bin. Shameful, I know. I feel shame.
There is, however, an answer to tomato paste waste. This is the very best way to store it away and make it easy to use later. It's time to rescue your tomato paste!
The bottom of an empty tomato paste can! When was the last time you saw this?
There are plenty of ways to preserve tomato paste, including chucking the entire can into the freezer. But here is a better way, one I learned a long time ago from Manisha, the smart and lovely blogger at Indian Food Rocks. Manisha's method is to freeze the tomato paste in separate blobs, which are easier to use later than a solid can of tomato paste.
I took Manisha's tip one step further by portioning the tomato paste into blobs that measure exactly one tablespoon. Then I can reach into the freezer and pull out a tablespoon here or there — whenever I need one.
Use a tablespoon measure to portion out heaping tablespoons of tomato paste.
The Best Way to Store Leftover Tomato Paste
- Make dollops of leftover tomato paste with a tablespoon.
Use a measuring spoon to drop dollops of tomato paste into a small pan or container. I like to line the pan with freezer paper or wax paper.
- Freeze the dollops of tomato paste until solid.
Put the pan with the tomato paste lumps into the freezer and freeze overnight or until they are solid.
- Put in a bag or container for long-term freezer storage.
When the tomato paste is solidly frozen, peel the lumps out of the pan and put in a freezer bag or in a freezer container for long-term storage.
The thing I like about this method is that I always know exactly how much tomato paste is in each lump. I only freeze it in tablespoon-sized dollops, so it's easy to pull out 2 or 3 tablespoons for a dish.
The tomato paste will last for a long time in the freezer; I don't worry too much about freezer burn or spoilage with a concentrated, preserved ingredient like this. I just keep topping up my container of tomato paste lumps when I have some extra. It saves time later in cooking, and it rescues that poor little can from languishing hopelessly in the refrigerator. And isn't that the best feeling ever?
(Images: Faith Durand)