I won’t lie — homemade tomato paste requires the patience of a saint. Is the game worth the candle? Yes! Homemade paste has a deep, sophisticated taste can’t be matched by anything that comes in a can or a tube.
To start, obtain 10 pounds of perfectly ripe, in-season paste tomatoes (‘Roma,’ ‘San Marzano,’ etc.). Because paste tomatoes have a low moisture content, they are uniquely suited for…tomato paste. I bought 7 pounds of paste tomatoes from The Berry Farm in Chatham, NY. The remaining 3 pounds were plucked from my own wacky vegetable garden.
Core the tomatoes…
And cut them lengthwise in half.
Then, with the help of your index finger, violently remove the seeds! And don’t worry if you miss some of the seeds — those that remain will be trapped in a food mill.
Drop the tomatoes into a non-reactive (i.e., stainless steel) stock pot that will hold at least 12 quarts.
Stirring from time to time, bring the tomatoes to a boil over medium heat. Then reduce the heat to a simmer, and let the tomatoes cook until they soften — about 30 minutes.
Attach the fine disk to a food mill, and place the mill over a large bowl.
Working in batches, process the tomatoes to separate skins (and any remaining seeds) from the pulp and juice.
Pour the liquid into a heavy, non-reactive pot (I like my Dutch oven here — you can use your cleaned-out stock pot) and stir in 1 tablespoon of sea salt.
Bring the brew to a boil over medium heat until it thickens and reduces by about half — 30 minutes to 1 hour. Adjust the heat as necessary to avoid splattering.
Next, heat the oven to 200°F. And if your oven is equipped with a convection fan, then by all means use it. The fan will speed up the following evaporation step:
Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with 2 or 3 layers of parchment paper…
And pour on the tomato puree, spreading it out with a spatula to cover the entire bottom of the pan.
Pop the works into the oven for 30 minutes, and then give it a quick stir with a silicone spatula. Return the pan to the oven for another 30 minutes.
Stir again, and then scrape the puree towards the center of the pan to form a rough rectangle.
Working in 30-minute intervals, keep heating, stirring, and”rectangle-izing”the puree until all of its liquid has evaporated — 3-5 hours in total.
Note: The rectangle will become smaller and neater as evaporation occurs.
When the puree is thick enough to scrape cleanly with a spoon, and when absolutely no liquid is visible along the rectangle’s edge, you’ll know that cooking is complete. Congratulations — you’ve got REAL tomato paste! Let it cool to room temperature.
Transfer the paste to a pint-size jar, film the surface with a little olive oil (to keep a crust from forming), and enjoy it on toast, steaks, sauces, salsas, and more!
Covered and refrigerated (and always filmed with olive oil after each use), the paste will keep for several months. For longer storage, freeze the paste in ice cube trays.
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Homemade Tomato Paste
- 10 pounds paste tomatoes, such as 'Roma' or 'San Marzano'
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- olive oil
- Core the tomatoes, cut them in half lengthwise, and scrape out seeds with fingers. Put the tomatoes in a 12-quart stainless stockpot, and, stirring from time to time, bring to a boil over medium heat. Then reduce the heat to a simmer and let the tomatoes cook until soft -- about 30 minutes.
- Place a food mill over a large bowl. Working in batches, process the tomatoes to remove skins and any remaining seeds from the pulp and juice.
- Pour the pulp and juice into a 4 or 5 quart non-reactive pot, and bring to a boil over high heat. Then reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook until the liquid thickens and reduces by about half -- 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- Center the oven rack, and, using the convection setting if available, preheat the oven to 200°F.
- While the oven is heating, line a large, rimmed baking sheet with 2 or 3 layers of baking parchment. Pour the sauce over the paper. Spread the sauce with a silicone spatula so it covers the entire pan.
- Put the sauce in the oven, and let it cook for 30 minutes. Stir the sauce briefly with the spatula, and then return it to the oven for another 30 minutes. Stir again, and then scrape the sauce towards the center of the pan to form a rough rectangle.
- Working in 30 minute intervals, continue to cook, stir, and form the sauce into a rectangle until all liquid has evaporated -- 3 to 5 hours in total. The rectangle will decrease in size as evaporation occurs. The paste is done when liquid no longer seeps along the edge of the rectangle.
- Let the condiment cool to room temperature on its pan. Then transfer to a pint-size jar, and film the surface with a little olive oil. Covered and refrigerated (and filmed with olive oil after each use), the paste will remain fresh and wonderful for several months.