I do realize that not all of you have six or seven pounds of tomatoes laying around your kitchen, but on the off chance that some of you are thigh-deep in tomatoes from the garden, here’s what you want to do with them. No kidding.
I really have no idea what prompted me to make tomato paste. I have a case of the stuff in the pantry that I bought at Costco a couple months ago. Perhaps I just needed a diversion from all the tomato sauce and marinara that I’ve been canning. I use tomato paste a lot (hence the case from Costco), so why not see if homemade beats out the stuff in the can. Well, duh.
Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to be this amazed. The depth and intensity of the flavor just blew me away. This is, hands down, the best tomato paste ever. And maybe the easiest to make.
I started with roma tomatoes from the garden. This year I planted a roma hybrid called “Big Mama” and they’ve been incredible. Super meaty and sweet. So I used 6 ½ lbs of those Big Mamas, a few cloves of garlic, a couple bay leaves and a little olive oil. There’s no need to peel or seed the tomatoes because after a rough chop, everything just gets thrown in the pot to cook down for like 15 minutes.
But there is one little catch. You knew there was going to be a catch, right? Well, the catch is that you must have one of these….
...a food mill. One of the best kitchen tools ever invented, and if you don’t have one, I highly recommend you fix that. Food mills have been around forever and there’s a reason for that… they’re dang easy and they take all the work out of making stuff like tomato paste. All you do is spoon your now-soft tomatoes into the food mill, turn the handle a few times,
and voila! out comes the perfectly smooth tomato stuff… no skins, no seeds.
The tomato sauce then goes on a baking sheet and into the oven for a few hours during which time it turns into tomato paste…
Very, very good tomato paste. Yes, it really is that easy. Here’s the recipe…
Homemade Tomato Paste
A couple of tips... after the first hour of cooking, check every half hour as the edges tend to turn dark and burn rather quickly. Just give it a little stir every 30 minutes or so. Also, every now and then I open the oven door to let the steam escape which speeds the process along. It takes anywhere from 3 to 4 hours to fully create a good paste.
6-7 lbs of fresh, ripe tomatoes (in season, preferably), roughly chopped
3-4 cloves garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
2 bay leaves
kosher or sea salt (optional)
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Place the chopped tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and bay leaves in a large dutch oven or stock pot and cook until the tomatoes are softened, about 10 to 20 minutes.
Place a food mill over a large bowl. Transfer contents of pot, in batches, to the food mill and extract the tomato puree by turning the handle of the food mill several times in one direction and then several times in the other direction. Repeat, until all the skins and seeds has been removed from all the tomatoes.
Lightly oil a baking sheet pan with olive oil. Spread out tomato puree and place in oven. Cook for about 3 to 4 hours, checking every 30 minutes or so and stirring if the edges are starting to get dark. Cook until the puree has turned into a paste and is very thick. If the tomatoes are darkening a little too quickly, turn the oven down to 250 degrees.
Cool puree and store in a small glass jar in the refrigerator. You can top it off with a little olive oil and sea salt if you like. It will last for several months.