The fantastic harvest of tomatoes we're getting this year has me finding more ways to use and preserve them. Yesterday I made tomato paste, which is one of those pantry items that has so many uses in the kitchen. It's a very simple though somewhat time consuming process, but it doesn't require your complete attention throughout, as the stove does most of the work for you. Making your own tomato paste also lets you customize it to your own liking. This recipe makes a paste that is thick and rich, with a lovely smoky quality.
- tomatoes, 5 to 7 pounds
- olive oil, about ½ cup
- sea or kosher salt
- garlic, 3 or 4 cloves
- onion, ½ of a medium sized
- pimenton (hot smoked paprika), 2 tsp
- thyme, 6 or 7 sprigs, just the leaves
- cracked black pepper, 1 tsp
1) Seed and rough chop the tomatoes. I save all of the seeds and jelly juice, add a little salt and pepper and drink it as a breakfast tomato juice.
2) Add the olive oil to a deep pot and heat at medium high. Add the seeded tomatoes and a bit of salt, stir to mix and thoroughly coat the tomatoes. Let it cook until the tomatoes soften into mush, stirring every so often. Then turn the heat down to simmer and let the mixture reduce dramatically, until it is thick and perhaps 1/5 of its original volume. Give it a stir fairly often to keep the bottom from burning and sticking. This will take a few hours.
3) Mince and press the garlic cloves into a paste. Dice the ½ onion super-fine - you could use a food processor if you have a small one. I just diced mine repeatedly until I practically had an onion paste. Finely dice the thyme leaves until you get something that's almost a powder. Add the garlic, onion and thyme to the tomato puree. Add the pimenton, black pepper, and salt if you think it needs more. Mix well.
4) There will be tomato skins in the puree. You could have removed those in the usual way earlier in the process (briefly scalding the tomatoes, ice bath and peeling prior to cooking) but I hate to waste anything that has flavor, so I pureed everything in a food processor.
5) Spread the tomato mixture onto a baking sheet and spread it around. Place into a 300° oven for around an hour or so. Give the paste a good stirring with a rubber spatula. Place it back in until enough liquid evaporates so that it's think and brick red in color, maybe a ½-hour more, depending on how much you reduced it while on the stove-top.
Let it cool and jar it up. It should last in your fridge for quite a while, at least a month, unless you use it all before then, which will probably be the case because this stuff is just so good. Use the tomato paste as a pizza sauce, bruschetta topping, sandwich spread (we made chicken sandwiches with it), add to soups, mix with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic for a fantastic dressing, add to your homemade barbecue sauce, spread it on an omelet in the morning, You could even use it as a homemade ice cream flavoring (don't knock it til you try it!). This paste is sweet, salty and smoky, and it smells as good as it tastes. After making it we ran a few errands and upon walking into the house we exclaimed, "Mmmm, this place smells like pizza joint!"