Tomato Paste from Scratch

I finally made tomato paste and it tastes amazing. This has been on my to-do, to-cook, to-blog list since I started blogging. Like many things I now make from scratch, I will never be able to eat store-bought tomato paste again because homemade tastes incredible. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I followed the recipe from Rachael Mamane’s wonderful book Mastering Stocks and Broths: A Comprehensive Culinary Approach Using Traditional Techniques and No-Waste Methods. This thoroughly researched gem of a book covers not only stocks and broths, but also the history, culture and science of stocks and broths, the importance of sourcing quality ingredients and how to use up absolutely every scrap of food and waste nothing.

Published by Chelsea Green, the book is an exhaustive stock and broth encyclopedia, similar in format to The Art of Fermentation (also published by Chelsea Green), which I constantly recommend on here. In other words, if you have a question about stocks and broths, you’ll find the answer in this book.

However, you’ll find much more than recipes for stocks and broths—and answers to your questions about them. The book includes recipes for kelp stock and dashi, a vegetarian tagine with kabocha squash, homemade paneer, tahini, marshmallows, split yellow pea cakes—even dog food made with spent bones (and other ingredients)—just to name a handful of recipes.

The Tomato Paste

In Northern California at this time of year when the price of Early Girl dry farmed tomatoes drops, I buy at least a couple of 20-pound cases of them. This recipe calls for eight pounds.

I didn’t have an available baking sheet for this, so I used two glass pyrex dishes. They worked well. I burnt a very small bit of the paste around the edge and just scraped that off. If you want to make this vegan, try using brown rice syrup or barley malt syrup in place of the honey the recipe calls for. I haven’t tried those—I followed the recipe exactly—but they should work well.

Eight pounds of “ugly” dry farmed tomatoes
Halve and seed the tomatoes
While I seeded the tomatoes, I saved the juice and strained it
Tomato juice for minestrone soup
Tomatoes ready to cook down with a bit of olive oil
Cooking down
Cooked down
Running through my food mill using the fine disk
Add honey, salt and bay leaves and simmer for an hour
Ready for the oven
Finished tomato paste
Transfer to jars and top with a thin layer of olive oil
Eight pounds reduces to about two cups of the best tomato paste you’ve ever tasted

This excerpt is adapted from Rachael Mamane’s book Mastering Stocks and Broths: A Comprehensive Culinary Approach Using Traditional Techniques and No-Waste Methods (Chelsea Green, 2017) and is printed with permission from the publisher.

ABOUT TOMATO PASTE

Tomato paste is tomato purée that has been cooked for several hours to produce a thick concentrate. The seeds and skins are removed to render a silky and glossy finish. Many brown stocks call for the addition of tomato paste, which deepens flavor and brightens hue.

Store-bought tomato paste often includes corn syrup or citric acid to increase its shelf life. This recipe offers a healthier homemade alternative, using honey as the sweetener. Packed and sealed in jars, this tomato paste will last indefinitely. If you don’t have time to make your own, look for a store-bought variety that lists tomatoes as the only ingredient.

HONEYED TOMATO PASTE

ACTIVE TIME: 1 hour | TOTAL TIME: 6 hours (including simmering and baking) | YIELD: Makes about 2 cups (480 ml)

8 pounds (3.6 kg) red tomatoes, ripe

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for packing

⅓ cup (115 g) honey

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon sea salt

Core and halve the tomatoes. Remove the seeds with your fingers or a spoon. In a medium stockpot, add the tomatoes and the olive oil. Over medium heat, bring the tomatoes to a simmer and cook until softened and juices are released, about 40 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.

Outfit a food mill with a fine disk and place over a bowl. Pass the tomatoes through the mill. Return the tomatoes to a clean pot; add the honey, bay leaves, and sea salt. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat and reduce until thick, stirring often, about 1 hour. If the mixture sputters, place a splatter guard over the pot. Be careful not to scorch the sauce.

Heat the oven to 250°F (120°C). On an oiled baking sheet, spread the tomato purée into a thin, even layer. Bake until the purée becomes thick and tacky, stirring every 20 minutes, about 3 hours total. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature. Transfer to jars and top with a thin layer of olive oil to prevent discoloration. Keep in the refrigerator, up to 1 month, or for long-term storage process in a water bath canner. Consult the manufacturer’s guide of your water bath canner for detailed operating instructions.

16 Replies to “Tomato Paste from Scratch”

  1. Hi there, you mention in the intro that seeds and skins are removed. When, and how, do you remove the skins? Otherwise looks great.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      You remove the seeds with your fingers when you halve the tomatoes and the skins come off when I run the cooked tomatoes through the food mill. Works like a charm.

  2. I saw this post shortly after a video Rob Greenfield posted of a tomato farm with an enormous discard pile of perfectly imperfect tomatoes. I just thought TOMATO PASTE FOR EVERYONE! Jokes aside, I find it disgusting how much beautiful food we waste, which is why I love when you show others how to use their food that’s seen better days, as well as large quantities of tomatoes!

    1. Me too! So much waste and people starving in the world – It’s crazy. Thanks for this recipe – I can’t wait to try it. I just started a blog where a big aspect is sustainability I hope you guys can check it out 🙂

  3. Thank you very much re the skins… totally understand! 🙂

  4. Nice to see homemade tomato paste, will try soon
    Thanks for sharing 🙂

  5. Hi! I loved the idea and the recipe! I was just wondering if there’s anyway to do it without a food mill? I don’t own one!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Guilia,
      I would blanch and peel the tomatoes before cooking them to remove the skins. Then you could try either pushing the cooked tomatoes through a sieve with the back of a wooden spoon or just putting the tomatoes into a blender or food processor. Enjoy! ~ Anne Marie

      1. That’s great! I’ll try that! Thank you so much 🙂

  6. No Makeup Mama says: Reply

    Thank you for the book recommendation. Even though half of the recipes you named are things that I have literally never heard of (maybe I live under a rock… 🤷‍♀️) I am totally fascinated. And I look forward to making this tomato paste. Thanks!

  7. I came on the site to send you a video, but saw this fantastic post about tomato paste. Woo Hoo! Very perty pictures!
    I have heard of one way of getting rid of the peels without a food mill or by blanching, and that is by freezing. Core the stem spot, maybe slice an x on the bottom, then freeze (in a jar, in a dish, in a tin, however you wish). When they thaw, the skins slip right off.
    Anyway, here’s your video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QBOEWbIQU3k

  8. I have a question, do you use paste tomatoes or does anything go? I might give this a shot…

  9. can you freeze the tomato paste?

  10. I do tomato paste every year in september, about 20 kg. I buy tomatoes from a farmer a know very well. Me recipe is a little bit different from yours, even easier. Anyway congratulations, it’s an hard work 😉

  11. Do you have an idea of what might happen if you didn’t remove the skin? Great post!

    1. Hello Minimallyus, for what it’s worth, I just made some tomato sauce and canned it. I cut up the tomatoes and separated out the seeds as ZWC did above, although I put the strained juice back in the pot. I cooked it until things got pretty soft, and then I stuck my immersion blender and blended up the pulp, juice and skin until it looked like sauce. I cooked it down some more, and strained it through a fine sieve which took out the larger pieces of skin that didn’t want to disintegrate from the immersion blender (although a less persnickety person could have skipped this step, as the pieces were rather small). I then added a wee bit of salt, and did the whole canning thing to it. The sauce was delicious and beautiful. I don’t enjoy using a food mill or skinning tomatoes, and every time I do it I wonder what wonderful micronutrients get lost from not eating the skins, so I think I will stick with this method every time I process tomatoes.

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