Kitchen Tricks: Tomato Paste

paste1Sometimes I presume that everyone does all the same little tricks in the kitchen that help make our cooking lives easier and more efficient. Like laying down a dampened paper towel under a cutting board to keep it from slipping around on the counter (though my no-skid KitchenAid cutting board makes that unnecessary). Or using the side of a broad chef’s knife to first crush hazelnuts a bit before trying to chop them, avoiding the whole nuts rolling around on the board.

But thought I’d go ahead and pass this one along just in case. I have a pot of tomato sauce simmering on the stove for tonight’s pizza (making enough to have a few portions to freeze for another time). After the onions and garlic had lightly browned and the canned diced tomatoes simmered for a few minutes, I added a generous tablespoon of tomato paste. Didn’t need to open a can, just grabbed this sheet of frozen tomato paste from the freezer, snipped around one of the mounds, and plopped it into the pan. Could not be simpler, and does wonders for stretching the life of one of those cans of tomato paste, large enough that I seldom use the whole thing in one recipe.

Whenever I do open a can of tomato paste and have used the tablespoon or two called for, I cut a piece of plastic wrap and set it on the counter. Then, on go the mounds of tomato paste, spaced well apart. You can be precise if you like, making them each a level tablespoon for measured portions, but I just do it freestyle.

paste2Then the paste is covered with another layer of plastic, a bit larger than the first to allow for covering the mounds. I don’t obsess about there being no little pockets of air, but do my best to seal the outer edges and envelop the tomato paste as well as I can. Then into the freezer on a flat surface until frozen solid. At that point, you can bunch up the sheet and store it in the door nook or some other out-of-the-way spot. Next time you need some tomato paste, just cut around a mound or two with scissors, peel away the plastic, and you’re good to go.

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