San Marzano and Homemade Tomato Paste

Back in April March (issue #110), Saveur Magazine had a recipe on Homemade Tomato Paste. In the last few issues, Saveur has nicely covered a number of basic kitchen skills, such as making butter, making cheese, canning tuna etc – the types of things I like learning about and I like making myself; the type of things that are not difficult to make but are almost becoming a lost art, mostly become they are often judged “too time consuming”; the type of things that are just about sublime when done carefully well – and dare I say, lovingly?

Homemade Tomato Paste

What sounded really attractive was cooking the paste in the oven, as opposed to stove-top which is what other recipes said to do. So, back in March, I marked that recipe:I was planning a large tomato garden, and was hoping to have tomatoes for paste.

Now, the large tomato garden is indeed producing: it’s not unusual to pick up 5 pounds of Viva Italia Roma tomatoes or San Marzano a day – several days in a row. It was time to try to make tomato paste.

A good tomato paste will help make a good pizza a great pizza, will bring body and depth of flavor to a tomato sauce that’s a little weak (and for good reason, since they are 4 or 5 pounds of tomatoes in one cup of paste!), and will really enhance that lasagna or that that Bolognese sauce!

I made the Saveur magazine recipe. However, in my oven, it turned too dark, too fast. Also I learned that you must stir the paste often or IT WILL BURN. For example, do not go on a walk for 1 hour while the paste is baking: when you come back, all the edges and a good part of the pan will be carbonized! You’ll be able to salvage some… but how frus-tra-ting! and what a waste of perfectly good tomatoes. GGRRRRR!!!! So stick around for 3 hours so you can keep a keen eye on the paste and stir it often.

I made several batches of tomato paste (including the semi-carbonized one). I decided that I would rather have a less concentrated tomato paste and something a little less dark in color than the original Saveur recipe was calling for. It’s still plenty flavorful though! I played with the quantities a little and with the oven timing and temperature. I also tried it in the oven pan and in a LeCreuset pan. They both work, although the oven pan is not totally flat inside, so you have to pay more attention to the edges to ensure they do not burn. Finally if you are using two pans at once (because, after all, since you have the oven going, you may as well fill it, right?), then make sure to rotate the pans every hours. In the end, the Homemade Tomato Paste worked very nicely.

I plan to make more, and I plan to can it, as soon as I can put my hand on the small (1/2 cup) canning jars.

Homemade Tomato Paste

Homemade Tomato Paste

Yield: About 2 cups

· 8 to 9 lbs. plum tomatoes. I used a mixture of Roma & San Marzano

· 1⁄3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Oil two large rimmed baking sheets, oven pans or other metal pans with a little olive oil.

Roughly chop tomatoes. Heat the rest of the oil in a skillet (or Dutch oven) over high heat (I used my cast-iron pan). Add tomatoes; bring to a boil. Cook, stirring, until very soft, about 10 minutes. I did this in several batches (using two separate pans going simultaneously) to avoid overcrowding the pan.

Process the tomatoes through a food mill (the finest plate you have) getting as much of the pulp as possible.

Heat oven to 275° F.

Spread tomato purée evenly in pan(s). The thinner the layer of puree, the more you are going to have to watch and stir to avoid burning. Bake, stirring the purée occasionally, until most of the water evaporates and the surface darkens, about 2.5 hours. Reduce heat to 250°; cook until thick and brick colored, another 30 minutes. Stir often.

Saveur says to keep the pastein fridge for up to 1 month. I froze it in a rectangular pan until soft frozen. I then cut through to form little rectangles of paste (because you never need but a couple of tablespoons at once). I immediately put them back in the freezer, lining them up on wax paper in a freezer container, each little pat not touching the other. LABEL the container! If you have ice cube trays, you could use those to freeze the paste, and then pop the cubes in a freezer bag. Either way, it’ll be easy to get a pat or two whenever needed.

7 thoughts on “San Marzano and Homemade Tomato Paste”

  • Funny, I just did a pizza tonight and complained to Paprika about the tomatoe sauce (not the best). I will bookmark this recipe for next time !

  • Sylvia….

    I started with 22qt pot (8″ deep) filled with pured tomatoes (mostly viva italia roma and san marzano along with some german johnson and better bush) which were run through a vita mix in batches and then a food mill to separate out skins and seeds. Reduced volume by half then placed roughly one third in a heavy stainless shallow rimmed pan (broiler pan base) which was oiled with good olive oil; one third in another lighter weight stainless shallow rimmed jelly roll type pan also oiled with good olive oil. The oven was preheated to 200 and raised to 225 when pans were placed top rack and two thirds rack staggered in the oven; the final third was left on the stove top on low heat to continue to reduce. Every 25 minutes the pans were stirred and inspected and rotated. As the pans in the oven reduced in volume the paste was gathered into the center with a spatchula and shaped into low loaves. The stove top pan required gradual reduction of flame (gas stove the only way to go unless you are really good with that wood burning range) to avoid sticking toward the end.

    The batch that was done in the oven in the heavy stainless was the best tasting. The lighter weight stainless batch was next. The stove top batch was good but had no olive oil.

    The use of 225 as oven heat and the method of gathering the paste in the center of the pans and forming loaves eliminated any burning or sticking, particularly around the permiter.

    After thoroughly cooled, the paste was placed in muffin tins lined with organic unbleached paper liners… each portion is approximatley 2 TBL. The tin was covered with saran wrap and the portions frozen then each wrapped and transfered to plastic freezer containers.

    If I was cooking regularly for more than my wife and myself I would freeze larger portions.

    Question: Have you tried pressure canning the paste in half pint jars? What pressure and how long?

  • Tim – I love your way to prepare the paste for freezing. I don’t like to use plastic ice cube trays because the tomato juice color the plastic over time, and I have not found the old fashioned metal ones. Using muffin tins: brilliant! Thanks for sharing your experimentations too!

    I have never pressure-can, something I will probably tackle next year. I only use the boiling water-bath method – which, of course limit what you can do. I would like to can the paste in 1/2 cup jars, the cup (or 1/2 pint) are too big for my liking: I don’t use that much paste at once. My understanding (based on 2 canning books I have) is that you may can tomato paste using the boiling-water bath method if you have not added other things to the paste. So I guess, that would mean no oil. One of the book was also suggesting to add 1/4 tsp citric acid (or 1 Tsp white vinegar) to each cup of tomato puree to ensure the proper acidity.

    Thanks for stopping by.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.