ALWAYS do this if you use tomato paste…
By - saltsearsavor
I had no idea that people didn't do this. It's how I learned to start tomato sauces.
Great post, OP! It's little things like this that can really help people who are learning to cook, and those that haven't heard of it should absolutely try it. :)
I know! I still see recipes that don’t do it. I learned it from my Italian grandfather. It’s definitely my secret sauce for…well sauce!
And this is a total shameless plug so you’ll have to forgive me, but I love learning how to cook better. So as a fun side project, I share these kinds of cooking tips and lessons in a weekly newsletter: www.saltsearsavor.com
This is the first time in my life I’ve purposely signed up for a newsletter. Just scrolled through some of the titles and they all sounded intriguing!
Wow! Thanks so much for checking it all out and signing up then! I really appreciate it. Feel free to unsubscribe if you ever find it isn’t your thing. I won’t bug you after that :)
Yes! I always after sautéing the onions and garlic (which every recipe starts with) add in the tomato paste and let it brown up before adding other ingredients. For chili I brown meat, add onions-soften, add garlic, add paste- give it a minute, add spices- give it a minute, then all the other stuff
I made a stew a while ago and added my tomato paste after the Guinness and stock. Bad mistake.. should have added it before
Edit. It clumped up and didn't really emulsify with everything else. Next time I make it I'll just add it to the carrots and celery and brown a bit before deglazing
Ahh totally! It makes a big difference in my opinion
Caramelized Tomato paste
Caramelized onion and carrots
I had no idea. Frankly I thought tomato paste was bitter and I had to counter it. I’ve never tried browning it, I just always chucked it in with my tomato sauce. I’ll give it a shot, thanks for the idea!
That’s totally understandable! I think you’ll notice the difference next time though. The paste turns much sweeter and more intense in flavor. I typically just use paste and water for my tomato sauces instead of other canned tomatoes products.
Really? When you do that, how much tomato paste are we talking then?
Depends on how much sauce! I’d say 4 of the 6oz cans will make a good amount of sauce for four people. If I’m going to cook the sauce for a while, I typically do a ratio of 2 parts water to 1 part tomato paste.
Frying the tomato paste really makes all the difference in the dish. I love cooking tips like this because the more of them you learn, the more freedom you have in the kitchen to make things up from whatever you have on hand. (Or whatever is on sale).
It reminds me of a rule for making a roux, you want to cook the flour before adding the liquid, it's done when it smells like fresh baked pie dough, then add the liquid. I made the mistake of not cooking the flour enough and it resulted in the sauce having an off taste. I have found the same thing with tomato paste, it tastes off if you don't caramelize it a bit first.
Excellent guidelines on how to use tomato paste. It's basically a rule for me.
Love that! I very much agree that the more you know, the more you can freestyle.
And that’s a great tip around toasting your flour for a roux!
I didn't know this either! Do you just cook it in the pan until it smells like pie dough? How high should your heat be?
I learned all about roux from Chef John. His main point is actually about lump free roux, but he does mention the pie crust smell.
As far as the heat, (Chef John never mentions it), I like to use a medium low heat, (every stove is different, I've moved a lot so the temperature I use depends on the stove). Right now I have a gas stove so I cook things on a lower temperature than I did on electric stoves I've used in the past. The roux can burn easy if left unattended, a few seconds is ok, but never leave it, as long as you keep things moving and have your liquid ready to add, your unlikely to burn it.
Thank you. I will try this.
You’re welcome! I think you’ll find it works well!
Cooking is so hard 😭
I just joined and I have no idea what aromatics vegetables or carmalizing or deglazing means, which is an issue as this is supposedly a sub for beginners.
It’s clear I’m not cut out for this and will be sticking with store bought sauces lol.
Stick around! This is definitely a sub for beginners. It always sounds intimidating at first, but if you don't understand just ask!
Aromatics is one of those terms that sounds complicated but it's not. Onion, garlic, herbs that give off a telltale and for me hunger inducing aroma as they're cooked. Onions, garlic, celery, carrots... anything that gives off a noticeable fragrance as it's cooked. You can probably lump herbs into this if you're throwing them in as the base of a dish as well.
Deglazing is basically taking a hot pan with all that crunchy stuff stuck on the bottom (fond), pouring in a cool liquid like broth, wine, water, milk or whatever, then scraping it off with a spatula or wooden spoon (or whatever tool you're using). I love to do this after cooking sausage as it's the base for really good sausage gravy.
If you’re intimidated by making homemade sauce, look up Marcella Hazan’s sauce. It’s super easy and only five ingredients. I think it’s delicious, and it gave me confidence to try more things.
Aww no! You’re totally cut out for this. It’s my fault for not using more beginner friendly words. Aromatic veggies are just things like onions, celery, garlic, and carrots. Which you may start off sautéing when building a sauce or soup.
And deglazing is just a technique for using liquid to pick up some of the food bits that get stuck to the bottom of the pan. Those food bits appear when you sauté your veggies and brown your tomato paste in this case.
Everyone begins at a different level and thats ok. Just keep tryig and don't give up. I know how to make homemade alfredi sauce but often buy storebought cause its cheaper then parmesan cheese
watch some videos - Alton Brown (Good Eats), Julia Child, etc. Go to the library and check out some cook books. when you find some which work for you, buy your own copy from a local used book store (or online - bookfinder.com) .
Joy Of Cooking is a GREAT book. There's a reason it's been around so long.
STAY LEARN PLZ
Okay. Most of the vocabulary you'll pick up over time, but here are some starters:
Aromatics: Vegetables added to bring out tasty smells in a sauce. Usually onions, carrots, and either celery or peppers.
Caramelizing: Sautéing (cooking in a frypan with oil but not super hot) those vegetables until they have some browning. This is the same process which turns sugar into caramel, thus the name.
Deglazing: Adding water or other cool liquid to the pan the sauté was done in, to gather up all the lovely flavors and put them back in the sauce.
Great tip! I’m going to try it in an upcoming Beef Stroganoff with the leftover tomato paste I had from making Crock Pot Goulash. I’m working to kick sauces up a notch or two.
Yum! That will be perfect for it
I always wondered about this, so I did a test. I made some plain white steamed rice. Then I took 1/2 tablespoon of tomato paste, and mixed it into the rice with 1 teaspoon oil. Then I took 1/2 tablespoon of tomato paste, and sauteed it in a small pan with 1 teaspoon of oil until I got some browning. Added some salt to both, had my girlfriend give me spoonsfulls of tomato paste-flavored rice with my eyes closed (since one was darker than the other)...
...and noticed no difference. If there was a difference, it wasn't worth dirtying another dish, or adding 5 more minutes to the meal's cook time (more of the tomato paste is frozen leftover paste from when I didn't use a whole can). XD
Interesting! I’ve noticed a big difference when I’ve tried them side by side. Albeit I didn’t do it as a blind taste test! I typically don’t use an extra pan. Just do it in the same pan I’m going to cook the thing in. Maybe I’ll have to give a blind taste test a try :)
>I typically don’t use an extra pan. Just do it in the same pan I’m going to cook the thing in.
Ahh, that makes sense. Since I was just making plain rice, I guess it did mean a different pan. Ha!
My mom used to do that when cooking meatballs. Still can't figure out how she did it without absolutely burning the paste. \^\^;
Mom’s always have secrets!!! My guess is lots of stirring and maybe evening using water or wine every now and then to deglaze the pan. It will pick up all those stuck on bits before they have a chance to burn.
I think water is the secret too. But easier said than done! :P
Water is an underated ingredient in my book! And fair enough haha :)
Thank you for this! I'm fake Italian so I didn't even know this was a thing
You’re so welcome! Fake Italian?!? I doubt it!
Awesome advice! I'm gonna be making enchilada butter in a few days, so this is a great reminder!
I normally mix dijon and softened butter and baste the cut side of halved tomatoes before roasting them, but I'm braising pork tenderloin in homemade salsa verde, and I need a different, Latin-oriented flavor profile. I'm gonna use some leftover chicken drippings to cook my tomato paste with sautéed shallots and garlic, then add chili powder and cumin. It'll get cooled down then stirred into softened butter (probably at a 4:1 ratio like the dijon, at least to start). Tomatoes get basted, roasting occurs, and dinner is served!
Holy smokes! That sounds amazing! I want some of that butter :)
My other favorite kind of butter is buying a couple packs of beef marrow bones, pouring a can of spicy hot low sodium V8 overtop with some S&P, and roasting them in a real hot oven - like, 475°F. Let cool a bit then poke/scoop the marrow into a bowl, add all the drippings from the pan, and blitz it with the stick blender (or not, if you like the chunks). Let it cool a bit more, then stir in a block or two of softened kerrygold salted butter. Use generously - toss with homemade pasta and sauté to finish (with or without veal & bacon bolognese), or just slather it on slices of french bread and briefly broil.
Marrow butter. One of the best things I've ever tasted.
So when are you opening a butter shop?!? I’ll happily be your first customer and even buy classes from you on how to make them!
Haha, now there's the million-dollar idea of the day! A butter shop... Hmmm... 🧐🧐🧐 **
Compound butters are easy when you aren't churning the butter itself, from scratch. I decided to give myself the gift of good butter when I turned 30, and stop buying the crappy Land-o-Lakes stuff I grew up on. Never looked back, and zero regrets! It makes a huge difference to the flavor of everything it touches.
Let's see, what are some of my other flavors...
- miso butter (I use equal parts mellow white miso paste and softened butter, plus a splash of sherry vinegar; it's a bit hard to incorporate until you add the vinegar, so make sure everything is room temp. And only use this for finishing, as the miso will burn at much lower temps than butter would. Amazing on asparagus, green beans, old tires; whatever you've got around.)
- Caramelized onion butter (add a bit of concentrated beef bouillon and thyme for French onion butter)
- preserved lemon & roasted garlic butter (I don't add any seasonings to my preserved lemons, just the lemons and salt, and then puree them once they're fully cured; that way it's easy to stir them in with the minced roasted garlic)
- taverna butter (with reduced Meyer lemon juice and greek oregano and Hungarian cold-smoked bacon grease)
...Basically any flavors you like, but with the liquid elements concentrated, and the solid elements softened so they're easy to stir with softened butter.
If you've never made butter, you definitely should try it. It's beyond easy. Put heavy whipping cream in a bowl, beat it until it turns into whipped cream, then *keep* beating it until the whey drops out and voila, you have butter. However, you'll need to use a deep pan of very cold water and knead it for a bit to rinse the whey out (it'll be dispersed throughout in little bubbles), otherwise the whey turns and you have sour butter within a couple days. (Which, if you're making a diabetic-friendly version of red velvet cake that doesn't require enough liquid for buttermilk to fulfill its rightful place, then great, but generally speaking, sweet butter is the goal LOL.)
I’ve never made my own butter! But that does sound like fun. I do compound butters every now and then (miso is one of my favorite too and I definitely need to try it with preserved lemons). But not nearly enough. Thanks for inspiring me to be more adventurous with my butter!
Interesting. I'd never thought to try this. Usually if it reaches that point for me, it ends up tasting a little burnt. Maybe I'm doing it wrong lol.
It happens sometimes where the bits stuck to the bottom of the pan start to burn. If that happens, try adding some water to the pan and then scraping up all the bits that are stuck.
My sister taught me that and called it blooming it.
Nice! I’ve heard of cooking spices this way referred to as blooming but never tomato paste. Pretty much the same technique though so make sense it would be called that :)
I can't wait to try this!!! Thank you!
You’re so welcome! Glad you are going to try it
This is a great tip. I learned the same lesson but via a slower method while trying to perfect my bolognese sauce. A heavy pan and a long simmer at a light boil always browns a bit on the bottom. The tomato flavor definitely changes for the better, it's the long simmer = good flavor secret.
A fast way to get the same flavor? Yes please!
There isn’t anything else quite like a slow simmering tomato sauce! Even if you do cheat the system a bit by browning tomato paste. Luckily you can water down the paste and still let it simmer for a long time :)
Another trick (unrelated to this important cooking trick) related to tomato paste is that, when you buy a can and if it is too big and you won’t be using it as quickly as you should be for freshness, first bake the entire batch so it evaporates its water and recan it. And also put some olive oil on top of the open can to make sure it does not get moldy.
Thanks for the tip!
You’re so welcome!
Even for a chicken tortilla soup in a crockpot? Should I brown the tomato paste with the onion, garlic, and jalepenos before adding it to the soup??
If you’ve got a sauté type function on your crock pot, then I definitely would! You could brown all those things in a separate pan too if you don’t. The veggies will benefit from browning too.
Crockpots are convenient but you do miss out on a little bit of flavor by skipping some browning. Usually they make up for it because they cook things low and slow for a while.
When I'm cooking the tomato paste (alone or with few vegetables), shall I add water or just pour it into the pan and simmer for few minutes until it browns?
I’d just pour it in! If you’ve got enough fat in the pan you probably don’t need the water. But you may! Adding water is also good way to prevent the paste from burning because it makes it easier to scrape up all the stick on bits before they cook too much.
This is probably a stupid question but I have to be certain. Are we talking about tomato purée? In the UK at least, it's called purée :)
Not a stupid question at all! These kinds of things are important. After some quick googling, tomato purée in the UK does look to be the same thing as paste in the US. I’m not positive though. Paste in the US is thick and concentrated. Not liquid-y at all. Is that how tomato purée is for you?
Yea it's not liquid at all :) More like toothpaste really!
That’s gotta be the same then :)
I’ve started doing this after I realized I get acid burn from tomato paste and my sil told me to try this method because it takes the sourness away. But idk what I’m doing wrong it either burns or it’s still sour. I tried low heat, medium etc, but to no prevail. I even tried adding sugar lol, please send help
Edit I signed up for your newsletter love it!
Very interesting! To be honest, tomatoes are pretty acidic so it light be hard to get rid of the sourness all together. But it should help some!
I would keep cooking the tomato paste on a medium heat but try adding a little bit of water every time you notice there are some stuck on bits in the bottom of the pan. Those bits (aka fond) tend to burn first. So by adding a little water every now and then you can use a wooden spoon to scrape all those bits up before they burn. That incorporates them into the paste before things go bad.
Adding a little bit more oil to your pan will help too!
And aww shucks! Thanks for signing up! I really appreciate it.
Thank you for your respond. Im gonna try it again this week with your tips! Im really liking your newsletter keep up with the good work!
Awesome! Let me know how it works for you!
And thank you. I’m glad you’re enjoying it. That makes me happy!
I did not know tomato sauce was fried in Spain! My guess is exactly the same :) Thank you. I’ll look that up!
Interesting! Thanks for sharing!
You can make your own tomato paste if you’re interested: https://leitesculinaria.com/87323/recipes-homemade-tomato-paste-conserva-di-pomodori.html
I always do this 😃....
So wtf do I do with the can after my recipe calls for 1-2Tbps.... It always sits in my fridge for weeks and then I toss it lol
Haha I hear you! You can freeze it too. It last longer that way obviously. I have frozen it in 1-2 tablespoon chunks in the past.
Honestly though I typically use it before it goes bad! I’d try and find more places to use it. It’s not just great in tomato sauces but also as a way to flavor liquids for braises, part of the veggies for soups, as a flavorful add in for rice, in ground beef for tacos, and so much more!