Tomato paste is essentially tomatoes that have been reduced, and reduced, and reduced. As a result, there’s a lot of flavor packed into a small can of paste. It can be used to thicken, add flavor and add color to recipes. Just don’t use too much or you will overwhelm the flavor or make it too high in acid.
You can make your own tomato paste from scratch, but it takes a lot of tomatoes and a fair amount of time (like hours). So, realistically, I just keep a few of the really small 6 oz. cans in my cabinet and call it a day. For a bit higher price, you can purchase Amore Tomato Paste (approx. $3.50) in a tube, which keeps indefinitely in the fridge after opening. It saves a lot on waste -- since an opened can of tomato paste is really only good for a couple of days in the fridge. Because it’s concentrated, tomato paste takes up less space in the pantry or fridge. Another thing I like about tomato paste is that it doesn’t contain any added ingredients – no extra salt, for example.
I’ve made pasta sauce and pizza sauce using tomato paste by just adding water and some spices, sautéed garlic and onions, etc. You can also substitute chicken broth and even add a dose of red wine. Play around with it and see what you come up with; you really can’t go wrong!
I use tomato paste in one of my favorite grilled shrimp recipes:
Barbecued Garlic Shrimp
In a large bowl, combine 1 cup olive oil, 2 T. red wine vinegar, 1 T. tomato paste (although I usually double it), 1T. dried oregano, 3T. finely chopped fresh parsley, 1 to 2 T. minced garlic, 1t. salt, and some freshly ground pepper. Add peeled and deveined shrimp and stir gently to coat each of them. Let the shrimp marinate at room temperature for about 2 hours, stirring gently every ½ hour or so.
Reserve the marinade, and arrange shrimp in one layer in a large grilling basket. Grill 4 to 5 inches from the heat for 3 minutes, then baste with the marinade. Grill for another 2 minutes. Turn the shrimp, baste them with the marinade, and grill for 3 minutes or until the shrimp are cooked through. They should still be moist, lightly colored, and firm to the touch. You don’t want to overcook them.
Serve on a large heated platter, garnished with lemon wedges and with the remaining marinade, heated, on the side. They’re also good dipped in remoulade sauce.
Recipe from “Fish on the Grill: Easy & Delicious Fish & Shellfish Recipes” from the editors of Time-Life books, 1994.