A mother-daughter conversation on food and cooking (mostly)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Tomato Paste Ranting

Tomato paste: you can open those little cans, use two tablespoons, and then store them in the refrigerator or the freezer. Then two weeks later, when the next recipe calls for one tablespoon of tomato paste, you can get out the can and find it to be a) moldy, or b) really frozen.

Oh, I've tried those toothpaste-style tubes of tomato paste. I once bought one at a snooty Italian market that was two years past its expiration date, a fact I only noticed much later (note--I really love that British term "expiry" instead of "expiration"). But I find I can't really get along without tomato paste when I'm making Italian things.

I am pretty fanatical about not wasting food. It isn't about money now that I'm middle-class and have enough to buy whatever food I want. It's that someone grew those tomatoes, and other someones then slaved at the tomato-packing plant, and real people trucked the cans to the grocery store. Maybe it's because we're gardeners, and that I come from a wheat-farming background. Being wasteful with food feels so much worse to me than other sins.*

What we really need is freeze-dried tablets of tomato paste, each equaling a tablespoon. Or bubbles of tomato paste in a strip of soluble gel pacs. Surely our society is up to this challenge? Any other ideas?

*This writerly excess made me Google sins, and I find that my Lutheran upbringing didn't really qualify me to rant about cardinal sins as opposed to the more mundane vices. I had it all confused with the Ten Commandments. I can clearly see that some sins are more attractive than others, but I can also see that the finer distinctions are best left to the experts.


Eva said...

So true! I find I avoid tomato paste altogether because of this problem. I almost always leave it out or substitute another canned tomato product when I find it in a recipe. No doubt I am missing out on many dimensions of flavor, but come on: it's a giant pain. I love your packaging solutions.

auntann11 said...

Ah hah! I avoid this rantation by opening up a can of paste and freezing tbls. before I need them. It is a pain to deal with when cooking so it is something I do when waiting for something else like the pot to boil. I usually do two cans at a time laying them on a wax covered plate or sheet. They freeze while we are eating and then as part of the cleanup, I pop them into a zip bag or container.

Kris said...

Hi! I love your solution--I'll start doing this from now on.

stereogab said...

I've found jars of decent tasting (and maybe even organic) tomato paste at Whole Foods. They keep in the fridge pretty well.

Kris said...

I like the jar idea! I'll look for some.

Anonymous said...


I know this is being left years after original posting, but I came across this... Pour excess tomato paste in ice cube trays. Once frozen, move into a Ziploc bag and keep frozen until you need them.

Perfect size and easy solution!

Kris said...

Thanks for reading and commenting. Ice cube trays are a good idea. But why can't tomato paste manufacturers do a better job from the get-go? Other packaged products don't need this extra step by the consumer to avoid waste. I have never used a whole can in one recipe, even when cooking for several people.

Packaging is a fascinating topic. I like the idea of bulk foods for some things, like nuts and rolled oats. But it's very messy for other things, such as flour, and seems unsanitary for sticky things like prunes. I do like packaging to be minimal and recyclable--we can dream, right?

I tried freezing blobs of tomato paste, which was kind of fun, but it was very easy to lose them in the freezer. I tend to cook from inspiration rather than organization, which I admit is more wasteful but more enjoyable.