In a world with no food waste, we’d all buy tomato paste in the perfect tablespoon portions that our recipes call for. But this is REAL LIFE, and tomato paste comes in unreasonably huge gallons that are big enough to bathe in…well, not really. But that’s how it feels sometimes when you don’t know what to do with the rest of that little can.
So we looked around a bit and found some great culinary cheats for using up leftover tomato paste. Nothing crazy—tomato paste just happens to be much more versatile than most of us realize, lending body and tang to a whole variety of soups, stews, grains, and yes, even drinks!
The recipes below might have you eventually reaching for tomato paste as an everyday part of your kitchen arsenal. And when friends ask about the lovely red color and bright flavor of your quinoa, well, you can decide if you want to reveal your secret. It does seem to hold true: the less you waste, the better you cook.
#1: Make Bloody Marys
A Bloody Mary is a classic for a reason. Consider scaling the recipe to make a mix that’ll last you several brunches. Recipe adapted from Food and Wine.
Time: 15 minutes
Yield: 4 Drinks
2 small celery ribs, minced
2 Tbs minced onion
1 medium green heirloom tomato, minced
1/2 Tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 Tsp fresh lemon juice
Salt, to taste
1 1/2 lbs chilled red tomatoes, rough chopped
1/2 C chilled vodka
1 C ice cubes
1 Tsp tomato paste
1/2 small red chile, seeded and rough chopped
1/2 Tsp celery salt (if you don’t have this, substitute a pinch of salt or make it yourself)
4 celery ribs and/or 4 green chiles for serving the drinks
Step 1. Garnish
In a bowl, combine celery, onion, tomato, lemon zest, and lemon juice, and season it with a bit of salt. Put in the fridge while preparing the other half of the drink.
Step 2. Drink
Blend the tomatoes, vodka, ice, tomato paste, chile, and celery salt. Pour the mixture into 4 glasses. Add the garnish, distributing evenly amongst the four glasses. Add a celery rib and chile to each drink and serve.
#2: Spice up your burgers
Whether the veggie or meat variety, burgers are commonly topped with a slice of tomato. To take the flavor further, put some tomato paste in the patty (you might even be able to skip the ketchup!).
#3: Enrich your grains
The next time you’re cooking rice, quinoa, barley, or any other grain, a bit of tomato paste can bring a simple side dish to the next level, adding with a beautiful red color and a burst of tomato flavor. Start with the tomato paste (and optionally, a splash of oil) in your pot. Before adding your cooking liquid, cook the tomato paste for a minute to caramelize its sugars and bring out even more of its natural flavor.
#5: Try shakshuka
Shakshuka is a Middle Eastern dish in which eggs are poached in a tomato sauce. It’s a great brunch entree, only requires one pot, and is really simple to make. It’s hearty without feeling too heavy, and pairs excellently with toasted bread. Recipe adapted from BBC Food.
Prep – < 30 mins
Cooking – 10-30 mins
Yield: 4 Servings
3 Tbs olive oil
2 large onions, sliced thin
2 red peppers, cut into long slices
2 green peppers, cut into long slices
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 Tsp cumin seeds
1/2 Tsp caraway seeds
1/2 Tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbs tomato paste
800g canned diced tomato, don’t drain the liquid!
1 bunch fresh coriander, rough chopped
1 bunch fresh parsley, rough chopped
Toasted almond slivers (optional)
8 Tbs thick, plain yogurt
Salt and pepper
Heat olive oil in a dutch oven (or a deep frying pan). Add onions and peppers, and season with salt and pepper. Cook on medium heat until they soften. Add garlic and keep cooking for around 2 minutes more. Add cumin, caraway seeds, and cayenne pepper and stir. When the spices become fragrant, stir in tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Finally, add the can of diced tomatoes with the liquid from the can.
Simmer for 10 minutes without the cover until the tomatoes reduce a little. At the 5 minute mark, taste, and if you feel that the tomatoes are too acidic and not sweet enough, add a bit of sugar. Add a splash of water if it seems like the tomato mixture is drying out completely (but the texture should not be runny). After the sauce is reduced halfway, add the herbs.
If your pot is big enough to fit 8 eggs, keep the sauce in one pot. If the eggs won’t fit, transfer half of the sauce to another pot. Make 8 wells in the sauce. Break an egg into a cup then drop it carefully into a well, and repeat with the 7 remaining eggs. Add a little bit of the sauce carefully over the whites to help the eggs cook faster and keep the yolks runny, if desired. Cook until the whites set but the yolks remain runny, or longer depending on your desired consistency. Sprinkle with crumbled feta on top, and the toasted almond slivers (optional).
Serve with yogurt and toasted bread.
#6: Freeze it!
If you truly don’t see yourself using the tomato paste anytime soon, freezing it is an excellent alternative. The Kitchn‘s method combines convenience with intelligent portioning. Simply dollop tablespoon-sized portions of leftover tomato paste on wax paper, then freeze. (A similar idea is to portion them out in an ice cube freezer tray.) Once the paste has hardened, transfer the dollops to a different freezer-safe container. This way, any time you need a tablespoon for a recipe, it’s pre-portioned.