Tomato Paste And Cream Make For A Rich And Versatile 2-Ingredient Sauce

Let's take a moment to give credit to tomato paste. For such a simple little pantry ingredient, it punches far above its 6-ounce can size. Made from tomatoes cooked until most of the water is forced out, and strained to remove the seeds and skin, this concentrated paste is full of powerful flavor. Cooked tomatoes are high in the savory flavor known as umami, and also have a balance of acid and sugar. But by itself, straight from the container, tomato paste is disappointing — it needs some fat and heat to wake it up. Heavy cream, with its rich butterfat content, is the perfect liquid to turn stodgy tomato paste into a rich and delicious sauce for pasta and much more.

Dairy products are a natural match for tomatoes because their fat and protein mellow out strong umami and acid flavors, and the sugars of both ingredients are complementary. Think of ripe tomatoes with rich burrata, or margarita pizza with pools of melty mozzarella on tomato sauce. Combining tomato paste with heavy cream results in a luscious tomato cream sauce you can do so much with, but there are a few important tips for success to know about.

Tips for smooth and flavorful tomato cream sauce

If you've ever poured milk into tomato sauce and found yourself with a curdled mess, you've seen what the acid in tomatoes can do to the protein in milk. This is a natural acid-protein reaction that helps to thicken yogurt and make ricotta cheese, too. For that reason, it's important to use only heavy cream when you want to make a two-ingredient sauce with tomato paste. The cream has less protein to curdle, leaving you with a smooth sauce. However, overheating can also cause the proteins to curdle, so keep the heat low. The other tip to keep in mind is that tomato paste tastes better when it's been browned in a little oil to take any metal bite from the can away and deepen the flavor.

You can keep this delicious tomato cream sauce simple with just the two base ingredients with salt and pepper to taste, or add aromatic ingredients like onion, garlic, rosemary, or other herbs to taste if you'd like. The sauce pairs well with grilled meats, seafood, and vegetables, as well as pasta, and even makes a quick dipping sauce for grilled cheese.