As much as we love cooking, sometimes it feels like recipes torture us in subtle ways. Prime example: How many times have you bought an entire can of tomato paste, just to scrape a tablespoon off the top? Then comes the inevitable ritual of lazily covering it with plastic wrap and shoving it to the back of the fridge, only to get thrown out a week later.
Next time a recipe calls for only a smidge of the stuff, don't fret—these leftover cans are a culinary blessing. Tomatoes are naturally high in glutamic acid, the same stuff that makes other umami-rich foods like soy sauce, Parmesan cheese (and, yes, MSG-laced snacks like Doritos) so addictive. So just think of concentrated tomato paste as a jack-of-all-trades flavor bomb that can add both a pleasant tang and strong depth of flavor to almost anything you're cooking for the next few days. Trust us, you'll clear out your fridge shelf in no time with these five uses for leftover tomato paste.
① Add a boost to a pan sauce or gravy.
After you've deglazed your skillet with wine, a tablespoon of tomato paste will give your pan sauce the added oomph it needs to stand up to juicy roast chicken or fatty seared steak. You can also pull out this trick for your next stew, braise or even this year's Thanksgiving gravy.
② Flavor your rice and grains.
Adding a dab to your rice's cooking liquid provides a pleasant tang, as well as a vivid, deep color reminiscent of traditional Spanish red rice. It's also the perfect pick-me-up for when you need to liven up a boring pot of quinoa.
③ Use it in marinades.
Tomato paste's deep, savory flavor adds a robust background note to your steak marinades or can star as the bold accent for more delicate meats like chicken. Plus, the high sugar content promotes better browning when it comes to cooking.
④ Treat it like an herb or spice.
The next time you're sweating onions for a recipe, try adding a teaspoon or two alongside your salt, pepper and various other spices. Just as toasting spices opens up their flavor, sautéing tomato paste in oil for a few seconds increases its rich, perfumy sweetness.
⑤ Freeze it for the future.
Still having trouble using up the last dregs of the can? Mash whatever paste you have left into a thin layer in a Ziploc bag and stash it in the freezer. That way, you can easily just break off a piece as you need it.
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