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Friday Tip|What To Do With Leftover Tomato Paste

Friday!  And this Friday leads the masses out of Los Angeles and leaves us with the quiet city all to ourselves…

But I digress.  Today’s tip is a piece of sheer genius that I found somewhere – quite possibly Cook’s Illustrated.  Lots of recipes call for a small amount of tomato paste, usually a tablespoon or two.  Cans of tomato paste are never that small (I think they would be impossible to open if they were), which inevitably means leftover paste.  You can circumvent this problem by purchasing a tube of tomato paste, which is quite convenient, but much more expensive than a can.*  Ninjas are thrifty creatures and just can’t stand to pass up an opportunity to save a little money.  So we buy the cans, but that leaves the pesky problem of what to do with the other six tablespoons of tomato paste…

Enter the genius.  Grab a pint or a quart sized freezer bag.  Spoon the remaining tomato paste into the bag.  Now get ready for the genius part – once all the paste is in the bag, lay the bag on its side on the counter and flatten it.  Push the paste into a relatively uniform flat square that fills up the bag.  If you don’t have enough to fill the entire bag, that’s ok.  Just make it flat enough to lie on it’s side and make the paste more or less the same thickness (again, no perfection – just more or less).  Zip the bag up almost all the way and then use your hand to push as much of the remaining air out as possible and seal it.  Lay the bag flat on the bottom of the freezer or on one of the freezer shelves.**

This does two things: 1. Pushing all the air out of the bag will help keep the paste from getting freezer burned.*** 2. Putting the paste down to freeze flat will allow you to break off as much as you need in the future without thawing the whole thing out! See?  I told you it was genius!  If you feel like you need to be super precise about how much you’re putting into a recipe, measure out a tablespoon of paste and then weigh it.  When you break off your frozen paste, you can weigh the piece and be precise enough.  If it’s several grams overweight, you can just throw back what you don’t need into the plastic bag and put it back in the freezer.

Isn’t that cool?  Also, once the paste is frozen, you can store it standing upright behind other stuff in the freezer.  Just be sure you remember it’s there or you could wind up with a stock pile of tomato paste.

Hope that’s helpful!


*It’s been a while, but I think the tubes are at least a couple of bucks, if not over $3.  A can of tomato paste runs less than a dollar.
**It doesn’t really matter where you put the bag, but it needs to be flat so it freezes flat.  You could also put it under your ice cube trays.  It can be a little uneven, it just needs to be flat.
***A nice trick for other things you will store in the freezer.  Get as much air out of your container as you can.  And don’t leave things in the freezer for too long.  Some freezers are better than others, but if you have a rental kitchen fridge like ours, your freezer is good for a couple of weeks before you start to get frost all over everything.  The only thing that really weathers that well is parts and bones for stock, and chicken fat for shmaltz.


  1. David says:

    We normally freeze our tomato paste/sauce/etc., and then forget that it’s in the freezer, so we go out and buy more. I think we’ve got about 6 ziplock bags full of random red stuff in our freezer right now. I never thought to flatten it out, but I don’t bother defrosting, either. I just chop off a chunk with a big chef’s knife, and say, “Eh, that looks like a tablespoon.”
    David´s last blog post ..K- The Food Plate

  2. Kathlyn says:

    Your approach is much easier and less labor intensive! Love it!!

  3. nadia says:

    what a great idea! i’m always throwing out stuff like this! i’m going to start making ice cube trays of EVERYTHING! 😀

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