We all do things in the kitchen as a matter of course that we never think to share with anyone because they’re so simple, until, of course, someone asks you a simple question. Like, “What do I do with leftover tomato paste?”
Ah. Good question. Tomato paste is one of those things that, unless you’re like that hard-case friend of mine who used to go at it with a teaspoon, you only use a bit at a time of. In between those times, if the time between the times is too long, it goes mouldy.
The classic way to store a jar of leftover tomato paste is to cover the surface with oil, but this method isn’t foolproof, because every speck and skerrick must be covered with oil. Any exposed paste goes mouldy, which means you have to scrape all the paste off the sides of the jar with a spatula and push it down before you add the oil. And when you spoon out tomato paste, you have to do it all over again. And what if you don’t want oil with your tomato paste?
Tomato paste in a tube is absolutely brilliant, and possibly the best thing to happen to tomato paste, but again, this massive 500g. jar cost me the same as three of those tubes.
What to do?
Enter the freezer, which is the friend of every cook running through the kitchen shouting, “Can’t cook now! Cook later!” on their way somewhere else. Times like these, with goopy, liquidy leftovers like these that you use in small amounts, people will usually tell you to press your ice cube trays into service. If you’ve got enough of them. And aren’t using them for ice cubes. And can actually be bothered unmoulding the tomatoey cubes afterwards.
I don’t, and I can’t, so I use baking trays and my trusty silicon baking paper (which I buy in industrial quantities). Dollop tablespoonfuls onto the trays, freeze…
and when frozen…
transfer them to baggies.
They are dropped, still frozen, into simmering sauces, soups and stews, and if there’s nothing simmering, they will thaw out on their own in a few minutes, or 15 seconds in the mikey.
If you’re feeling fanceh, you can press a fresh basil or oregano leaf into each dollop before freezing. Cool. And simple.