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I've been trying, on-and-off when I have time, to make tomato sauce from a 5 1/2 oz can of tomato paste, but haven't figured out the right proportions of ingredients.

I've been combining a can of tomato paste with about 16 oz of water and some sugar to cut the acidity, and reducing it a little, but all I end up with is watery tomato paste.

It's more likely that I am missing a key ingredient (like a can of diced tomatoes) than a critical preparation step, but I'm curious about other people's experience.

Edit

By "tomato sauce", I mean something functionally equivalent to a store-bought jar of pasta sauce.

Why would anyone want to do this? I honestly have no good reason. It is mere curiosity on my part. Is it possible to get edible results? Or is it guaranteed to be a complete waste of time, not worth even experimenting with?

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Are you looking for something like plain canned tomato sauce, or do you mean a sauce like marinara? –  Bob Feb 22 '11 at 21:37
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I was wondering the same thing myself - it's not clear whether you're trying to basically reconstitute tomato puree from tomato paste, or if you're trying to use the tomato paste as the base for a finished tomato sauce (e.g. a marinara sauce). –  timmyp Feb 22 '11 at 23:12
    
To clarify, are you looking for something using tomato paste as opposed to crushed or diced tomatoes? Or are you just looking for tips about making tomato sauce? –  tim Feb 23 '11 at 6:01
    
I'm really looking for tips on making sauce using tomato paste. The recipes look great, but I've already determined I get much better results using diced tomatoes than tomato paste. –  James McLeod Feb 24 '11 at 0:20
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10 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I can give you the Italian answer - first of all, normally we don't use tomato paste to make sauce, but rather to add a tomato "kick" to recipes. Tomato paste is simply tomato puree that has been cooked down to a high degree of concentration.

A basic tomato sauce is made by .1 making a soffritto with onion, carrot and celery (plus other flavors) .2 adding tomato puree, or "pelati", more rarely fresh tomato .3 cooking the sauce down until the taste and thickness is what you want

If you want to use paste instead of puree, the third step has to be omitted or greatly reduced in duration. Keep in mind that tomato paste has its own taste, and that taste will remain in the final sauce.

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Is there a reason you need to be using 5.5 oz of tomato paste? Canned diced or crushed tomatoes work so much better, and you're just asking for blandness if you add water.

I cook garlic in a little olive oil until it's yellowish and then add two 16oz or one 32oz can of diced or crushed tomatoes. If you have them, add some basil and a couple of bay leaves. Heat until bubbling and then lower and simmer covered. You can cook it anywhere from half an hour to an hour or longer, depending on when you need it by and how much time you have, but longer usually means better sauce. It makes more than enough for one pound of pasta or enough for two pounds if you don't like a lot of sauce.

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You don't use any onion? Blasphemy! –  derobert Feb 23 '11 at 7:35
    
No good reason. Just trying to stick to my stubborn and excruciatingly cheap roots! –  James McLeod Feb 24 '11 at 0:20
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I use a 16 oz. can of italian style plum tomatoes (contadina or rienzi), a small chopped onion, some basil and salt and pepper and it comes out great. no water, just the juices from the canned tomatoes.

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I assume diced tomatoes ... I don't think I've ever seen whole peeled or crushed in 16 oz cans ... but I'd agree, you can make a pretty good quick sauce with just a can ... you can even find ones with garlic, oregano and basil. –  Joe Feb 22 '11 at 2:21
    
yeah, diced. and of course add garlic or any other herbs and spices that you like. –  benstraw Feb 22 '11 at 3:14
    
@Joe: Here in the UK, 14oz cans of peeled plum or chopped tomatoes are the standard format tinned tomatoes come in. –  Orbling Feb 23 '11 at 0:32
    
@Orbling : whole tomatoes in a 14oz can? They must be tiny for them to get any sort of efficient packing to occur. Or it's just one tomato taking up the whole can. –  Joe Feb 23 '11 at 1:14
    
@Joe: I'll have to count next time I open a can, they are quite small, like plums. Somewhere between 5-8 minimum I think, but it is hard to recall. –  Orbling Feb 23 '11 at 1:29
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This post is super old, you may not see my answer, but here ya go anyways:

Sixteen ounces of water is far too much. You should do equal parts of water and paste. I usually put just a little bit more than the full can of water and after seasoning, its perfect! May as well have come out of a prego jar!

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I see. It sounds a little intense, but I may try it sometime. Thanks. –  James McLeod Jan 31 '13 at 0:33
    
@JamesMcLeod The trouble is, like most bottled sauces, Prego is just plain awful because it's sickly sweet. The third ingredient is sugar, which is nuts. If sugar is in a tomato sauce at all, it should be one of the least ingredients. –  Carey Gregory Jan 31 '13 at 3:04
    
Agreed - maybe a little aguave nectar or caramelized onions to cut the acidity of the tomato paste. –  James McLeod Jan 31 '13 at 4:00
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Couldn't agree more that I'm not sure why you would use tomato paste unless it is one of those challenges that you can't give up on. I think the equal amount of fresh with tinned tomato with the usual of onion, garlic, butter, sugar with vinegar to create a gastrics to mask acidity, seasoning is just as easy and the perfect consistency you require for most cooking uses.

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It is possible to do, many "instant pasta meals" do so, e.g. http://www.germandeli.com/krmispmitto1.html. The one in the link is also quite edible. From the the ingredients list is seems they use 100ml of water for 50g of paste.

You probably need more herbs and spices than you currently use to get a good taste. As a minimum I would add onion, garlic, and salt. Basil and Oregano also don't hurt.

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Yes, definitely more spices. I'm really looking for a base I can modify depending on my mood. –  James McLeod Feb 23 '11 at 0:41
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I feel for your dilemma. I never use tomato paste alone to make a sauce. Pastene canned tomatoes works much better. But I have been stuck with just one small can of tomato paste and left with the DAUNTING talk of trying to turn into an edible sauce, on it's own.

I've never been able to do it. I'm also Italian and I know that we don't use tomato paste for this purpose either, it's too dense. Has a strange taste and it's not kept on hand to make sauce.

So, your answer, dear friend, is "beats the heck out of me." Some say it can be done with great results, but I have doubts.

Better off to take the pasta and make a soup of it using chicken broth instead of water to boil the pasta. Don't drain it afterward, but add a good handful of parmesan cheese and a good shake of black pepper. It's incredible easy, uses all pantry ingredients, and it's really good. You could add a tablespoon of tomato paste with some garlic and basil to it just to give it a bit of a that taste, but it's what I do if I don't have crushed tomatoes. People like it because it's very difficult to dislike in it's so straightforward! :)

The recipe is called (sp?) "Pastina."

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Kirk-like redefinition of the problem to provide a workable alternative. +1 –  James McLeod Feb 9 at 17:44
    
This is technically not a straight answer and got flagged, but as the OP agreed that it was helpful for their case, I will leave it as it is. –  rumtscho Feb 10 at 11:45
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2 cans of crushed tomatoes
garlic
onions (chopped finely)
olive oil

Heat up olive oil, add garlic and onions, let them cook for about 45 seconds. Don't let them brown - just cook them enough until they smell really good, you will know.

Add tomatoes. Add sugar to taste. Stir. Reduce fire and simmer covered for 45 minutes, stirring from time to time.

That's the basic recipe. Play around with the cooking times and amount of garlic and onions. You can add basil, mint leaves, and other spices if you like.

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Just remember sugar is optional. I usually just add some sweet chilli sauce. –  Barfieldmv Feb 23 '11 at 9:47
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I am not sure why most of the comments are negative about tomato paste. It is just condensed tomato sauce. I got my recipe from my mother, who is Italian. She used tomato paste, tomato sauce and water. The sauce was delicious. She did saute the tomato paste in olive oil and added a little sugar to cut the acidity and bitterness. Tomato paste, if used correctly, can result in a rich tasting sauce. I have experimented with my mother's recipe through the years. I sometimes add red wine. If you read online opinions about spaghetti sauce, on the internet, you will get many varied opinions about what is good. I think it depends on what you are used to. I like a variety of sauces. You may have to experiment and find what you like.

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Nice one, Debbie. Do you also have some suggestion for proportion of ingredients for the OP? –  razumny Feb 22 at 12:46
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My mother makes the best Sunday meat gravy, consisting of meat balls, ( hamburg and ground pork) sausages, and country style ribs, seared on both sides, all meats slightly under cooked, when the ribs fall off the bone, sauce is done. She uses ONL red.pack tomatoe paste 8 small cans, water for each can. 1 28 ounce tomatoe sauce. Ive had sauce every where, its my little perk to try others meat ball and sauce (gravy). If it doesnt cook all day,.to me its a quickie, or Mariner. Lots of garlic, easy on the spices, red pepper, little basil, no Oregano period.... Huge meat balls cooked on the outside to a crunch,almost raw on the inside,cookin finishes in thr sauce. If not Red pack dont bother!

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