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In order to make tomato purée from scratch, tomatoes are boiled and then ground in a grinder to make a paste.

As mentioned here, usually as I have been taught, one must always reduce the tomato paste till it is brick red in colour. No spices or flavours added yet. It is only tomato.

Example: For making a watery gravy, the tomato is reduced to brick red and then a great deal of water is added to make it almost as thin as water.

However I have a doubt whether it is always necessary to do so.

Question The question is, when should one reduce it to brick red and when should one stop midway? (To obtain what results one should reduce to brick red and to obtain what results must one stop midway)


(Please give one or two examples - For example, while making Spaghetti Arabiatta, should the tomato paste be reduced to brick red and add a little water later on OR should one stop mid way when the desired consistency is obtained? What will happen in either case? What is the logic to do either?

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  • Honestly it seems an awful waste of energy to reduce then add back water. Traditional methods can often be wasteful.
    – Chris H
    May 27, 2023 at 17:58
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    I'd also imagine reducing by colour would be very hit & miss… I've also never seen a brick-red tomato sauce. Maybe the bricks where you come from are different.
    – Tetsujin
    May 27, 2023 at 18:13
  • So do you recommend adding flavours before and reducing only to the required consistency? And what about the watery gravy thing what should one do there? @ChrisH
    – Adiyarkku
    May 27, 2023 at 19:48
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    @Adiyarkku I do, whether in pasta sauces, chilli, or tomato-based curries. If I want it thinner I add water (or stock), I just don't simmer out water only to add it back. If I want a well-cooked tomato flavour I start with a small amount of double-concentrated puree (bought like that, in a jar, tin, on squeezy tube) and add it to ingredients I'd just fried (spices, onions, garlic etc.).
    – Chris H
    May 27, 2023 at 20:44
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    It depends what I'm cooking, but in general, if I want that flavour, I'll be adding chopped tomatoes and/or passata (sieved tomatoes). When I cooked with meat on a regular basis, some dishes had tomato puree added after browning seasoned meat, but no more tonato. But this is all opinion
    – Chris H
    May 28, 2023 at 7:15

1 Answer 1

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Your question and the included link appear to be referring to different issues. I’ll attempt to answer, and you can clarify.

Tomato paste is used to add umami or savoriness to a dish. It is vey high in glutamates. Your link suggests that deeply caramelizing the paste is an important step, and one with which I agree. Caramelization will add significantly to the umami of the tomato paste, and thus the flavor of your final product. …even if you add other liquid back to the dish.

My confusion comes in two places. Are you making your own paste, or using prepared paste in another dish? If you are using the paste in another dish, how much you caramelize might depend on the dish, and how deeply you want it to be flavored.

Second, not all tomato-based sauces or stews contain or need tomato paste. Again, it depends on your final product. For example, I would not use paste at all in spaghetti arabiatta (although you certainly can), but I would use it in bolognese.

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  • I’m making my own purée by grinding boiled tomatoes from the grocery. No canned tinned stuff.
    – Adiyarkku
    May 28, 2023 at 9:10
  • So basically you are saying that caramelising tomato paste depends on the depth of the flavour I want in a particular dish. Spaghetti Arabiatta need not be caramelised to that extent.
    – Adiyarkku
    May 28, 2023 at 9:13
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    Your link suggests that for the deepest flavor, one should caramelize well. However, I am aware of recipes that add paste without cooking, just cook lightly, and cook very well. So, it depends on the flavor profile you want. I don't use paste in by basic Italian tomato sauce (that becomes the basis of Arabiatta, if I choose to make it). So, it is a personal preference. You should do what you like, but realize what flavors paste imparts, and how manipulating the ingredient changes its impact. Some practice will tell you a lot.
    – moscafj
    May 28, 2023 at 9:31
  • Even I’m using the thing as the base itself for the Arabiatta. It’s not an addition to the main sauce. So basically I don’t need to caramelise the base that much?
    – Adiyarkku
    May 28, 2023 at 9:33
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    It's really personal preference. You may like it carmelized a little...carmelized a lot...not carmelized at all...or without paste...As you can see here. This recipe contains no paste: ciaoflorentina.com/arrabiata-sauce This is more along the lines of how I would make it. ...but don't be constrained by recipes. Make what you like.
    – moscafj
    May 28, 2023 at 9:59

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