I found an old cookery book while on holiday at the german coast, it was published by Peter Pauper press, Mt. Vernon, New York in 1959.

All recipes that use tomato paste just say "1/2 can tomato paste (italian style)" without giving any weights or other measurements.

So, did tomato paste only come in one size in the 1950s? If so, which size was it? And would "italian style" denote anything special like it containing herbs or anything like it?

(I'd like to try some of the recipes at some point, but currently I've got no idea how much to use and if it should be anything other than plain tomato paste...)

  • 1
    I hate when I run into seeming imprecision like this in recipes. Guess that's just the OCD in me!
    – Brian
    Commented Sep 3, 2011 at 17:42

1 Answer 1


From: http://www.ellenskitchen.com/pantry/cansize.html

Can sizes change over time, important if you are adapting an older recipe. Prior to 1980's), #303 was the popular size for most fruits and vegetables.;

No. 303 = 16-17 oz.(1 lb.-1 lb.-1 oz.) = 2 cups = 4 servings;

Principal size for fruits and vegetables. Also some meat products, ready-to-serve soups, specialties.

Tomato paste has, as far as I know, always come in size 1/2 (6 ounce) cans, at least since I began using it, starting in the mid 1960s.

Think this is what you are looking for.

There are lots of information bits on line, search; 'can sizes'.


  • +1 Thanks for this, I think that's it. I'm german, and it wasn't obvious to me that "1/2 can" actually would be something meaningful in it's own right, I thought it just meant take half of the contents of a can of size x without knowing what x actually is. That also explains why some other recipes in that book appeared to be a bit "vague" ...
    – takrl
    Commented Sep 3, 2011 at 16:26
  • 1
    There are all kinds of arcane measurements used in the older cookbooks. When I first started out, the can business had me baffled a bit too.
    – Frankie
    Commented Sep 3, 2011 at 19:26
  • 2
    It can even seem that way with current recipes. In North America volume measurements are frequently in cups. Drove me mad (I have cups that differ by more than a factor of two in volume) until I realized they don't mean just any old cup - it's defined to be exactly 473176473/2000000 (or approximately 236.6) ml.
    – Erik P.
    Commented Sep 5, 2011 at 18:08
  • It's not just in the 50s, to this day almost all US tomato paste comes in 6oz cans. Of course many of us prefer Italian tubes, since many recipes call for 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, after which the rest spoils in the back of the refrigerator :-)..
    – user57361
    Commented Dec 19, 2018 at 0:46

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