Tomato paste is a thick paste made by cooking tomatoes for several hours to reduce the water content, straining out the seeds and skins, and cooking the liquid again to reduce the base to a thick, rich concentrate. It is used to impart an intense tomato flavour to a variety of dishes, such as pasta, soups and braised meat.
By contrast, tomato purée is a liquid with a thinner consistency than tomato paste, while tomato sauce is even thinner in consistency.
History and traditions
Tomato paste is traditionally made in parts of Sicily, southern Italy and Malta by spreading out a much-reduced tomato sauce on wooden boards that are set outdoors under the hot August sun to dry the paste until it is thick enough when it is scraped up and held together in a richly coloured, dark ball. Today, this artisan product is harder to find than the industrial version (which is much thinner). Commercial production uses tomatoes with thick pericarp walls and lower overall moisture; these are very different from tomatoes typically found in a supermarket.
Tomato paste became commercially available in the early 20th century.