How to Store Leftover Tomato Paste

Food Life

Don’t you hate it when a recipe calls for a few teaspoons, or even just a small dollop, of tomato paste and suddenly even the dinky little 6 oz cans seem giant?  I mean, they’re already just about the smallest can in the canned food aisle, but what do you do with the rest of it? Leave it in the can and put it in the fridge? Scoop it into a tupperware container and put it in the fridge? Forget about it? Triple or quadruple the recipe in order to utilize the whole can? Throw it away?

I, too, used to have that dilemma. In the spirit of not wasting food, I would place a little square of plastic wrap over the top of the opened can, using a rubber band to hold it in place if needed, and gingerly place the leftover can in my fridge. Well-intentioned, of course, but over time, the can would make its way to a dark little corner of my refrigerator, long forgotten and definitely unusable. Until one day, I discovered by reading some online forums that you can indeed freeze tomato paste! And let me tell you, that little fact changed my culinary life.

Here’s my trick:

Spread out a sizable piece of plastic/saran wrap. Spoon out the remaining contents of the opened can of tomato paste.

Using a spatula or the back of a spoon, spread the tomato paste so that it is no more than about a 1/2 inch thick.

Fold the plastic wrap so that everything is covered and with minimal air bubbles.

Place the wrapped bundle of paste into a ziploc bag and store in the freezer.

The next time a recipe calls for tomato paste, you don’t even have to thaw it. Because we spread it out in a fairly thin layer, you can just pull the brick out of the freezer, break off as much as you need, re-wrap, and put it back. Easy peasy and nothing wasted!

Need ideas on what to make with tomato paste? Might I suggest some com do or nui xao? (No, we’re not biased at all…)

Comfort Food: Nui Xao (Stir Fried Macaroni)

Main Dishes, Recipes, Side Dishes

Growing up, one of my favorite one-pot-wonders was tomato stir fried macaroni. Just the aroma of the pasta tossed in tomato paste with garlic and onions brings to mind memories of watching my mom stir fry a quick, hearty meal. The base is similar to Vietnamese tomato rice (com do), and the add-ins can vary from ground beef to chopped shrimp to ground shrimp. The shrimp is my personal favorite, but using ground beef can give it a Hamburger Helper-like flavor (in the good, no-frills, comfort food sort of way). Leftovers keep well and the recipe below will make 4-5 servings — for us that’s a dinner and a lunch per person!

Looking for a quick recipe for dinner? Look no further!

The finished product

Ingredients:

1 1-lb box of pasta, any shape (we like elbows and shells.. shapes that don’t fall apart too easily)

1 tbsp garlic, minced

2 tbsp olive oil (omit if using ground beef)

Choice of protein: 1/2 lb ground beef or 1/2 lb shrimp, chopped or minced/ground

1 cup onions, chopped

2 tsp tomato paste, or more as needed

Garlic salt (or regular salt)

Black pepper to taste

Maggi or soy sauce

Boil a pot of water and cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and shock the pasta. I know the hardcore Italians would frown upon the rinsing of pasta, but it keeps the noodles from overcooking while prepping the proteins and ensures that the pasta won’t break apart when it comes time to stir frying.

Rinsed macaroni

In the same pot, start your protein. If using ground beef, cook it in the pan (without oil) on medium-high heat with the garlic and onions; season with salt (or garlic salt) and pepper. Drain off some of the fat when all of the meat has turned from pink to brown. If using shrimp, first clean, peel, and de-vein. Then either chop into small pieces or finely mince until ground. Season with salt (or garlic salt) and pepper. Heat olive oil in a pan with some garlic and sweat the onions. When they are nearly translucent, add the shrimp and cook until they turn from gray to pinkish white. Alternatively, you could omit the protein for a vegetarian side dish; just start your pan with oil, garlic, and onions.

Add the pasta. Stir in the tomato paste, and mix well to evenly incorporate. Add more as needed. I like to sprinkle a bit of Maggi over the pasta and give it a quick toss prior to serving and let each person season their own portions to taste. If you have the time or patience, turn the heat up a bit higher and let the tomato-y pasta brown a bit. :) It doesn’t turn quite as crispy as com do would, but it adds an interesting texture to the few pieces that darken up.

I make mine with extra tomato paste :)

Voila! A quick and easy dinner in minutes (after waiting for the water to boil, of course). Just serve it up and enjoy!

Ready to nom!