I had been planning on making a spaghetti dinner, that night and it was about 10AM. I was getting out my canned tomatoes, Tomato paste, dried herbs and such (it was going to be a meatless sauce, one of my guests was vegetarian) and was going to stir them all together, adjust for simmer and then simmer until thick and reduced enough to get the flavor that a sauce gets after hours. And Pasta with a non-meat sauce was something that one could make without it slapping the guests in the face that one of the attendees was a veggie, this was a long time ago. The ingredients taste raw when not simmered for some time, though, justifying the time to make sauce, or the purchase of prepared sauce when you didn't have time for the long simmer.
He then put a layer of oil in the pot, and tossed in the garlic. When it started to brown, he added the tomato paste. It started out bright red, over medium high heat, then after a few minutes of stirring in the intense heat, it changed all at once to a darker color. He then said, "Give it as long as you want once it has had that color change, but the change is important."
Then he stirred it for a couple more minutes and it really didn't change any more, he threw in one of the cans of tomatoes, and stirred it until it was all mixed. "Taste it," he said.
I did. It had a fresh taste from the chopped tomatoes that had no time to reduce, but the tomato paste was clearly no longer raw, it tasted like it had simmered for way more than the 10 minutes or so it had been cooking.
Since then, whenever I start a sauce and use paste in the cooking, anywhere, I cook the paste until it has that color change and, I think, the sugar carmelizes like I think it does and it no longer has the raw flavor. Even when I start with a puree, I try to fry it off somehow. It still takes a half hour to whip up the sauce with a can of paste and a big home style can of chopped tomato, but if you start it at the same time you start the big pot of water boiling, you can eat them at the same time. Add (to taste):
- 3-4 TBSP minced garlic
- 1-2 TBSP olive oil
- 1-2 small can paste - and "fry off"
- 1-2 large home can chopped tomato
- 1-2 tablespoons Italian Seasoning
- 1-2 tablespoons dried Oregano
- 1-2 tablespoons dried sweet basil
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried red pepper
- Salt and pepper to taste
To the above you can add parmesian cheese, chopped beef that has been fried and drained, sliced Italian Sausage, or anything else you want to add for flavoring. You can even roast and slice peppers, chop garden vegetables, add onions and a zillion other things, but this is the base.
I've web searched for this before and found nothing - then I just looked for it again, and found a couple references to "fry off" tomato paste until you get a color change on the Food Network, so maybe this is common knowledge that I'm just unfamiliar with. But a few years ago I made pasta sauce for a local spaghetti dinner and no one I was cooking with knew the technique, so I don't know.
My grandmother, from Bare, put the tomato through the cranking food mill, and then simmered it for hours, adjusting it with paste early in the reduction if needed, so this is a trick she never learned.
Is this common knowledge these days? Is it someone everyone knows?