Today's tip

Tomato paste is used in cooking to bring that extra tomato flavor to the finished dish.

Tomato paste, so important to the cooking of the north of Italy, where my roots are, is always a staple in my kitchen. American tomato paste is usually found in six-ounce cans while Italian imports come in toothpaste-like tubes. I prefer the toothpaste packaging because it’s easiest to store; remember to keep either type in the refrigerator after opening. I use it in soups, and it is especially good when making sauces with game meat such as venison, pheasant, quail or boar. Remember that tomato paste is best when cooked for longer periods of time in the preparation–thirty minutes or more; it is not an ingredient that you can add at the last minute! Whenever I add tomato paste, I drop it directly onto the pan bottom – in what I call a hot spot – and cook it for a minute before stirring it with other ingredients. The brief toasting, or caramelizing, deepens the taste and layers additional flavor into the paste.