It’s for so much more than spaghetti sauce.

Okay, admit it—somewhere in the dark recesses of your fridge (probably behind the mayo and the prepared horseradish on the door) you have a half squished tube of tomato paste that’s been hiding there for way too long.

First, I would like to congratulate you on graduating to the tube. Yes they are a little bit more expensive than the cans, but unless you use up the entire can right away, you’re almost guaranteed to come across a molding can of tomato paste in a couple of weeks.

And the tubes can last virtually forever. But I would love to convince you to go ahead and start using it now.

Now, let’s talk about tomato paste and why it’s completely different from the other tomato “products” you have in your pantry, and likely rely on to the exclusion of “the tube.”

Canned tomatoes, in all of their various incarnations (whole, peeled, diced, crushed, sauce, etc.) are a truly great pantry staple. But somehow, tomato paste seems to be relegated to the forgotten area of both the fridge and our brains. And that’s a great pity, because good tomato paste can transform any number of dishes. And not just tomato-heavy ones either.

The major difference in what tomato paste brings to the party, as opposed to other tomato products is deeply concentrated taste. The others bring bright, acidic, fresh tomato “zing.” Meanwhile, paste adds the savor “simmered all day” flavor without, well, simmering all day!

We all know tomato paste is a great addition to a tomato sauce.

But, I’m a firm believer that dishes without major tomato presence can also benefit from a little squirt of tomato paste. Dishes that need some more depth, dishes that want for “a little something extra,” but you’re not quite sure what that something is—these are the dishes that need tomato paste.

Here are but a few delicious examples:

Those are just a start, so don’t be limited by these suggestions. I've started adding this “little something extra” secret ingredient to all sorts of things, like: red wine pan sauces, chili (both meat- and bean-based), vegetable soups, stir-fries.

The list is endless; let your imagination run wild. My suggestion is to try a few different tubes of tomato paste, decide on your favorite—and then, don’t let it fall behind other things in the fridge. Keep it front and center, and USE IT.