Can You Use Tomato Paste as a Substitute for Crushed Tomatoes?

Dear Home-Ec 101,

Can I substitute tomato paste for crushed tomatoes for a pasta sauce? If I add water to it, will it taste like a pasta sauce?

Signed,
Pasty in Pascagoula

Heather says:

I actually have gotten this question before, but something tells me it’s a little hard to find: Tomato Paste and Crushed Tomatoes.

While tomato paste is used to thicken sauces, simply thinning tomato paste with water  isn’t going to give you a great pasta sauce. However, if you need to use tomato paste as a substitute for canned tomato SAUCE then use the following substitution for recipes calling for one 14.5oz can of tomato sauce.

1 can (6oz) of tomato paste, thinned with water to equal 14.5 oz (just under two liquid cups)

Thinned out tomato paste will not taste like pasta sauce any more than plain canned diced, crushed, or pureed tomatoes will taste like a pasta sauce, all of these are simply ingredients in your final dish. It’s the aromatics -vegetables like garlic and onions- cooked with herbs and spices that really give a pasta sauce character. A note to the foodies, in this instance I’m speaking generally about tomato pasta sauces, not specifically about the 5 mother sauces of French cooking. We’ll get into those another day.

To be sure your substitution will work, are you looking for simple marinara or are you thinking more of a bolognese -a meat based sauce with tomatoes? If it’s the latter, yes, you can substitute the thinned tomato paste as part of the recipe. In the former case, your results will be very underwhelming at best.

Submit your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

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Comments

  1. alice.dick says

    Heather is right. Remember, in order to thicken tomato sauces they have to be cooked. Tomato sauce has to be cooked longer than tomato paste. This can lead to increased acidity and bitterness. You can get away with it in a meat sauce or a sauce with lots of other ingredients and flavors, or by adding a pinch of sugar; but if the tomato is the main ingredient it’s not going to taste that great.

  2. alice.dick says

    Heather is right. Remember, in order to thicken tomato sauces they have to be cooked. Tomato paste has to be cooked longer than tomato sauce. This can lead to increased acidity and bitterness. You can get away with it in a meat sauce or a sauce with lots of other ingredients and flavors, or by adding a pinch of sugar; but if the tomato is the main ingredient it’s not going to taste that great.

    seconds ago

  3. KeterMagick says

    Timely! Last night my husband asked for spaghetti for dinner, and I thought I was set…but sometime in the last two days, he used the can of tomatoes I had earmarked for it, and I was out of fresh tomatoes. I discovered this as I was cooking, so I had to improvise…part tomato paste and part tomato juice. Worked fine. The sauce was meatless and I didn’t add any sugar, although there was a little sweetness from the sauteed veggies. So try adding tomato juice to your tomato paste instead of water to thin it.