Tomato purée is a cooking essential you might be missing. Simpler and a bit thicker than its flavorful cousin, tomato sauce, tomato purée is a fast way to quickly prepare and freeze a bushel of fresh tomatoes for future cooking. Tomato purée can be turned into tomato sauce or tomato soup. It can be used to cook rice for a colorful side dish, or cooked with rice and seafood for a showstopping paella. Oh, and it’s a great base for homemade barbecue sauce.

All you need is a knife, a blender, and a little bit of time to stock your freezer with tomato purée to use year-round.

The Best Purée Tomatoes
Plum or Roma tomatoes are best for purée because they are generally grown for preserving. Paste, oven-dried tomatoes, and sauce are all made from these varieties — they are low in water content and rich in flavor. Tomato purée is a good use of bruised or imperfect tomatoes too, as you can cut away those areas and chop the rest of the tomato.

Halve the tomatoes and scoop out the seeds first. Puréeing them with the rest of the tomatoes can make the purée bitter. Personally, I don’t peel the tomatoes for purée — the quick cook makes them quite supple, and they blend well with the rest of the tomato. If you’d prefer to make a skinless purée, peel the whole tomatoes with a sharp serrated peeler before halving and coring the tomatoes.

Blend or Purée
Many preserving purists insist that a food mill is the best tool for making tomato purée, but an immersion blender, food processor, or standard blender will make quick work of puréeing the tomatoes too. If you’re working with an immersion blender, feel free to stick it right into the pot to purée. For a food processor or stand blender, let the cooked tomatoes cool for about 10 minutes before blending. Depending on the size of your blender, you may have to work in batches.

You can use fresh tomato purée right away, or you can freeze it for long-term storage. Feel free to use your favorite freezer-friendly storage method, but I prefer zip-top freezer bags, as they freeze flat (taking up less space) and thaw quickly. Freeze the purée in eight- or 15-ounce increments — that’s the amount required for most recipes. Label the bags and store in the freezer for up to six months.

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