Great Paste Tomato Varieties
Think spaghetti, chili, pasta and pizzas: Tomato paste enhances the flavor of many dishes. Food historians think it originated in Sicily, Italy and Malta, where cooks traditionally spread their thick, spicy tomato sauce on boards and left them in the sun. After much of the liquid evaporated, the resulting paste was saved for later use.
Today’s American-style tomato paste is much different. It’s still concentrated, but it’s often flavored with corn syrup.
It’s easy to make your own homemade paste, with or without added sugar. Begin by picking ripe paste tomatoes from your garden, then chopping them and boiling them to reduce some of the juice. When the cooked tomatoes are cool, sieve or process them to remove skins and seeds. Next, add a little salt and some good olive oil and simmer, or spread the mixture onto a baking sheet and pop it into the oven. The paste is ready when it’s the consistency you want, and it turns brick red and shiny.
For the best results, start with the most delicious paste tomatoes you can find. Any of the varieties we’ve listed below will give you great results; they’re all packed with rich, meaty tomato taste.
- ‘Margherita’ - Ready in about 70 days from sowing, ‘Margherita’ is a determinate variety (a tomato that’s been bred to stay compact and bear over just a month or two, so you can pick and process the tomatoes in a short period of time). The fruits grow 5-6 inches long with dark red, thin skins. The plants produce heavily and are resistant to fusarium and verticillium wilt.
Note: Fusarium and verticillium wilt are fungal diseases that often attack tomato plants, causing them to turn yellow and wilt. Affected plants may die or become too stunted and weak to produce properly. If a tomato cultivar is resistant to these diseases, you’ll see an F and/or a V after its name. An N after a name means the tomato plants are resistant to root-knot nematodes, microscopic worms that attack tomatoes at the roots. Other letters indicate other kinds of diseases.
- ‘MiRoma’ - The block-shaped fruits of this plum tomato variety have thick, meaty walls and bright red skins. The tomatoes grow to about 5 ounces on vigorous, highly-productive plants. Expect a harvest about 70 days from planting. MiRoma is a bush variety with verticillium, fusarium and root-knot nematode resistance that tops out at around 3 feet.
- ‘Rubia’ - ‘Rubia’ tomatoes are medium-sized, elongated fruits with smooth, red skins. They’re ready for harvest in 69 to 80 days from sowing. The vigorous plants are determinate, growing about 2 to 3 feet in height.
- ‘Yaqui’ - This high-yield variety bears extra-large fruits 75 days after planting. The blocky tomatoes are produced on vigorous plants that are well-adapted for most regions. Each ripened fruit weighs about 3 to 4 ounces. ‘Yaqui’ plants grow 10 to 24 inches tall, so they’re good for small spaces.
- ‘SuperSauce’ - This tomato’s name says it all; the fruits can weigh up to 2 pounds each. These are indeterminate plants, unlike most paste tomato varieties, but they’re easy to grow and have good disease resistance. Expect a harvest about 70 days from planting. Some gardeners report that ‘SuperSauce’ is also great for slicing because it’s meaty but not overly juicy.
Tips on growing paste tomatoes:
- Before you plant, test your soil by sending a sample to your local extension service office, if they provide testing, or purchase a kit and do your own test. Tomatoes need soil that’s rich in nutrients, so add any amendments indicated by your results.
- Give your plants at least 6 hours of full sunlight each day and loose, well-drained soil. Most paste varieties are bush tomatoes, so they won’t need staking.
- After planting, keep your tomatoes watered deeply and regularly, and mulch to help hold moisture in the ground. Stake indeterminate plants to keep the foliage and fruits out of the soil.