What is the difference between tomato sauce and tomato paste?

Classic Italian tomato sauce over pasta

Classic Italian tomato sauce over pasta

Tomato Paste – Tomato Sauce – What’s the Difference?

I am often asked what is the difference between tomato sauce and tomato paste? It’s perfectly understandable if you don’t cook a lot with tomato paste. I’ll try to break down what they are, how they’re used individually, and how they’re often used together.

Cook scallops

Tomato sauce

Tomato sauce is complicated. There are so many variations of tomato sauce depending on what country you live in, what region in that country, and even what city or town you are in.

It can be prepared with meat and vegetables or without. The spices used to make tomato sauce can run the gamut. If you looked at 1,000 different cookbooks with tomato sauce recipes, you would probably come across 1,000 different recipes.

I have a post titled How Do Celebrity Chefs Make Incredible Tomato Sauce and you will see that even though they have similar ingredients, they are completely different. And all these chefs make an Italian-style tomato sauce. But what about Spain, France, Brazil and chili? I’m sure every country has their version of tomato sauce that suits their cuisine.

I think of plain tomato sauce as a sauce made primarily from tomatoes cooked with onions, garlic, herbs and spices. I can make hundreds of versions out of this by adding meat, seafood, poultry or dairy.

The tomatoes can be fresh whole tomatoes, chopped tomatoes, diced tomatoes, or mashed tomatoes. They can be sold fresh, in jars, cans or in boxes. If you go to a supermarket, you will find several brands that sell tomatoes in one form or another.

There are quick tomato sauces that only take minutes to make in a pot. Then there are tomato sauces that cook all day. My tomato sauces are somewhere in between.

As a sauce, it’s not meant to be eaten on its own, although I’ve enjoyed a few sauces that I would eat as a meal with a loaf of Italian bread. No, tomato sauce is generally served over pasta, gnocchi, eggplant, and the list goes on.

Did you know that tomato sauce is one of the five mother sauces as described by chef Auguste Escoffier in the 19th century?

tomato paste

tomato paste

tomato paste

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