Imagine the most tomatoey taste of tomatoes you’ve ever encountered. That’s pretty much what estratto is. It’s really not hard to make provided you have enough tomatoes and time and it will be the backbone for countless dishes throughout your fall and winter cooking seasons.

Before you even look at a recipe, start collecting tomatoes and chopping them up. Seriously. If you’re going to the farmers market to buy 2 heirlooms and want to make estratto, don’t bother. Don’t even bother if you’re buying the cheap (and inferior) Wegmans ones. Only bother if you’re going to make a serious, full-hearted commitment to tomato pasting for at least 36 hours and 10 pounds of tomatoes. That single jar is from about 15 pounds of the beauties in the post below this one, at least 20 tomatoes. This tomato cooking is not for the faint of heart.

But if you’re a true devotee, and you certainly should be, go forth.

Estratto (tomato paste to the extreme)
Active time: 2 hours. Total time: 2 days.

At least 10 pounds ripe tomatoes

Core and chop all your tomatoes, lightly salt (~2 teaspoons) and mix the the tomatoes in a large bowl or pot. Allow them to sit for a few minutes to soften and heat the pot over medium heat until simmering. Keep the tomatoes at a simmer for 10 minutes, cover the pot, and turn off the heat. Let the tomatoes steep for about half an hour.

At this point you have to separate the skins and seeds from the rest of the tomato goop. I used a food processor, but you could push it throu

gh a strainer or ignore it altogether for a more rustic estratto. Pour the mixture into any flat oven pan you can find: frying pans, cookie sheets, roasting pans. Spread your tomato sauce out in as many of these as you can fit in your oven and start cooking at 250 degrees. Bake for about 6 hours, stirring two or three times. As the sauce reduces you can combine the mixture into fewer pans. After 6 hours reduce the heat to 200 and wait. Wait

a long time. Like at least 10 hours, stirring the mix whenever a crust starts to form.

At any point you can call the paste done and take it out, but the longer you wait the more concentrated your final product will be. Mine cooked for about 20 hours total and at the end was less a liquid than a pliable solid of tomatoey bliss. Your experience may vary.