Originally Posted by Mr T 59874
Thanks dls, good info. Are there any additional spices you might suggest?
Tom - Using the process described I would not add any spices or herbs. What you're making is a pure paste which can the be stored for use as an ingredient in dishes such as sauces, soups, stews. etc. That's when you would add appropriates spice or herbs. The 5 lbs. of tomatoes you start with results in around 8 oz. of a highly concentrated and intense paste.
In a sense, the process is a modern day way of mimicking what Italians in the South, especially Sicily, have been doing forever when the prepare what is known as Estratto di Pomodoro. Estratto translates to "extract" or "excerpt", which is what is accomplished with the moisture in the tomatoes. The traditional process calls for the puree to spread in a thin layer on large wooden boards and placed outside to dry in the sun. The boards are brought inside during the night and covered with muslin. The process is repeated daily, and depending on the concentration and intensity desired, the process can take anywhere from 3 to 10 days. Throughout the day the paste is spread around with a spatula or, as the elderly nonnas do, with their oil covered hands. Once finished, the Estratta is put into clay pots or jars, covered with a bit of olive oil, and stored for future use.
The traditional process has not died out entirely, especially in the smaller towns and villages of Sicily where, following the late summer harvest, it's not uncommon to see the paste covered boards out on the streets, lanes, and sidewalks. The photo below (not mine) should give you a better idea of what I'm referring to.