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One French Word: concentré, a French recipe: sauce tomate maison

There is always a glut of tomatoes at the end of summer. They can be bought cheaply at the farmer’s market and it is an economical and satisfying way of making tomato sauce or concentrate for the freezer. Try to find old variety tomatoes, which are very dense inside, lots of meat and not too many seeds. They are often huge and misshapen. There is frankly little point in doing this recipe with tasteless, waterlogged supermarket tomatoes.

The French language bit:

concentré (masculine noun), le concentré, un concentré, les concentrés (you don’t hear the s) = concentrate as in  tomato concentrate (concentré de tomates), 

but it can also be an adjective: concentré (m), concentrée (f), concentrés (m pl), concentrées (f pl) = concentrated as in du lait concentré (condensed milk) or du jus d’orange concentré (concentrated orange juice), 

and a verb : concentrer = to concentrate (something) or se concentrer (to concentrate oneself on something) as in je me concentre sur mon travail (I am concentrating on my work). 

I don’t seem to be able to find any expressions using the word. If you find any, let me know!

Main ingredients

Main ingredients


For every 1kg500 of tomatoes (see conversion tables)

  • 350gr onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • fresh thyme or basil, 
  • 2tbs olive oil
  • salt
  • peppercorns
  • celery leaves (optional)
Cored tomatoes

Cored tomatoes


  • Peel and roughly chop the onion and the garlic
  • Fry gently in olive oil until translucent
  • Wash, core and roughly chop the tomatoes, removing any woody bits of core that remain
  • Add the tomatoes to the translucent onions with seasonings (a sprig or two of fresh thyme, some basil, a little salt and some peppercorns – you can adjust the seasoning later)
  • Chopped celery leaves, if you have some to hand, add greatly to the flavour of the finished product. Add them now.
  • Stir the mixture well and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down immediately, cover and simmer gently, stirring frequently, for an hour.  Allow to cool.
  • Now for a tip from my Bordeaux grandmother, passed down to me via my (now 96 year old) mother: their advice is to place a piece of muslin on top of the sauce, lying across it, so that the tomato “water” seeps up through the muslin and can easily be removed with a ladle each time you pass by the pot (without removing any tomato at the same time because it is trapped under the muslin). I leave the muslin bit out (too lazy to wash it out afterwards), but I rest a ladle on top of the tomato mixture. I leave it like that and go away and do something else for ten minutes. When I come back, the ladle should be full. The water rises to the top of the tomato mixture and fills it, again and again, until you have the consistency you are looking for. Save the tomato water to make tomato or vegetable soup. Or add it to the juice of a stew.
  • How you proceed from here depends on the result you are aiming at. If you want chunky tomato sauce with all the bits in it (I would remove the sprigs of thyme), wait until it is quite cold and bag it in portions of a suitable size for a meal for your family. Put it in the fridge, and freeze later (do label it, one doesn’t always automatically remember what’s in those bags…). If you like smooth tomato purée, put it in the blender before freezing. If you want real concentré de tomate, purée it and either go through the ladle procedure again, or hang it up on a kitchen tap in a muslin cloth or an ancient tea towel over a bowl to catch the precious juice. It can then be frozen in large ice cube trays, and transferred to bags thereafter, each cube being just the dose needed when real concentré de tomates is called for.

Tomato sauce

I like it thick and chunky as you can see from the photograph of my finished product.

Chunky pasta sauce

Chunky pasta sauce

The amount you will make will vary greatly depending on the variety of tomato that you use. You will usually lose about a third of the starting weight in water, but it can be as much as a half. With my 1kg500 of tomatoes, for instance, I managed four freezer bags each with enough pasta sauce for two people, about 850gr in total.

Ready to freeze

Ready to freeze

It is not a tricky procedure. It can be done while seeing to something else (cooking another dish, knitting, writing) as long as you remember to stir from time to time.

When in winter you go to the freezer and pull out a pack of home-made sauce for pasta or poulet basquaise, you will smile and think that all this really was worth the effort.

Bon appétit!

Two PSs: 1) I have just topped the 20,000 views! Thank you to all my readers. And 2) WordPress seems to be changing the size of the font in my posts at random, without giving me any choice in the matter. Sorry about this.


About OneFrenchWord

I was a professional linguist and have been a life-long foodie. I am now lucky enough to be retired and free to roam the beaches around my home at the tip of the Finistère (Brittany, France). Writing is occupying a larger place in my life, with this blog and a children's book in preparation. I shall feel much happier calling myself a writer when I have published a book. And so posts on OneFrenchWord will be published first as an e-book, my ambition being to see a glossy volume on French language and cuisine in print some day. So keep reading, and snap up the book when it appears!

3 responses »

  1. I so enjoy your “One French Word”~Thank You 4 taking the time 2 write and share with us(;

  2. gwynethjmarshman

    Ooh, I’m looking forward to seeing a Poulet Basquaise recipe now… :-) I do a an easy one by Delia, but it would be interesting to see a ‘proper’ French one!


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