Spicy Hot Tomato Oil is one of my favorite foods in Syracuse, New York. When visiting my brother, he and his wife brought me to a restaurant as a welcome. Pastabilities, a modern Italian restaurant, serves delectable pastas and sauces. (To be completely honest, I only sampled the pasta when I was there — the carbonara and lasagna. Though, I like my carbonara and lasagna better 🙂.) I really loved my experience there and look forward to going again! I’m told that the lunch and dinner experiences are very different. And I went for dinner.
I’ve never reviewed a restaurant before, but I want you to fully understand the feeling and flavor of the place. Right now, it is really cold in Syracuse, NY. Below freezing cold. When you walk up to the restaurant two tall double doors greet you. You enter and the heat immediately covers you like rolling waves. The smell of good food slowly makes its way to you as the heat penetrates your cold body. The staff ushers you to an open table and they quickly bring you a bowl of spicy hot tomato oil and fresh sourdough bread. My goodness, I could have stopped right there and eaten only that.
I ordered the duck bacon flatbread pizza which blew my mind. Just read these ingredients and allow the flavors to recreate in your mind’s eye. This comes right from their menu: house-cured, smoked duck bacon, Humboldt Fog aged goat cheese, mozzarella, tart cherries, shallots, pomegranate drizzle, cracked black pepper, our bakery flatbread. Worth every bite. The flatbread was almost a focaccia, and everything else paired so well that I’m salivating right now. I either have to go back or make it myself!
I am not sure if an equivalent of Pastabilities’ spicy hot tomato oil exists in Italy, but I feel like this should definitely be an Italian classic! Especially in Calabria where they produce some incredibly spicy peppers! I’d be shocked if something like this didn’t already exist there! So let’s get to it and figure out how to make it!!
Spicy Hot Tomato Oil
First thing I should say is that Pastabilities uses honey in their oil and I can’t figure out why. I feel like my recipe here doesn’t need any sweetener. I’ve noticed that if you let tomatoes cook for long enough then the sweetness takes care of itself. Let’s see what I mean by getting all of the ingredients:
- 120 milliliters (½ cup) of extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves of garlic, sliced
- 1 teaspoon of chili flakes (or 2 small chili peppers)
- 1 can (28 ounces) San Marzano Tomatoes
- Salt, to taste
Now, putting it all together is actually quite simple! I’m not sure how Pastabilities does it, but here’s my imitation (which if I do say so myself, is pretty accurate).
We begin by pouring the olive oil, chili flakes and garlic into a small cup. The longer we can let the flavors infuse the better. That is, infusing for 30 minutes is better than a 10 minute infusion. (Keep in mind that at a certain point the flavors will be absorbed into the oil and no more flavor can be infused, so there is a maximum amount of time that you should infuse. See my article on garlic oil or wonderhowto and paleogrubs for tips.)
For the second step, pour the infused oil (with the garlic and chili pepper flakes into a small pan to sauté. We want to sauté until the garlic becomes translucent. If you want a stronger garlic flavor, feel free to add more garlic at this point. (The same goes for a spicier flavor and chilis.)
While the oil sautes the garlic and the chili peppers, pour the tomatoes into a sieve over a bowl. All the tomato juice and sauce will flow directly into the bowl. Now, squeeze the tomatoes and get all the liquid out that you can. Discard the thicker pieces that you can’t squeeze. You could always blend everything together, but those chunky bits will thicken the sauce prematurely and I want to avoid that. The thickened part of the sauce should come in the next step.
To thicken the sauce, pour the loose tomato juice/pulp (everything that made it through the sieve) into the pan with the oil. Now sauté until it begins to thicken. The sauce should be thick enough to hold some shape but thin enough to still be a good dipping sauce.
And that’s it! A nice simple (yet delicious) replication of Pastabilities’ Spicy Hot Tomato Oil sauce!