Spicy Hot Tomato Oil (Pastabilities Copycat)


Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Serves: 30 Ounces

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.

Add a few chunks of tomato and it makes an incredible sauce!

And that’s it! A nice simple (yet delicious) replication of Pastabilities’ Spicy Hot Tomato Oil sauce!

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Spicy Hot Tomato Oil

  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Total time: 120 minutes
  • Serves: 30 Ounces

Pastabilities in Syracuse NY makes the best hot spicy tomato oil you will ever have. Luckily, it's easy to make!


  • 120 milliliters (½ cup) Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon chili pepper flakes, or 2 whole chili peppers (ideally chile de arbol peppers)
  • 1 can (28 ounces) San Marzano Tomatoes
  • salt, to taste


  • 1)

    Infuse the garlic and chili flakes into the olive oil for an hour.

  • 2)

    Saute oil mixture, in a small pan until it barely starts to saute. Continue to let it saute until the garlic becomes transparent.

  • 3)

    Hand squeeze the tomatoes. 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.

  • 4)

    Saute the tomatoes and oil for thirty so minutes until the tomatoes begin to sweeten and the sauce begins to thickens. The sauce should be thick enough to hold its shape but thin enough to be a dipping sauce.

  • 5)

    Serve and enjoy!


  • When infusing the oil, the minimum time should be one hour. Several hours be better.
  • If the chili flakes are placed in a tea ball then the flakes won’t be felt when the oil is eaten So, feel free to remove them if you’d like!
  • The hot spicy chili oil can be bottled or canned
  • It can be stored in the fridge for up to a week
  • Blending the tomatoes rather than hand crushing (and passing through a sieve) is an option, however it will leave the sauce much thicker
  • The original recipe (based on this video) uses honey. Honey may be added, to taste, but add just enough to counteract the acidity of the tomatoes


  • Julie

    Thursday, 4th March 2021 at 6:46 pm

    Super bitter!! 😭

    1. Tyler

      Monday, 5th April 2021 at 7:46 pm

      Hi Julie,
      What kind of tomatoes did you use? I’ve found that the way certain types of tomatoes are canned will lead to varying flavors

  • Rick McAllister

    Tuesday, 31st August 2021 at 9:52 am

    I remember she put some honey in the recipe as well

    1. Tyler

      Tuesday, 31st August 2021 at 7:39 pm

      I haven’t tried that, the tomatoes I used were sweet enough when cooked that I didn’t have to add any sort of sweetener. 🙂
      If I may ask, who do you remember adding honey to their recipe? The Pastabilities staff?

      1. Dianna

        Sunday, 3rd April 2022 at 8:15 pm

        There definitely was honey added and a good bit of it. The owner of the establishment was on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives (Season 16 episode 2) yesterday and made the sauce but in large portions with no indication of how much of each. She was just dumping the ingredients in the pan and then used the immersion blender. This episode aired 4/2/22 and will air again on 5/13 and 5/14 on the Food Network channel (https://www.foodnetwork.com/shows/diners-drive-ins-and-dives/episodes/fully-focused). I’m not sure if you can watch the whole episode or not. This is what I got out of it if it will help you:
        olive oil
        sliced garlic

        Carmelize it on low for about 15 minutes or until garlic turns golden. Strain the oil and reserve the garlic.

        In a separate pot, add:
        tomato puree
        red chili mixture (maybe their famous Wicked Hot Sauce with chipotle, serranos, and hot chili oil)

        Simmer on the stove and then add the oil into the mixture. Use an immersion blender to blend well. Add back the reserved garlic.

        1. Tyler

          Tuesday, 28th June 2022 at 9:34 pm

          Thanks Dianna! I’ll test it out and update the recipe!
          Cheers 🙂

      2. Akiko

        Saturday, 21st May 2022 at 7:10 pm

        Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives visited Pastabilities and there was a demo of the hot tomato sauce. Perhaps the comment referred to that episode? Here’s a clip if you’d like to see: https://youtu.be/Nto60eYCRH8

        I loved the hot tomato oil as a student and now here I am 15 years later hoping to make it in my kitchen in California. Thanks for sharing your recipe!

        1. Tyler

          Tuesday, 28th June 2022 at 9:37 pm

          I dare say you’re right Akiko! I’ll take a look at the video and update the recipe!
          Glad you liked the recipe 🙂

  • Kristin filippu

    Wednesday, 20th October 2021 at 8:58 pm

    What kind of chilies? And pepper flakes? Just crushed red pepper flakes? I’m always very specific when I follow a recipe. Thanks

    1. Tyler

      Wednesday, 8th December 2021 at 6:49 pm

      Hi Kristin,

      Thanks for asking! I’ll update the recipe to specify

      I used Chile de arbol peppers because they provide a nice level of spice and flavor (comparable to the spice level and flavor I noticed last trying the sauce at Pastabilities). I’ve also tried serrano peppers (but I felt that the flavor profile didn’t quite match up).

  • FranL

    Thursday, 19th May 2022 at 8:58 pm

    My mother made sauce every Sunday, and my dad would go to the Italian store and buy warm Italian bread. We couldn’t wait until he got home to have a small bowl of Mom’s
    sauce (not spicy, just delicious) with the a chunk of the warm bread to dip in it.

    1. Tyler

      Tuesday, 28th June 2022 at 9:36 pm

      That sounds nice and relaxing! There’s nothing like dipping fresh bread in a delicious sauce
      Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • David

    Thursday, 24th August 2023 at 4:31 pm

    Do you strain out the pepper flakes before serving or just leave them in there?

    1. Tyler

      Saturday, 9th September 2023 at 12:41 pm

      I usually remove them, but not always!

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