What is Hot Tom? No, it's not the latest pin-up, ladies. It's a tomato sauce that is so, so, so good you may need to enter rehab after eating it. I'm not kidding. It's that good. You just cannot stop eating. You can order it from HotTom.com and it comes in a box of pint-sized buckets. Actually, the website calls them "jars," but I've defaulted to "buckets."
What's the story? The folks at the Syracuse, NY, restaurant Pastabilities, developed this recipe years ago. It was an effort to recreate the sauce that one of the Pastabilities family members had in a remote village in Italy. They just couldn't stop thinking about that spicy-sweet flavor, and once you taste this Hot Tomato Oil, you will understand why. They developed a recipe that's used in most of their menu items and called it Hot Tomato Oil. Eventually, the name evolved into the more efficient Hot Tom!
Want to see how it's made? Hot Tomato Oil was featured in an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Click to see a highlight from that episode showing how the Hot Tom is made.
Pastabilities, the family restaurant where it all started is still going strong some 40 years since they served their first customers. If you find yourself in Syracuse, stop at Pastabilities for an amazing meal. It's on my list, for sure!
What did I do with Hot Tom? The first time I heard of this tiny bucket of deliciousness, I opened it, dipped a big chunk of bread into the bucket and did that over and over. That's it. No heating, no spooning onto pasta, just dipping, double- and triple-dipping with good bread. Eric, a friend who grew up in Syracuse, sent me a bucket of Hot Tom. That was a few years ago. I was hooked but didn't want to be, so I never placed my own order. Just recently, new neighbors (also from Syracuse) reintroduced us to Hot Tom by gifting us another bucket. This is what I did. Follow along for my "No Recipe Recipe."
Hot Tom Cod & Surprise
- Pour the entire bucket of Hot Tom into a shallow pan and bring to a boil. Set aside on simmer.
- Nestle the cod filets in the Hot Tom. I used four wild-caught filets. Use another fish if you have it. I don't recommend salmon--too fatty and its strong flavor overwhelms the sauce.
- In a small non-stick pan over high heat, drop a cupful of squid tentacles (or more) that you've tossed in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper. This should take no more than five minutes.
- Pour the contents of the pan over the cod in the sauce.
- Pour over pasta or rice or egg noodles. I serve it without the extra carbs.
- Serve with a fabulous green salad. I added avocado and cucumbers to mine because I had them, but they're optional.