Lycopene @ Red Tomato

There are some things you never forget when you step into a kitchen. A few ears ago we visited ristorante il Rigoletto in Reggiolo, a fantastic small restaurant owned and operated by a wonderful family, a husband – wife and son team.

I stepped into the kitchen of the restaurant and I’ll never forget the color of the chefs tomato sauce, it was so red, it stung my memory. The root of the color is the lycopene, a pigment principally responsible for the characteristic deep-red color of ripe tomato fruits.

The color of the tomato sauce is likely the result of processing, which improves lycopene bioavailability by breaking down cell walls. By weakening the bonding forces between lycopene and tissue matrix, it makes lycopene more accessible by enhancing the cis-isomerization:

While its true Reggio Emilia and at il Rigoletto they have perfect raw materials, you too can achieve this color in your own sauce. The most common mistake in making sauce is the tomato choice and in many cases chefs use the wrong types. The second most common mistake is the treatment and use of heat when it comes to a tomato. If you take tomatoes and expose them to high heat (initially) you can take the red lycopene and make it orange.

In Italy each region has their own specialty and preference but I always use the small cherry tomato or a similar variety. The key is not to cut the tomato, simple wash them and drop them into a blender and make a purée.

Many chefs would argue the level of degree you purée the tomatoes but in my view it is a matter of flavor and texture. If you are after texture, you had better make sure you have the right and ripe tomato for texture. If this is what you are after, then the recipe is different. In the south of Italy you can enjoy perfect Vesuvius tomatoes cut, sautéed and added to a pasta.

The key; take the small variety, blend it slowly and finish with a higher speed. Take a v-shaped strainer colander and eliminate the seeds. Take the pulp and seeds and run it in the blender again. Take the remaining pulp and seeds and run it through the v-shaped colander.

Once you completed this, place the tomato juice into a pan and reduce slowly over a medium heat for one hour. Later add virgin oil and garlic and you are ready for pasta.

Note: this sauce was made yesterday at the kitchen of mesubim and is not the sauce of ristorante il Rigoletto in Reggiolo.