They’re baaack! Sun-dried tomatoes, ubiquitous for most of the ’80s but whose popularity petered out shortly thereafter, are in fashion yet again—much like shoulder pads and Kate Bush singles. Chefs like Dominique Crenn, Bryant Terry and Eric Kim have recently extolled their virtues, and one of last year’s hottest TikTok recipes was a one-pot orzo with sun-dried tomatoes. Neither fresh nor canned tomatoes can compete with their complex combination of fruity brightness and umami depth.
Most sun-dried tomatoes are dried in ovens, not the sun, which means if you find yourself with an overabundance of fresh tomatoes, they’re easy to make at home (halve plum or cherry tomatoes, remove seeds and juices, salt and bake at 250°F for at least 4 hours). At the store, you should try tomatoes packed dry—which can be ground into a tomato powder to use as a spice—or in olive oil, which partially rehydrates them, making them recipe-ready. As long as we are feeling experimental, they lend themselves to some creative wine pairings you can play with, too. Here are some to get you started.
Sun-dried tomatoes aren’t sour per se, but have an almost candy-like tang that integrates their sweet and savory notes. A wine without sufficient acidity might taste flat, so try a Sangiovese. Whether from Tuscany or elsewhere, Sangioveses are typically high in acidity, and exude tart cherry fruit, balanced by savory notes of tomato, earth and leather.
With most of their water content removed, sun-dried tomatoes bring into focus the tomatoes’ natural sweetness. Lean into this with a sparkling Shiraz, commonly found in Australia. These wines show jammy fruit, chocolate and black pepper and almost always have a touch of residual sugar. It’s a fun and unusual pairing.
It’s not just their chewy texture: Sun-dried tomatoes have the sharp aroma of new leather, hinting at a wild, even gamy quality (they’re delicious with lamb and duck). With a minimum three years aging, Rioja Reserva recalls leather and sun-dried tomato itself, plus complementary flavors of herbs, tobacco and cherry.
Sun-dried tomatoes are a dried fruit, somewhat akin to prunes, raisins and figs, which can make a juicy fresh red wine taste watery in comparison. Amarone della Valpolicella is made from partly dried grapes, making a dry but luscious wine with flavors of blackberry jam, fig, smoldering underbrush and chocolate-covered cherries.
Easiest Sun-Dried Tomato and Feta Pasta Recipe
Toss 1 lb. hot or cold pasta with ½ cup chopped oil-packed sundried tomatoes, 1 ½ cups feta cheese, and ½ cup minced cilantro or basil and moisten with some oil from the tomato jar. Adjust quantities to taste.
This article originally appeared in the May 2023 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Click here to subscribe today!