Spaghetti all’Assassina is a very popular pasta recipe from Puglia, especially from the city of Bari.
The dish consists of a few simple ingredients: Tomato passata and tomato paste, extra virgin olive oil, garlic and chili pepper. That’s it!
Spaghetti all’Assassina is certainly not an ordinary spaghetti with tomato sauce, although the ingredients are the same.
What makes it special is the way it’s cooked.
You have to put the spaghetti raw in a pan with a little tomato sauce. Then you cook them like a risotto with a broth made of water, tomato paste and salt. This cooking method is called “risottare” in Italy.
Their main characteristic is that they should stick to the bottom of the pan and burn a little.
In Bari, to make the pasta crispy and burnt, they strictly use an iron pan. But, as we will see, a stainless steel pan will do as well. The pan must be about 36 cm (14 inches) in diameter. This is because you are putting the whole, raw spaghetti in this skillet.
The result is burnt, crispy, reddish-brown and very spicy tomato spaghetti.
But why the strange name “Spaghetti All’Assassina” (Assassin’s Spaghetti)? Because the cook who prepares this recipe must be as cold and ruthless as an assassin. He must burn and kill the spaghetti mercilessly!
We have certainly made you very curious. So let’s see all the secrets, tricks and steps to make the authentic Spaghetti all’Assassina recipe!
- Prep Time: 5 Min
- Cook Time:20 Min
- Servings: 4
- 350 g (3/4 pound) of spaghetti
- 150 g (3/4 cup) of tomato passata. Try Italian tomato passata by Mutti or make it at home with our tomato passata recipe
- 1 tube (about 130 g/ ~4 oz) of tomato paste
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 3 fresh peperoncino (red chili pepper) or 1/2 tablespoon flakes or according to taste
- 100 ml ( ~1/2 cup) of extra virgin olive oil
- 1.5 liters (~6 cups) of water
- 1 level tablespoon of coarse salt
- fine salt to taste
Spaghetti all’Assassina Recipe: Instructions
Dissolve the tomato paste and coarse salt in plenty of water and bring to a boil. The broth should be bright red and flavorful.
Step 2) – In an iron skillet about 14 inches (36 cm) in diameter, sauté the EVO oil, the whole skinless garlic cloves, and the minced chilies over medium heat.
When the garlic begins to color, add the tomato passata. Stir and adjust salt to taste.
PLEASE NOTE: The amount of chilies used depends on personal taste, size and hotness of the chilies. The traditional recipe calls for 3 chiles, 2 chopped and 1 whole, which you then remove.
Step 3) – At this point, add the whole raw spaghetti to the skillet. Stir them lightly with a wooden spoon so that they are evenly distributed on the bottom of the pan. Cook the spaghetti in the oil and passata. The spaghetti should be browned and stick to the bottom of the pan. Do not be in a hurry or afraid of making a mistake.
Step 4) – When the side of the spaghetti in contact with the pan is nicely toasted and caramelized (a little burnt), turn it over on the other side so that the toasting is as even as possible. Remove the garlic cloves and chili pepper, if you left it whole, and turn up the heat.
How to Cook Assassin’s Spaghetti to Perfection
Step 5) – Now add a little broth at a time as the pasta absorbs it. Be careful not to pour the broth directly on the spaghetti, but rather on the sides of the pan so as not to “drown” the pasta.
PLEASE NOTE #1: Before flipping the spaghetti, wait for the broth to dry a bit, let the spaghetti toast well, then wait another 10 seconds and flip the spaghetti. This procedure requires a lot of coolness and calmness. Don’t be in a hurry to turn the spaghetti, which will “suffer” in this way of cooking, hence the name “spaghetti all’assassina”!
When the spaghetti have absorbed all the broth, add another ladle.
Turn the spaghetti so that the part that was on top is underneath. Continue this process for about 8 to 10 minutes and the spaghetti should be done. Of course, some spaghetti will be softer than others.
PLEASE NOTE #2: Be careful not to move the spaghetti too much so as not to break them. Of course, you do not want them to burn completely. The key is to get the spaghetti to stick to the pan evenly so that they get a crispy texture and brown color.
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How to Store Spaghetti all’Assassina
We recommend that you enjoy Spaghetti all’assassina as soon as possible to get the most out of them.
If you have leftovers, you can keep them in the refrigerator for 1-2 days in an airtight container. To make them even crispier, re-heat them in a pan with a little oil over a high heat.
Iron Pan: A Debated Issue
If you want to make the Spaghetti Assassin recipe, you should use an iron skillet. The Accademia dell’Assassina (Assassin’s Academy, see below) insists on the use of an iron skillet in its rules.
The iron, in fact, is an excellent conductor of heat, perfect for this preparation.
Tradition dictated that the iron skillet be oiled, burned, and never washed! Newspapers were used to clean it so that it would never lose all its fat.
Today, however, the use of the iron skillet is very controversial.
There are regulations that forbid the use of untreated iron in cooking because it can release oxides or other substances.
Then there are professional iron pans, called Lyonnaise pans.. These are made of stabilized, standardized iron that can be used in restaurant kitchens.
If you are not sure about the quality of the iron pan, you can safely use stainless steel pans.
Otherwise, you can use a non-stick pan, but the “burnt” effect will not be the same.
In any case, the pan should be large enough to hold all the raw spaghetti (not broken!), i.e. at least 36 cm (~14 inches) in diameter.
To protect the recipe of this spicy and delicious Italian dish, they founded the Accademia dell’Assassina in Bari, Italy.
In 2013, a group of friends, lovers of this dish, decided to come together as an association. The goal was to protect the authentic Italian recipe of Spaghetti all’Assassina and enhance it by setting its basic principles.
For example, the Academy wants the use of the black iron pan, an essential tool according to tradition.
In addition, the Academy recommends using pasta with little starch and avoiding bronze-drawn pasta.
The traditional recipe starts with dry spaghetti, rehydrated according to the risotto technique. The recipe requires a very high flame: the heat under the pan must be strong.
Lovers of assassin’s spaghetti periodically gather around this dish, visiting restaurants around the city to find out the best places to eat it.
Spaghetti all’Assassina: History and Origin of the Name
A famous connoisseur of Apulian cuisine and traditions, Felice Giovine, claims that this recipe originated in Bari at the end of the 1960s. More precisely, in a restaurant in the center of Bari called “Al Sorso Preferito”.
Others, however, claim that Spaghetti all’Assassina originated in the restaurant “Marc’Aurelio”, also in Bari, now closed.
The first hypothesis seems to be the most credible, and there is a curious episode to prove it.
The story goes that in 1967 the owners of the restaurant “Al Sorso Preferito” bought a room next to their own, a former grocery store, in order to expand. While working on it, they found the recipe for Assassina and decided to add it to their menu.
The reason for the strange and peculiar name “Spaghetti all’Assassina” is also the subject of discussion.
According to some, chef Enzo Francavilla prepared Spaghetti all’Assassina for two customers from Northern Italy. Because of the spiciness, they jokingly called Francavilla an “assassin,” meaning that the chef had “killed” the flavor of the pasta with chili and burnt. The name of the dish was later derived from this word.
According to others, the name of this recipe comes from the fact that, according to the Academy, the cook who prepares it must be as cold and ruthless as an “assassin”. He must burn and kill the spaghetti mercilessly!