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Spaghetti all’Assassina

By Ippolita Douglas Scotti:

The name of this fantastic crispy, burnt, and spicy pasta means "killer spaghetti,"and it’s a dish yummy enough to die for!

Spaghetti all'Assassina is one of the symbols of the beautiful city of Bari and of Apulian region gastronomy.

You need only a few ingredients: spaghetti, tomato passata sauce (uncooked tomato puree), oil, garlic, and red chili pepper. The cooking technique is unique because you don’t have to cook spaghetti in water, but dry it in a hot cast-iron frying pan. You can try this fantastic dish even if you don't have a cast-iron skillet; a non-stick skillet will work just fine.

This recipe respectfully follows the religious Apulian tradition; yes, Spaghetti all'Assassina is a religion in Bari. There is even an Academy of Spaghetti all'Assassina!

Ready for the challenge? Get your skillet and kill the spaghetti!

Spaghetti all’Assassina

12 oz (300 g) vermicelli or spaghetti

2 cans of tomato puree passata

1 Tbs tomato paste

Olive oil

2 garlic cloves

Chili pepper


In a small pan, add 3 ladles (apprx. 1/2 cup = ladle) passata and 3 ladles of water. Bring to a light boil. Leave to cook until it has thickened.

In a separate bowl, mix together the rest of the passata and the tomato paste, a little olive oil, and a pinch of salt.

In a large iron skillet, add the spaghetti (dried) and toast well over medium heat. Add a little oil, garlic cloves, and chili pepper. When the ingredients begin to fry, add 2 generous ladles of the watered-down sauce.

The spaghetti will begin to slowly soften.

Turn the spaghetti and add more watered-down sauce, remove the garlic cloves. Now create a hole in the middle of the spaghetti and pour a few ladles of the dense tomato sauce from the casserole dish into the middle. Gradually and very carefully stir the spaghetti in from the outside of the hole.

Repeat this process until you’ve added all the sauce and the spaghetti seems cooked.

Season with salt and leave to cook, allowing the spaghetti to sizzle and stick slightly to the bottom of the pan. This "burning" creates a delicious crunch.

The final result will be flavorful, al dente spaghetti, with a scorched spicy flavor and a crunch.


Contessa Ippolita Douglas Scotti di Vigileno is a true Italian—born in Florence, Italy, from a long line of eccentric Italian aristocrats, she has traveled the world in search of adventure, romance, and magical, mouth-watering recipes. "Ippo" loves Italian history, especially as it relates to food. Author of There's a Beatle in My Soup, Curcuma e Zenzero (Ginger & Tumeric), 101 Perche Sulla Storia di Firenze (101 questions on Florence History), The Grimore, The Magic of the Moon, and Magic Herbs (all published by Newton Compton Publishers).

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