One of the basic rules of Italian cuisine is to never put raw pasta in a sauce. After all, there is an exception – spaghetti all’assassina – a delicacy that, according to legend, originated by accident in Bari, and could easily find its way to your table today.
HOW WAS SPAGHETTI ALL’ASSASSINA CREATED?
THE LEGEND OF THE DRUNKEN COOK
As around many famous dishes, many legends, usually having little to do with the truth, have grown up around spaghetti all’ assassina – the pasta of assassins. This one, the most famous and repeated by culinary bards, tells of a forgetful and drunken cook who first threw not only far too much chili into the pan, but also raw pasta, and then lost himself in the wine and didn’t notice how it began to burn.
However, the facts are different. The recipe for spaghetti all’assassina originated in Bari, the capital of Puglia, where today we can get to very easily on cheap airlines. It was there, at the Al Sorso Preferito restaurant, that this recipe was born.
Al Sorso Preferito initially specialized in cold dishes, cold meats, cheeses and wines, but one day the owner, Enzo Francavilli, was asked to prepare a hot meal by two newcomers from the north.
With very limited ingredients at his disposal, Francavilli came up with the idea of adding an extra flavor to the popular spaghetti all’arrabbiata and dropping the dry pasta directly into the sauce and then, using the Maillard reaction, building a new layer of flavor as the pasta began to burn.
Because of the powerful dose of chili peppers, satisfied yegos with sinuses cleared from capsaicin congratulated Francavilli, fondly calling him a “killer.” This is also how the name of this dish came about.
Al Sorso Preferito still exists in Bari today, but it is now in different ownership. According to the restaurant’s current menu, you won’t eat spaghetti all’assassina there, but the chef will certainly blush nostalgically if you ask for it off the menu.
For a killer spaghetti all’assassina you will need:
- spaghetti noodles
- chili peppers
- olive oil
- tomato sauce
- tomato paste
I don’t specifically give proportions, as this is such a simple recipe that it requires more feeling than precision. I used roughly half a bottle of Mutti tomato passata, 5 cloves of garlic, 3 chili peppers, 200 grams of pasta and approx. Half a liter of tomato broth based on Culineo concentrate and water.
In the original, the dish was prepared in a cast-iron skillet, which was never washed, only the solid particles were removed with newspaper. In this way, each successive dish took on the character of the previous one and the organic continuity of the dish was maintained, so to speak. Later, sanitary regulations changed, as well as the type of utensils. However, the best pan will be one that gives off as much heat as possible.
There are different schools of preparation for spaghetti all’assassina, although I like to sauté both garlic and chilies in olive oil first. This will also bring out additional flavor from the peppers. When the smell of this specific soffritto has enveloped the entire kitchen, top up the passata and place the dry pasta in the center. Then pour the tomato broth over the whole thing and cook on the highest heat, reducing the sauce to the maximum, until the pasta begins to stick and burn.
The finished dish can be decorated as desired. I used flaked parmiggiano reggiano cheese and dried basil, as I didn’t have fresh.
Admittedly, spaghetti all’assassina is less popular than bolognese, but it is worth making in your home kitchen.
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