Pasta, Local specialties, Recipes

Killer spaghetti (spaghetti all’assassina)

Killer spaghetti

I want to be adamantly clear. Killer spaghetti is a recipe not part of my family tradition, since it is a regional dish from Puglia, in particular from Bari (yes, the city of the famous focaccia … here’s my recipe!). But since I met this incredible pasta, it’s one of my family’s favorite!

If you are looking for spaghetti all’assassina (yes, this is how “killers spaghetti” or “assassin’s spaghetti” translates…) because you want to make it at home, you are in the right place. And this time, let me tell you that it won’t be a tough task to master this recipe and impress your friends with it!

Killer spaghetti origins

Spaghetti all’assassina could be perceived as yet another recipe to recycle leftovers from the day before (e.g. the famous ribollita from Tuscany, that you can prepare following this recipe of mine). If you want to make people from Bari go mad, you have no better way! It is more or less like suggesting to a person from Bologna (guess who I am thinking of..) that the perfect pairing for bolognese sauce is spaghetti.. while anyone here knows how the real spaghetti alla bolognese look like 😉

This pasta dish is actually a completely original idea, that was brought to success during the ’70s in a restaurant in Bari, named ristorante Marc’Aurelio or Al Sorso (there’s no agreement on this). Maybe the best way to easily describe the killer spaghetti is… think about making a risotto, using spaghetti instead of rice and a good tomato sauce instead of broth!

What is sure is that in Bari there’s a sort of a cult for spaghetti all’assassina, testified by the existence of the Accademia dell’assassina. The Accademia (i.e. academy) has the purpose to protect the original recipe from fake ones. The relationship between Bari and spaghetti all’assassina is similar to the one between Catania and pasta alla Norma (check my recipe if you heard about Norma sauce and want to try the real taste of Sicily).

So… what makes a dish of spaghetti all’assassina authentic versus a fake one? Let’s see!

Killer spaghetti: tips and tricks!

First of all, the choice of the pan is crucial. I hope you have one iron pan at home, because this will allow your killer spaghetti to be perfect! Iron is the perfect material for fast cooking styles, not only for this recipe. I strongly recommend using it to fry or to cook meat. An iron pan like the one I use will allow for higher temperatures, and all these preparations will greatly benefit from them.

The real secret to the perfect spaghetti all’assassina is to not be afraid of burning the pasta! As you will see, during the final step you are going to add some tomato sauce, mix the spaghetti and turn on the heat at full blast for about one-two minutes. During that elapsed you will experience a lot of smoke rising from your pan, most of all if it is an iron one. Don’t be afraid, that is the moment when the magic is happening! You will totally love the result and this will easily become one of your signature dishes!

If you like this recipe… you can PIN IT! 🙂 And if you want, subscribe to this blog (see bottom page) to support my project to spread the authentic Italian food traditions 🙂

Now, let’s jump into the preparation of your first killer spaghetti 🙂

Killer spaghetti
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5 from 1 vote

Killer spaghetti (spaghetti all’assassina)

Spaghetti all'assassina, which translates into "killer spaghetti", is one of the most iconic pasta recipes from Bari, the main city in Puglia. Created as a way to re-cycle the sauce left-overs, it is now a lot more than a simple cooking classic!
Cook Time35 minutes
Sauce thickening15 minutes
Total Time50 minutes
Course: Primo
Cuisine: Bari, Italian, Pugliese
Keyword: Poor, Regional, Spicy, tasty, Traditional
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 450kcal
Cost: less than 1$


  • an iron pan
  • a wooden spoon
  • two pots
  • a ladle


  • 400 gr spaghetti
  • 700 gr tomato sauce Plain tomato sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 red hot chili pepper
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil


  • Prepare the 2 pots and the pan. Pour the tomato sauce into one of the pots and start thickening the sauce at low heat. It will take about 15 minutes until the sauce is ready for the recipe.
    Killer spaghetti - thicken the sauce
  • In the other pot, pour 2 ladles of water and make it boil. When it's hot, add 2 ladles of the thick tomato sauce and mix them. Just make sure to save 2-3 ladles of thick sauce. You are making a sort of "tomato sauce broth" that you will use to cook the pasta, with a technique similar to the one used to cook a risotto. And similarly to what you do with risotto, while you prepare the broth toast the spaghetti in the pan, at medium-high heat.
    Killer spaghetti - broth and pasta toasting
  • Add the EVO oil, the garlic cloves and the red hot chili pepper: enjoy the smell and the music for few second, then…
    Killer spaghetti - spices
  • … pour two ladles of hot tomato sauce broth. What a view! Now at medium heat, enjoy the slow cooking of the spaghetti in this delicious broth.
    Killer spaghetti - add the broth
  • When the spaghetti are not hard anymore, remove the garlic and the red hot chili pepper. Continue cooking, adding tomato broth or thick sauce, alternately.
    Killer spaghetti - almost ready
  • When the spaghetti are ready, add in the centre of the pan 1 ladle of thick tomato sauce, mix and switch the heat to the maximum. Enjoy the view of the smoke rising for 1 minute to 2, accordingly to how crunchy you want the result. In my experience and with my toolset, 1.5 minute is perfect. Now your first spaghetti all'assassina are ready. The result is a pasta with amazing taste, normal consistency apart from the crunchy ones, truely delicious. Enjoy!


  • I strongly recommend using an iron pan, as required by tradition. My choice here is a De Buyer mineral B ( I own 2 of those, with different sizes. Best purchase ever)
  • I give instructions for 4 people, as almost always, but in this case, the pictures refer to a 2 people preparation. Since it’s spicy, my daughter was not part of the deal 😉

If you loved this recipe and want to try other very typical pasta from Southern Italy, you can’t be wrong with my pasta alla Norma or my orecchiette with broccoli rabe 🙂

These are just examples of my pasta recipes! I have many of them, from Emilia to Puglia, so don’t miss my pasta recipes page!

And if you have fallen in love with my De Buyer iron pan (I’ve been using it for years and it’s better and better!), you can buy it here. Believe me, it’s not on a budget, but you will adore it and it will definitely pay itself over time 🙂 Thank you in advance for your little help in keeping this project alive!


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Buon appetito!

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  • Reply Rob 11/01/2022 at 9:03 PM

    The ladle, what is the volume? One cup? Thank you

    • Reply Roberto 11/02/2022 at 10:22 AM

      I tried… if a cup is 16 tablespoons, mine ladle contains 14-15 tbsp… so the answer is slightly yes (but it’s not a cake, so approximation will not hurt!). Hope this helps, and you will enjoy the spaghetti!

  • Reply Nigel 06/20/2022 at 12:18 AM

    By plain tomato sauce, do you mean passata? I can only buy passata or tomato sauce with garlic or chilli etc.

    • Reply Roberto 07/02/2022 at 11:11 AM

      yes, passata 🙂 I prefer fresh garlic and chili, added to simple passata, with no added flavors.
      Thanks for your comment,

  • Reply Ellie 05/11/2021 at 12:43 AM

    5 stars
    This was absolutely wonderful! I messed up a little, in that I started adding the thick tomato sauce early, before I realized I was supposed to start off with the broth. But I kept up with it, and it was fantastic. Unfortunately, my stovetop doesn’t really get quite hot enough, so I was not able to get a beautiful char on the bottom, even on the highest heat setting. But I toasted the spaghetti really well beforehand, so I still got a lovely bit of toasted flavor in every mouthful. I will make this again and again!

    • Reply Roberto 05/14/2021 at 3:39 PM

      Thank you very much for sharing this, Ellie! 🙂 Also for my family, this recipe has become a classic, I am making them at least twice a month. Try an iron pan, if you want to get it really hot… but I am sure they taste great anyway! Ciao

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