You know the risotto absorption technique? Add a small amount of stock at a time to cook the perfect bowl of hot wet rice. Well, it’s a practise also utilised for pasta - in Puglia that is.
Spaghetti all’assassina is a specialty of Bari, a Puglian city on the Adriatic Sea. It marries the risotto-cooking absorption technique with the tomato sauce base typical of pasta. The main difference is that when the liquid runs low it’s not topped up with haste but left to caramelise in the pan, creating a rich depth of charred tomato flavour to this toothsome spaghetti dish.
The resulting pasta has a very pleasant chew and oily sheen. It should be dry, not saucy. There are several variations on the dish across Bari like a seafood-based sauce, one with turnip puree or another with the addition of olives. Include and add-ins you like in the last stages of cooking.
How to make spaghetti all’assassina
In a large jug combine:
- 3 cups boiling water
- 1 cup tomato passata
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp salt
Mix well to create a tomato stock. If your tomatoes are too acidic add a pinch or two of sugar to balance.
Place a large frypan over medium heat and add:
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tsp crushed chilli flakes, or to taste
Saute briefly being careful to not burn the chilli. Pour in about ½ cup of stock to stop the cooking and reduce slightly. Add:
- 200 g spaghetti (I used thin)
Let the spaghetti soften and gently move it around to stop sticking. When the pan begins to look dry pour in another rough ½ cup of tomato stock.
Cook, stirring and allow the pasta to soften further. Reduce until dry and leave undisturbed until the pasta caramelises and sticks. Add another ½ cup of tomato stock to release it from the pan and continue cooking.
Repeat the reducing and caramelising process until the pasta is cooked to al dente (you may not use all the stock). Finish on a caramelising step. Turn off the heat and rest for a minute or two to stop it sticking, then serve.
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