Spaghetti all’Assassina


This quick and spicy tomato and peperoncini pasta dish with bits of caramelized spaghetti is finished with rich, buttery olive oil.

Spaghetti all’Assassina

Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Jillian Knox

Active Time:
25 mins
Total Time:
35 mins

This spicy “assassin’s spaghetti” is made by gradually adding a mixture of tomato paste and boiling water to pasta in a skillet, where it simmers, allowing the spaghetti to soften to a perfect al dente texture and then become crispy and caramelized as it absorbs the tomato flavor. Sliced peperoncini peppers infuse the quick-cooking dish with a warming piquancy, and a drizzle of high-quality olive oil adds a rich finish. Look for jarred tomato passata, strained pureed uncooked tomatoes, at most grocery stores or at


  • 10 cups water

  • 3 tablespoons no-salt-added tomato paste

  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt, plus more to taste

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 medium garlic cloves, chopped (about 2 teaspoons)

  • 2 fresh peperoncini peppers, sliced, or 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper

  • 3/4 cup tomato puree (passata di pomodoro) (such as Mutti), divided

  • 12 ounces uncooked spaghetti

  • High-quality extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

  • Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


  1. Pour 10 cups water into a large pot; bring to a boil over medium-high. Whisk tomato paste and salt into boiling water; reduce heat to medium-low to maintain a simmer.

  2. Heat a large enameled cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven (at least 12 inches or wider) over medium. Add oil, and heat until oil shimmers, about 30 seconds. Add garlic and peperoncini; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Stir in half of the tomato puree, and increase heat to medium-high. Spread spaghetti over mixture in skillet, trying to get as much spaghetti in contact with skillet as possible. Pour remaining tomato puree over spaghetti. Cook noodles in tomato puree mixture, undisturbed, until starting to soften and become pliable, about 2 minutes. Using a spatula or tongs, lift noodles to check that they are in contact with skillet to make sure they’re getting crispy; if needed, spread and separate noodles more on bottom of skillet to keep in direct contact with skillet. Continue cooking 2 minutes. Move noodles around using tongs to allow other noodles to make contact with skillet.

  3. Add 2 ladlefuls (about 1 cup) of simmering tomato water to spaghetti mixture in skillet. Cook until noodles are al dente, 8 to 10 minutes, adding more tomato water, 1 ladleful at a time, when previous addition of tomato water has been absorbed by noodles (adding 2 to 2 1/2 cups tomato water total). As mixture cooks, attentively watch the noodles and the liquid content in skillet. To ensure the noodles keep those crispy bits, do not inundate them with the broth—only add more broth as needed once noodles have soaked up what was previously ladled. The red hues of the tomato sauce will brown.

  4. Taste spaghetti and sauce; add additional salt to taste, if desired. Using kitchen tweezers or tongs, swirl spaghetti noodles inside the cup of your ladle, creating a compact and rather perfect swirl of noodles. Place ladles of spaghetti all’assassina on individual plates or a large platter. Finish with a drizzle of high-quality extra-virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Suggested Pairing

Spicy, lively Southern Italian red: Colosi Nero d’Avola

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