Recipe of the week: the assassin’s spaghetti by Nadia Caterina Munn

This cult recipe from Puglia involves cooking pasta like risotto

The assassin’s spaghetti
The assassin’s spaghetti taken from The Pasta Queen by Nadia Caterina Munno

Legend has it that this dish from Puglia was created when a drunk cook accidentally added uncooked spaghetti to a pan of simmering tomato sauce, after being distracted by a beautiful woman, says Nadia Caterina Munno.

Alerted to his mistake by the pasta catching on the base of the pan, he tried to save the dish by adding a tomato-paste broth, risotto-style. In the process, he invented this.

Serves four people

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  • 60g tomato paste
  • sea salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp Calabrian chilli flakes, or to taste
  • 60g extra-virgin olive oil
  • 400g tin of peeled plum tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 450g spaghetti
  • whole fresh long red chillies (I like cayenne varieties such as Pinocchio’s nose), for garnish


  • In a medium pot, bring 1.4 litres water to a rolling boil over a high heat.
  • Stir in the tomato paste until it dissolves to create a tomato broth. If necessary, season it with salt until it tastes like a seasoned soup and keep the tomato broth warm over a very low heat.
  • Meanwhile, in a large, deep sauté pan, sizzle the garlic and chilli flakes in the olive oil over a low heat. Add the tomatoes and a heavy pinch of salt.
  • Increase the heat to medium high and add the uncooked spaghetti (an alternative pasta shape you could also use here is the chunkier spaghettoni). Ladle in the tomato broth to keep the spaghetti just barely submerged, adding more as needed.
  • Let the pasta cook until it sticks to the bottom of the pan and starts to burn slightly.
  • Toss briefly and add a splash (60ml) of tomato broth to the pasta.
  • Cook until al dente, allowing the pasta to completely absorb the liquid. Add 60ml tomato broth at a time as needed to finish cooking the pasta.
  • Serve garnished with fresh chillies.

Book cover

Taken from The Pasta Queen by Nadia Caterina Munno, published by HarperCollins at £22. To buy from The Week Bookshop for £17.99, call 020-3176 3835 or visit

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