Spaghetti all'Assassina (Assassin's Spaghetti)


Caramelized tomato sauce makes this a wonderfully savory dish. The reduction of the tomato broth brings out the sweetness of the tomatoes which balances well with the spiciness of the chili flakes.

Prep Time:
5 mins
Cook Time:
25 mins
Total Time:
30 mins

Spaghetti all'Assassina – Was This the Original "To Die For" Recipe?

There's something a little bit suspicious about the origin story of this "to die for" pasta's name. Sure, a customer jokingly asking the chef if they're trying to "kill them" with this intensely flavored Spaghetti all'Assassina is sort of believable, but I've always felt like there was much more to the story. Hey, can we get a few of these true crime podcasters on the case?

Anyway, regardless of the real story (possibly involving the Medicis, and probably also the Opus Dei), this spicy, partially pan-fried spaghetti dish is as unusual as it is addictively delicious. As the head assassin, you get to decided exactly how spicy and charred this gets, but as I said in the video, the sweetness and acidity of the caramelized tomato sauce balances the heat from the chili flakes, so don't worry about using a heavy hand.

The cheater method for this recipe involves boiling the spaghetti for four or five minutes first, then draining, before pan-frying and saucing as shown. This may be a little more user-friendly method, but you just won't get the same, very unique texture. Having said that, if you have a large non-stick, or very well seasoned cast iron pan, this really isn't hard to pull off. Either way, I really hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


Tomato Broth:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 3 cups tomato puree

  • 3 cups water

  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Assassin's Spaghetti:

  • ¼ cup olive oil

  • 2 teaspoons red chili flakes, or to taste

  • 6 ounces dry spaghetti

  • salt to taste

  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley, for garnish


  1. Heat olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add garlic and sizzle until it starts to turn golden and fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in tomato puree, water, and salt. Bring to a simmer on medium-high. Once simmering, reduce to low heat and keep warm.

  2. Pour olive oil into a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, season with chili flakes and heat until chili flakes start to sizzle, for 1 minute. Add raw spaghetti and toss until well coated with chili oil. Pour in about 3 cups of tomato broth and, using tongs, move pasta from side to side to evenly distribute tomato broth. Cook, occasionally moving pasta from side to side with tongs, all facing the same direction, until most of the broth has been absorbed or evaporated, and the spaghetti starts frying in the pan.

  3. Turn spaghetti over with tongs, and evenly arrange in the pan. Keep cooking until the pasta starts to brown, and even lightly chars. Add about 2 more cups of tomato broth, and repeat the process. Continue cooking until the spaghetti is as charred as you like , and cooked to your desired doneness.

  4. More broth can be added at the end of the process for a saucier version, as shown in the video, or it can be served relatively dry.

  5. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and more chili flakes if desired.

    spaghetti with tomato sauce
    Chef John

Cook's Note:

This recipe makes either 2 large or 4 smaller portions.

You can serve this with Parmesan cheese or enjoy as is.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

384 Calories
18g Fat
50g Carbs
9g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 4
Calories 384
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 18g 23%
Saturated Fat 3g 13%
Sodium 1244mg 54%
Total Carbohydrate 50g 18%
Dietary Fiber 5g 19%
Protein 9g
Potassium 960mg 20%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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