Chefs' Recipes

Spaghetti all’assassina

Dan Johnston of Sydney’s Fontana shares his take on this crisped-up spaghetti dish.
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Also known as spaghetti bruciati (burnt spaghetti) or killer spaghetti, spaghetti all’assassina is an unconventional pasta dish that hails from Bari, Puglia. “I went to Bari a couple of years ago and came across this dish for the first time,” says chef Dan Johnston behind Sydney restaurant Fontana. “It’s a hot mess of al dente, crisp, burnt pasta coated in a chilli-spiked tomato sauce. It sounds pretty basic but when it’s good, it’s really good.”

At Fontana, honing the technique to ensure this dish could be made to order took many trials, pulling on both the traditional method and applying some left-of-centre techniques. “We also add a solid spoonful of stracciatella to the dish, which would probably make nonna turn in her grave, but makes it all come together.”

Johnston strongly recommends sourcing a good brand of spaghetti for this dish: “Preferably something thick and textured from its journey through a bronze die.”

How to make Dan Johnston’s spaghetti all’assassina recipe


Roast Tomato Sauce



Preheat oven to 220˚C fan-forced. Place tomatoes in a roasting pan with 8 whole peeled garlic cloves, sugar, drizzle with a little olive oil and season to taste; toss to combine. Roast, tossing tomatoes and garlic occasionally, until tomatoes are lightly blackened, and garlic is golden (30 minutes).

Spaghetti all'assassina recipe step 1: Roast tomatoes with garlic
Step 1

Cool completely then pass through a mouli or course sieve. Alternatively, pulse in a food processor. Transfer sauce to a bowl and cover until ready to use. Heat a large deep-sided frying pan over medium heat. Add olive oil, garlic and chilli and cook, stirring continuously, until garlic is lightly golden (2-3 minutes). Add roasted tomato sauce and simmer until thickened; season to taste (15 minutes). Set aside.

Spaghetti all'assassina recipe step 2: process roast tomatoes into a sauce
Step 2

Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in a saucepan of boiling salted water according to packet instructions (6-8 minutes). Drain and refresh under cold running water. Divide spaghetti in half and reserve half. Divide the remaining half into 4 bundles and twist to form spaghetti cakes. Pat each spaghetti cake dry with paper towel and flatten.


Heat 1cm vegetable oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook spaghetti cakes, in batches if necessary, turning halfway, until golden and slightly blackened (2-3 minutes each side). Remove from pan and drain on paper towel.

Spaghetti all'assassina recipe step 4: Fry spaghetti cakes in pan
Step 4

Return roasted tomato sauce to the pan over medium heat. Add spaghetti cakes and using a wooden spoon, break up slightly into large pieces. Stir through reserved cooked spaghetti and cook, stirring, until mixture is heated through (2-3 minutes). Season to taste. Divide spaghetti among bowls. Spoon over stracciatella, then scatter with pecorino, chilli threads and basil to serve.

This recipe also calls for cooling (see method).


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