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Apulia is considered one of the most popular regions in which to spend a holiday, not only for its scenic beauty and historical-artistic heritage but also for its food and wine.
There is no dish in Bari and its province that does not delight the palate of lucky patrons with focaccia, braciole, the famous orecchiette alle cime di rape, mussels and the very tasty Spaghetti all'Assassina.
Also known as Spaghetti Bruciati (burnt spaghetti), this is a typical dish from the province of Bari which, despite only appearing on the tables of restaurants and trattorias in the 70s and 80s, has much older origins.
There are various theories about this dish, on which the way it is cooked also depends. Some think it was born as a recycled dish cooked with leftovers from the day before, while others claim it was 'invented' by a housewife called to prepare a dish for unexpected guests using a kind of risotto but replaced with spaghetti.
Whatever the truth, Spaghetti all'Assassina is part of Bari's culinary tradition, so much so that it has been featured in many noir novels, just like its unlikely name, including 'La Casa nel Bosco' by the Carofiglio brothers.
Where to eat Spaghetti all'Assassina
Spaghetti all'Assassina can be eaten in Bari but also in the hinterland of the province, for example in Casamassima, perhaps sitting in a trattoria in the heart of the historic centre whose houses are painted blue, like exotic towns like Jodhpur. Apparently they are so coloured to pay homage to the Virgin's mantle after the town, through her intercession, escaped the plague in the 17th century.
Cassano delle Murge, an ancient medieval town once characterised by the presence of tower-houses, of which only the one in Via San Giovanni remains today, also has a rich culinary tradition, thanks also to the surrounding countryside. In addition to Spaghetti all'Assassina, Cassano delle Murge is also famous for its gnummareddi, cooked on the characteristic open cookers that teem with people in the historic village.
Moving on to the spectacular Itria Valley, Locorotondo spirals up a hill with its "cummerse" houses with pointed roofs: it is not difficult to find a trattoria where you can enjoy Spaghetti all'Assassina overlooking a fairytale landscape of olive trees, dry stone walls, vineyards and trulli. Alberobello itself, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its iconic white buildings with grey conical roofs, includes this dish in its culinary tradition.
Those who want to enjoy Spaghetti all'Assassina with a view of the Apulian sea can opt for Giovinazzo and Polignano a Mare. While Polignano a Mare is certainly the most famous seaside town in the region, with the Lama Monachile cove capturing the admiration of all visitors and its village dotted here and there with poetic verses, Giovinazzo is equally picturesque. The small town, located a stone's throw from Bari, is captivating with its small harbour and the former Convent of the Benedictine Sisters, dating back to the 13th century, which is rich in archaeological finds and has a terrace overlooking the sea that offers spectacular sunsets, to say the least.
Here is the recipe!
400 g spaghetti
1 litre of tomato puree
600 ml water
1 garlic clove
a pinch of evo oil
salt to taste
We start by cooking the tomato puree with a little oil and a pinch of salt. Let it reduce and, if you want, add a pinch of sugar to decrease the acidity of the tomato.
In a saucepan, pour the water and 4 ladles of the reduced sauce, add a pinch of salt and bring to the boil.
In a large frying pan, over a low heat, toast the spaghetti, stirring gently with a wooden spoon. As soon as they are coloured, add the crushed garlic clove, the chopped chilli pepper (or if you prefer, the whole chilli pepper) and a generous amount of oil.
When the spaghetti starts to sizzle, add two ladles of water and tomato sauce and let it cook, moving it around as little as possible. As the water is absorbed, continue adding more water and tomato.
When the spaghetti starts to soften, we can add the sauce, a little at a time.
Let the spaghetti cook, adding water, tomato and sauce alternately.
Stir them as little as possible and let them stick to the surface of the pan.
When ready, remove the garlic and add the last ladle of sauce.
Turn up the heat so that the pasta sticks to the bottom and burns a little. Then we serve the pasta on a plate and add a drizzle of spicy oil or, if you prefer, a chilli pepper.
Enjoy your meal!