Today, one of my favorite, simple pastas. I am going to complicate it very slightly in that I had some leftover roasted cauliflower in the fridge and decided to add it in. So imagine the same photo above without the cauliflower. Just five simple ingredients – spaghetti, cherry tomatoes, garlic, crushed peperoncino chili, parsley. Okay, there’s also olive oil, salt and pepper. The dish? Spaghetti all’assassina, the assassin’s spaghetti, a traditional dish from southern Italy. Depending on who you talk to, this is a dish from Basilicata or Puglia (keeping in mind that the regions have historically been all part of the same kingdom or country, one after another, the provincial designations and current boundaries are relatively recent in the timeline).
First thing – put the spaghetti into a pot of boiling salted water and get it going. I start the “sauce” when I’m estimating that the spaghetti has only a couple of minutes to go. Put a good amount of olive oil into a saute pan. This is about ¼ cup. Over fairly high heat, get it nice and hot, to the point where it’s, as they say, “shimmering”, but not quite smoking. This is all going to go very fast. Add the thinly sliced garlic and the crushed chilies. 20-30 seconds, depending on how hot your oil is, you want the garlic to just barely start to turn golden at the edges.
Add the cherry tomatoes. I learned the dish cutting them in half lengthwise. Some people leave them whole. Your choice. I like that the juices of the tomato end up mingling with the olive oil and spreading the flavor around a bit. This is a good moment to quickly drain your spaghetti and have it ready to go. Cook the cherry tomatoes for about a minute, just until they start to soften and are heated through.
If you’re going traditional, don’t add the cauliflower at the same time – I did because I had it, but otherwise, just pretend this step doesn’t happen. By the way, the dish is really good with roasted cauliflower – all we’re doing here is reheating the florets at the same time the cherry tomatoes are cooking, because the florets are already cooked.
Add the spaghetti and the parsley at the same time and toss to coat well, mix it all up, etc., etc. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat. Done. You can see the spaghetti has pretty much absorbed or at least been coated by the olive oil. I’ve seen versions of this where people continue cooking the spaghetti an extra minute or so so that it actually starts to fry a little bit and get slightly browned – that works better if you leave the cherry tomatoes whole, otherwise the liquid from them prevents that from happening. I like both versions.
Either way, it’s delicious, spicy, garlicky, and simple as can be.