Assassin's Spaghetti, or in Italian Spaghetti All' Assassina, gets its name not from the murder you commit on the pasta -- because you actually kill off the spaghetti by burning it crisp -- but from the levels of red chilly that will do in the eater.
A rich dish, using the finest of ingredients, Zelda Pande suggests simpler alternatives as well.
Photograph: Kshamaya Daniel
Serves: 3 to 4
- 6 medium firm tomatoes
- Handful fresh basil
- 10-12 pods garlic
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Dash sugar
- Salt to taste
- ½ cup water or more
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 375 gm or ¾ packet raw linguine or spaghetti
- 3-4 strands fresh thyme
- 2-4 tsp red chilly flakes
- 1 tsp black pepper powder
- 3-4 tbsp dry white wine, optional
- 2 tsp butter
- 100 gm rocket or arugula, chopped, stems too
- ½ of a large red onion, chopped fine
- 10 cherry tomatoes, halved, optional
- 200 gm burrata cheese
- 10 tsp chopped fresh chives
- 10 tsp chopped green garlic, seasonal therefore optional
- Few leaves fresh basil
- 5-6 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
- Grind the tomatoes with the handful fresh basil, garlic in a blender/mixer to make a paste.
Add the balsamic vinegar, sugar, water.
- In a large flat frying pan, heat the olive oil and 3-4 tbsp of the tomato paste with the linguine till it burns, first over low heat and then high heat.
Don't be scared, much of it should burn quite a bit and at the end of the crisping process you should have many, many black burnt strands.
Add the remaining tomato paste, thyme, wine, salt, black pepper, chilly flakes.
When the liquid is absorbed check if the pasta is done -- al dente not too soft.Al dente means 'to the tooth' or pasta that has a bite to it (please see the note below).
If not add a little more water, sparingly.
- When the pasta is ready -- al dente -- add the rocket, butter, chopped onion, halved cherry tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes more and take off heat.
Open up the burrata onto the ready linguine and lightly toss.
- Serve onto plates or pasta bowls and sprinkle with grated parmesan, chives, basil leaves and green garlic.
Note: Packets of pasta usually have their cooking time listed on them. To make a pasta al dente, subtract one minute or 1.5 minutes from the cooking time.
Green garlic is seasonal and mainly available in winter and can be omitted. You can grow green garlic on your windowsill or on your balcony at home in small pots and it is a handy addition to dal, raita or parathas.
If linguine is not on hand, use spaghetti or even tagliatelle (wide noodles).
In place of burrata and Parmesan opt for a plain grated mozzarella.
Rocket and fresh herbs like chives and thyme are usually available with vegetable sellers who stock 'English vegetables' or at gourmet grocery stores. Else opt for dried versions and use a pinch of thyme and liberal amounts of dried chives and skip the rocket (but do make every effort to locate rocket because it adds a special taste to this pasta).
Vegans should substitute the burrata for vegan cheese, available online, and skip the parmesan and butter.
For a Jain pasta, omit the onions and garlic and, for additional taste, add loads of green onions and green garlic.
Gluten-free or healthier, diabetic diet-appropriate whole wheat and quinoa pastas are available online. Substitute the linguine with these equivalents.
Seafood lovers may add 8-10 cleaned, de-veined, topped and tailed large prawns in the tomato paste while the pasta is cooking in it, after the crisping process.