The International Assassina Academy | Bringing Spaghetti all’Assassina to the World

Spaghetti all’assassina la locanda dell’Elfo, Barivecchia

The Puglia Guys, Puglia Ambassadors whose self styled mission is to promote Puglia to the world, have scored another hit! As principal contributors to the most recent Rough Guides Puglia Guide published in 2023 and hosts to BBC tv’s National Treasure and television anchor Clive Myrie on the Puglia part of his Italian Road Trip, the Puglia Guys are well known to an international audience.

In 2022 and 2023 they made it their mission to bring the then little known (outside of) Bari dish of spaghetti bruciati aka spaghetti all’assassina to the world via their website. As well as blogging the history and tradition of this modern day classic Bari pasta dish, they created an Assassin’s Trail, listing the best places they had tried spaghetti all’assassina around Bari (and beyond). They also collated various versions of the recipe – from the official Accademia dell’Assassina of Bari version to Lolita Lobosco’s version from the novel ‘Spaghetti all’Assassina‘ by Gabriella Genisi (boil the spaghetti al dente and add some red wine from Puglia – preferably primitivo di Manduria according to the Puglia Guys).

Noting that the spaghetti all’assassina tradition is fiercely protected by the Accademia and others, Scott Maxwell, co-founder of the Puglia Guys, is well aware of the tensions created between promoting the traditional regional cooking of our region and the frustrations of young chefs who want to innovate when presenting these dishes.

The perfect compromise, he considers, is to respect the method of cooking the assassina, while acknowledging that new ingredients and tastes can be introduced.

”Unlike many Italian dishes that you eat on vacation and then try to replicate at home, and find they don’t quite taste the same, spaghetti all’assassina doesn’t depend on fresh seasonal ingredients, or speciality Italian ingredients like artisan cured meats,” he explains. “It’s all about the method. Burning and blistering the spaghetti without making it bitter. A good assassina should be smokey, but not bitter.”

As influential British turned Kitchen in Rome food writer for the UK’s Guardian newspaper, Rachel Roddy explained, referencing the Puglia Guys when introducing spaghetti all’assassina to the UK, “The Puglia Guys note on their excellent blog, all’assassina must be burnt, crispy and fiery.”

That’s the good news wherever you are in the world. Spaghetti all’assassina is an easy dish to replicate, despite the ingredients. And so, according to Maxwell, it makes sense to innovate while ensuring the same cooking method is used to ensure the burnt, crispy and fiery result.

”The trend we are seeing here in Puglia is to innovate by offering other versions of assassina – orecchiette all’assassina, pizza all’assassina. But some of these risk just being a sort of arrabbiata, ignoring the blistering of the pasta for the smokey subtlety the dish should impart.”

That’s why the Puglia Guys are innovating in another direction. They are bringing a twist with international versions of the beloved Bari recipe.

“So far we have a Barese-Calabrese version that we love, using ‘nduja instead of chilli for the heat. We also have an East-Coast USA version where we use the famous Maryland Old Bay Seasoning instead of chilli.”

”And for the Brexit loving (or hating) Brits we have tomato masala spaghetti all’assassina, which is a little more complicated, but only because we have to first make a tomato masala first, which we use instead of tomato passata.”

”Each day we are trying different versions to share with the national tastes of others. And it’s quite a hit!”

”To preserve our innovative recipes with an international twist, as the Bari Accademia first did, we have established the International Assassina Academy, to promote this very special dish, and encourage all kitchen cultures to try a version of their own, while exporting a little piece of Puglia as we merrily roll along.”

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