HAVE you ever had food so good you thought it should be illegal? What if it actually was?

In Calabria, in southern Italy, there is actually a popular pasta dish that was banned, once upon a time.

Stroncatura - a dark, sleek linguini instantly recognisable by locals due to its rough surface - has now been regulated and is a cult hit, but that has not always been the case.

In fact, you would be surprised by how popular the pasta is, given the fact it was originally banned for human consumption due to health and safety reasons.

So why does this pasta have such an illicit history, and what was so wrong with it that it had to be outlawed?

The reason is that this pasta was originally made from leftovers from grain milling - leftovers that were literally swept up from the floor at the end of each day (along with whatever else was on the floor) and mixed together.

Due to its mixture of different ingredients, it had a real sour taste - for this reason it was originally intended as animal feed. So when did people start eating it themselves?

Poorer Italians realised they could get their hands on the pasta for much cheaper, so they would use it instead, masking the acidic taste with spicy sauces and different strong flavours, such as sardines and anchovies.

Obviously, with the way this pasta was made, there were fears for the health of those consuming it, so Stroncatura was banned for hygiene reasons.

This didn’t stop people from eating it though, surprisingly, it just meant that it became a black market product (yes, black market pasta!), usually sold under the table, always without labels so no one could tell what it was.

It’s hard to believe that people were buying and selling illegal pasta. Luckily these days you don’t have to risk a run-in with the law to get your hands on some.

Stroncatura is now legal to buy, and made in a far more hygienic way, making it perfectly fit for human consumption.

Not only is it available, but it’s a smash hit, featuring on the menus of many Michelin-starred restaurants in the area, and it’s a favourite of many of Italy’s top chefs too.

Unfortunately, even though Stroncatura is legal now, it still isn’t something you can get your hands on easily in the UK.

But, while you might not be able to recreate a Stroncatura yourself with the real deal, you can easily make yourself a version with wholewheat spaghetti, using all of the ingredients you usually would for the sauce - and all of these ingredients are easy to pick up from your local supermarket.

As always, these dishes are adaptable. You can try and get your hands on some Stroncatura online, if you really want to try it. You can also swap the anchovies for a different fish in oil, such as tuna, if you prefer it.

Try out this reimagined take on a traditional Stroncatura dish for yourself - and do so safe in the knowledge none of it was made from bits and pieces swept up from the floor!

Serves four


500g dried wholewheat spaghetti (or Stroncatura if you can find some)

2tbsp capers

1tbsp anchovies (in oil)

2tbsp olive oil

200g tinned plum tomatoes

Chilli flakes

2 garlic cloves

60g bread crumbs

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt and pepper

Chopped fresh parsley


1. Bring a large pan of water (with added salt) to the boil. You are going to want to cook your wholewheat spaghetti first, so once the water is boiling add the spaghetti to the pan. Cook in accordance with the instructions on the packet, but remove your spaghetti from the heat a little earlier, when it reaches a cooked but al dente texture.

2. Take a large frying pan and heat two tablespoons of olive oil. To chop your clove of garlic, peel away the skin, crush with the flat side of a knife and then chop the garlic horizontally and then vertically until it is in small pieces. Add the garlic to the pan along with a sprinkling of chilli flakes and cook until fragrant. Add the breadcrumbs too and mix well. Next, drain your anchovies from the oil roughly chop them before adding them to the pan with the garlic and chilli. Drain the capers and add those. Cook for a couple of minutes before adding your tinned plum tomatoes to the pan too.

3. The sauce doesn’t take long to cook. Leave it to cook over a medium heat for around five minutes, making sure it is nice and hot. Once it is ready squeeze in the juice of one lemon. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Finally add your cooked spaghetti to the pan with the sauce. Stir it well, to evenly coat all of the spaghetti with the sauce. Do so while your pan is still over a gentle heat, so it doesn’t go cold.

5. To add the finishing touch stir in a handful of chopped fresh parsley before serving. Divide the spaghetti between four bowls and enjoy immediately.