Featuring a generous amount of red pepper flakes and garlic, Arrabbiata Sauce is a delicious (and classic) Italian tomato sauce. Make a batch for dinner tonight!
‘Angry’ is not a term you hear very often when it comes to food. Sure, I might be angry if I order a pepperoni pizza and the shop left off the pepperoni. (That has happened, by the way.) I also might be angry if I dropped my slice of cake on the floor. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. Today’s post is all about angry sauce.
That’s right. Angry sauce. Literally translated, arrabbiata means ‘angry.’ This term comes from the Romanesco dialect where arabbiato means to push something to excess. In the case of this Arrabbiata Sauce, the spiciness of the dish is pushed to excess.
I would argue, however, that while this dish is indeed spicy, it has not been pushed to excess. To me, excessive spice means so spicy that it literally cannot be eaten. That’s not the case here at all. A good arrabbiata sauce is one with a notable kick in terms of heat, but not over-the-top spicy.
I recognize that everyone has different levels of sensitivity when it comes to spicy food. I would estimate that this version of Arrabbiata sauce equates roughly to a batch of medium buffalo chicken wings at your favorite bar. Spicy, but not ‘shut the cluck up’ spicy. Of course, feel free to adjust the amount of red pepper flakes in this recipe. In fact, this sauce would be fantastic without any red pepper flakes. It wouldn’t be arrabbiata sauce anymore, but it would be fantastic!
An Arrabbiata Sauce is a fairly simple and straightforward tomato sauce. It relies on a couple cans of San Marzano tomatoes – as I’ve noted before, it’s worth the extra cost to get San Marzano tomatoes here. After all, the tomatoes form the basis of the entire sauce, so start with good ones! (San Marzano tomatoes are a variety of plum tomatoes that can only be grown in the Sarno valley in southern Italy.)
Aside from the tomatoes and red pepper flakes, the rest of this sauce is pretty simple. I did go off-script slightly here by adding some diced pancetta into the sauce. Pancetta is more often seen in Spaghetti all’Amatriciana (another delicious and easy sauce!), but I decided to include it here in this recipe, too. It adds a meaty flavor that is fan-freakin-tastic in my opinion! However, feel free to omit if you’d like.
If you’re looking for a tasty homemade tomato sauce, put this Arrabbiata Sauce on the menu! This time, I went with the more traditional approach and served this sauce with penne pasta. (Indeed, you’ll see ‘penne all’arrabbiata’ on many Italian restaurant menus.) However, we’ve used this sauce as the basis for many quick and delicious pasta dishes over the years. Add some sautéed bulk Italian sausage? Sure! What about sliced Italian sausage instead? Why not? Or just keep it simple and make a basic tomato sauce. Yup, we’ve done that, too!
No matter how “angry” you make this sauce, I hope you enjoy this recipe! It’s a staple in our house for good reason. Cheers!
Did you make a batch of this Arrabbiata Sauce at home? Leave a comment or snap a photo and tag me on Instagram (@Spicedblog) – I’d love to see your version!
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 medium yellow onion diced
- 4 oz. pancetta diced
- 2½ tsp minced garlic
- ½ cup tomato paste
- 2 28-oz. cans San Marzano tomatoes, whole
- 16 oz. penne pasta
- ¼ cup fresh basil leaves torn
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- freshly chopped Italian parsley for garnish
- grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
- Using a large Dutch oven, add olive oil and place over medium heat.
- Once hot, add the red pepper flakes, diced onions and pancetta; sauté, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
- Add minced garlic and tomato paste; stir until well combined. Continue sautéing for 3-4 minutes.
- Place canned tomatoes in a large ziptop bag and crush with your hands. (Tip: the ziptop bag is to prevent tomato juice from going everywhere!)
- Transfer tomatoes into Dutch oven; stir and bring mixture to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes.
- Fill a large stockpot with salted water and bring to a boil.
- Cook pasta until al dente, according to package instructions. (Note: Save ~½ cup of pasta water!)
- Once sauce is done simmering, stir in torn basil leaves, salt and pepper.
- Transfer cooked pasta into Dutch oven and toss with sauce until well coated. (Note: If sauce is too thick, add a couple tablespoons of the reserved pasta water.)
- Before serving, garnish with chopped Italian parsley and grated Parmesan cheese.
Looking for more easy pasta sauce recipes? Try some of these other favorites, too: