Arrabbiata sauce

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!

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.

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!

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!

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!

Arrabbiata Sauce

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.

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!

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!

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!

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!

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!

Arrabbiata Sauce

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!
5 from 7 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 475kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 medium yellow onion diced
  • 4 oz. pancetta diced
  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.
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!

Looking for more easy pasta sauce recipes? Try some of these other favorites, too:

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24 Comments

  1. cant wait to make this soon for me can i use mushrooms and vegan parmesan i love arrabbiata sauce soooooooooooooooo much perfect for pizzas or pastas and my snacks love your recipes as always brightens up my day everyday after work

    1. Hey Ramya! You could certainly use mushrooms, but I would actually just leave them out entirely. The sauce is plenty flavorful without them! Let me know how it tastes!

    1. Arrabbiata has been one of my favorites for years – probably since I first traveled to Italy back in high school. I’m sure I’m breaking some “traditional Italian food rules” by adding the pancetta here…but man it sure is tasty! 🙂

    1. Hey Anne! Yes, the weather is starting to cool off…maybe. At least in theory. 🙂 But, yes, this pasta sauce would be fantastic for a cooler fall day! Definitely keep it on the radar of recipes to make soon. I appreciate you stopping by to comment, too!

  2. 5 stars
    To continue your analogy, angry is when you order a “coffee cake” (legitimately assuming it’s a coffee-infused cake), but you get just a regular vanilla cake with a cup of coffee LOL. Just kidding, that’s when you feel only baffled – not angry. By the way, you haven’t been sharing too many of your famous coffee cakes lately!
    And this pasta sauce? Angry or not, I don’t care cause it’s absolutely delicious.

    1. Haha! Oh, Ben, you’re never going to let me live down that coffee cake, huh? I even made a coffee cake with coffee in it based on your observations! But, yes, I do need to make a coffee cake again soon. Hmmm…what flavor this time?? Either way, this pasta is absolutely delicious! I promise it won’t leave you angry. Well, unless you add too many red pepper flakes. Haha!

    1. Pasta truly is the ultimate comfort food! I think I could eat pasta every night and not get tired of it. Well, I might have to work pizza and burgers in there somewhere, too. Haha! Thanks, Michelle!

  3. 5 stars
    We LOVE spicy in our family, so this recipe definitely has my attention. I’m ashamed to admit it but I have never heard of Arrabbiata Sauce, but boy, do I want to try it now. Also I agree wholeheartedly about San Marzano tomatoes. And btw, your featured video is so well shot and produced. Love it.

    1. Yes! Spicy food is always a fun night in our house. I mean you can always just dump hot sauce on anything, but it’s more fun when the recipe is designed to be spicy. If you’ve never tried Arrabbiata Sauce, then you have (!) to make it soon, Kristy. It’s SO good!! 🙂

  4. okay call me crazy – you may remember i don’t like tomatoes or pasta and only eat them when pressed. but i do like a spicy dish, so the more the merrier with chillies or cayenne etc. Bring on the heat!

    1. Haha – it’d be pretty hard to eat pasta sauce with tomatoes! But since they’ve been crushed, does that make it ok? Arrabbiata sauce does bring the heat, but it is SO tasty. If pasta sauce is fair game, then you definitely need to make a batch of this one, Sherry!

    1. New Jersey canned tomatoes? Nope – but now I’m intrigued! I bet they were easier to get back in New York vs. down here in North Carolina though. Thanks for the tip, Mimi!

  5. 5 stars
    Oh yes, lovely! Lynne’s favourite pasta sauce, Arrabbiata! And yep she loves it just nice and simple in some penne pasta. Love your take on this sauce recipe David. Cheers!

    1. You are 100% right, Kathy! The sauce might be angry, but it won’t leave you angry! I love a good spicy pasta sauce, and this one is a classic for a reason. 🙂

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