Italian Arrabbiata sauce is a great, easy and quick, classic sauce which should be in everyone’s back pocket! Make it with dried pasta and you’ll have dinner on the table in 20 minutes with no problems. Make it with fresh pasta and you have a sauce which is perfectly calibrated to use up the energy you have left after all the rolling and cutting. Either way, you are going to have a wonderful meal, very Italian in its simplicity and balance.
I’ll admit it right now. My arrabbiata pasta sauce tends to be more mildly annoyed than angry. When I was going through Marc Vetri’s Mastering Pasta cookbook and decided on his Maltagliati All’Arrabbiata sauce, I thought I’d start with half of the red pepper flakes. My motto is it is easier to add more than it is to take it out. 🙂
And, though both husband and daughter do enjoy spice, they were united in declaring the pasta quite spicy enough. Though is from a daughter who, in recent memory, cheerfully ate an entire plate of pasta with white clam sauce which tasted as though the chef had tripped and spilled the red pepper flakes over her plate. Yes, she had lots of milk alongside. No, she didn’t want to send it back.
So, how angry (or annoyed) you are on any particular day might vary! Start with the lower amount and work your way up until your pasta is an angry as makes you happy.
Other than the pepper flakes, there are a couple of bits of advice that I have to make the best sauce you can.
- Crush the tomatoes with your hand as you add them to the pan. Pureeing is too smooth and breaking them up with the side of the spoon is too chunky. Hand crushed is just right.
- Do not forget to scoop out some pasta water! The starchy water is very important in making a sauce which is full of body and clings to your pasta. Always marry your pasta and your sauce.
With that I’ll send you off to the recipe! It is a simple sauce, but a great sauce and well worth making.
– Stay Saucy, Annemarie
Spicy Italian Arrabbiata Sauce
- 16 oz pasta, such as penne or broken up lasagna noodles
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, with more for serving
- kosher salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- Begin heating a large pot of water for the pasta. Once your water begins boiling, add a good spoonful of kosher salt and cook the pasta. Dip into the pasta water with a coffee cup and take out about a cup of water.
- Heat the olive oil and the garlic in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute for 2 minutes, being careful not to burn or over brown the garlic. (A little golden is okay.) Add the tomatoes to the skillet, crushing the tomatoes in your hand as you add them. Bring the tomatoes to a simmer then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook them down for 10 minutes.
- Add the pasta, 1/2 cup of the pasta water, the red pepper flakes, and parsley to the skillet with the tomato sauce. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring frequently and vigorously, until the sauce reduces and begins to coat the pasta, about 1 minute, adding more pasta water if needed. Keep cooking for a few moments more and you'll see the pasta and sauce become one. Add salt, pepper, and more red pepper flakes to taste.
- Serve with grated parmesan and more parsley over the top.
- I adapted (and altered a bit) this recipe from Mastering Pasta by Marc Vetri. This is a great book if you want to really get into making your own pasta and trying different sauces.
- You can puree the tomatoes if you want a smooth sauce. For a chunky sauce with the tomatoes broken up just the right amount, using your hands is best. I've tried various methods and nothing beats breaking up the tomatoes as you add them.
- I made the recipe using fresh pasta which I cut maltagliati style, which means cut into irregular rectangles and triangles. I liked them about 2 inches square. If you are using dried pasta, breaking up lasagna noodles into smaller pieces will produce a similar pasta shape.
- If you are using dried pasta, begin cooking the pasta before you add the tomatoes to the sauce. However, if you are using fresh pasta, which will only take a couple of minutes, start cooking just before your tomatoes are done.