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A quick and easy family recipe for classic Italian arrabbiata sauce — a spicy, rich-tasting tomato sauce for pasta, chicken, pizza and more! It scores a “10” on the flavor scale, with savory canned crushes tomatoes, lots of garlic and, of course, plenty of red chili pepper to kick the spice up.
This is a 25-minute red sauce pasta recipe that you need in your life. It scores a “10” on the flavor scale, with savory tomato, lots of garlic and, of course, plenty of red chili pepper to kick the spice up!
Growing up in an Italian family, tomato sauce, a/k/a “gravy” was an absolute mainstay for me. Red sauce went with everything, from Sunday meatballs to weeknight pasta, a pizza topping smeared into hearty sandwiches, and served over stuffed peppers or Italian sausage. I grew to l-o-v-e spicy sauces like this one or a classic puttanesca sauce.
- Ingredients in arrabbiata sauce
- What arrabiatta means in Italian
- Recipe steps
- What to serve with arrabbiata sauce
Why you’ll love homemade arrabbiata sauce:
- It’s quick! The spicy marinara sauce is ready to serve in about 20 minutes.
- It’s made with ingredients you probably have on hand right now.
- It’s loaded with umami and goes with perfect al dente pasta, chicken, shrimp, pizza…and more.
- It keeps well in an airtight container the refrigerator and freezer for whenever you get a craving (and you will).
All about arrabbiata
Arrabbiata (pronounced Ah-Rah-Bi-Ah-Ta) is a spicy pasta sauce that originated in Rome, Italy. The name is often misspelled “arrabiata.” Sugo all’arrabbiata means “sauce in the angry way” in Italian because it contains plenty of dried red chili peppers (peperoncini).
Arrabbiata is in common with marinara sauce, another simple tomato sauce made with tomatoes, garlic and olive oil. A major difference between the two sauces is that marinara doesn’t contain red chili flakes.
It’s a thick and rich vegetarian pasta sauce, a version of my go-to recipe for Italian meat sauce.
About the ingredients
This classic from-scratch pasta sauce is a snap to make with everyday pantry ingredients. It’s basically made with olive oil, garlic, chili pepper and tomatoes.
- Canned tomatoes: I highly recommend using crushed tomatoes, not diced. Diced canned tomatoes are packed in water which dilutes flavor and makes a watery sauce. Crushed tomatoes are packed in tomato puree and are the best to use if you want a thick, pasta-coating sauce. Canned whole San Marzano tomatoes are also good — just crush them with your hands or smash them with spoon directly in the can.
- Tomato paste: This concentrated essence of tomato helps bind the sauce and adds a layer of umami – yum! Make your own homemade tomato paste, or conveniently packaged tomato paste in a tube or jar.
- Crushed red pepper: The sauce has a generous balance of chili — enough that you feel the heat without setting your mouth on fire, yet still taste all the other components. But red pepper flakes can vary, from mild to fiery. Adjust the amount of chili to personal taste buds!
- Fresh garlic: Lots of it! This is a sauce that needs a good amount of garlic, 3-4 plump cloves, to match the punch of the chili. If you have a rasp grater or garlic press, use it.
- Onion: You could leave it out, but onion adds a sweet base layer and depth to the sauce.
- Olive oil: Use a high-quality oil for the best taste.
- Oregano: Dried oregano is not an authentic herb in arrabbiata, but I love its delicious herbal aroma when it cooks.
- Sugar: Optional. Adding sugar to tomato sauce is a controversial topic among cooks in my family, because it really depends on the quality and ripeness level of the tomatoes. Find a brand you like and taste, taste, taste. Sometimes a small amount of sugar works like magic to bring the acidity of the sauce into balance.
- Fresh herbs: If serving with pasta, garnish your dish with parsley or fresh basil leaves if you like.
- To start, choose a large pot and heat olive oil over medium-high heat.
- Serve the sauce with your favorite pasta as soon as it’s done, or pack it into jars and refrigerate up to a week, or stash in the freezer one month.
What to serve with spicy tomato sauce:
- Pasta!! Penne is the classic dried pasta shape to pair with spicy arrabbiata sauce, but you can use your favorite type.
- Dipping sauce for mozzarella sticks or breadsticks
- As a topping for pizza (instead of making homemade pizza sauce with canned tomato puree).
- With homemade meatballs
- Sauce for chicken cutlets, sauteed shrimp or creamy polenta
- Spread inside panini or grilled cheese sandwich
25 Minute Homemade Arrabbiata Sauce
Yield: About 3 cups, enough for 1 pound pasta
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped or grated on a Microplane
- 2 teaspoons crushed red chili pepper, for a spicy sauce. Add or more/less to taste
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 28-ounce (795 g) can crushed tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons (30 g) tomato paste
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon granulated sugar, optional* see note below
- Cooked pasta such as penne, rigatoni or your favorite shape
- Grated pecorino Romano cheese or Parmesan cheese
- Chopped parsley, or basil
- Put a large skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat. Pour in the olive oil, then add the onion. Cook, stirring, until the onion is soft and translucent, 3-4 minutes.
- Add the garlic, crushed red chili pepper, oregano and black pepper. Cook 1-2 minutes, just until the garlic releases its fragrance. Add the tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, salt and sugar.
- Bring the sauce to a simmer, then lower the heat to medium. Cover the pan and cook 15 minutes. If the sauce doesn't seem thick, simmer uncovered 5-10 minutes. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning to your taste
- Serve with hot, cooked pasta and plenty of grated pecorino Romano cheese.
Karen’s Notes and Tips
- Omit the sugar if desired. Taste your tomatoes for sweetness as canned tomatoes can vary in ripeness.
- To store the sauce, pack into jars or other airtight container and refrigerate up to a week or freeze one month.