Penne Arrabbiata

arrabbiata sauce
Copyright: imelnyk
Penne Arrabbiata is a simple dish to prepare but one that has great spicy flavour. The pasta is coated in a rich tomato sauce, chilli, garlic and finished off with parmesan. The sauce means ‘angry’ in Italian and refers to the heat from the chilli which is a must for this really rich sauce. Don’t overdo the chillis as it can overpower the dish to the point where it has Mexican heat rather than Italian heat. I use Poblano, Habanero (green) or a couple of Bird’s-Eye chillis depending on the mood and desire. The sauce is made hotter as the Autumn gets colder and Winter sets in and then this heat recedes as Summer takes over!
A similar tomato sauce to the arrabbiata can be made but the latter is ideal for pizza toppings including a fiesty pizza Margherita. There is also similarity with sauces using nduja sausage when heat is needed.  The pasta too doesn’t have to be penne as any really will do. 
The use of herbs is very much in the mouth of the beholder. A small addition of thyme whether it is chopped or dried helps. We sometimes add chopped black olives just for effect and it adds a different slightly rougher flavour dimension too. 
Serves 4; Preparation time: 15 minutes; Cooking time: 20 minutes. Total time: 35 minutes.

Ingredients For Arrabbiata Sauce: 

  • 1 -2 teaspoons of olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium white/yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cans (14.5 oz.) Italian tomatoes, peeled and chopped. If its made from tomatoes use San Marzano or Costeluto
  • one medium wine glass of red wine
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh chilli, finely chopped or chilli flakes 
  • 2 teaspoons of caster sugar
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon of black olives, chopped roughly – garnish
  • 1 large handful of fresh basil leaves, torn roughly – garnish
  • parmesan – grated for the topping.
  • pasta – about 75-80g of penne or farfalle for each person. If it’s four being served then have 300g ready.


  1. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan or skillet on a medium-high heat and add the chilli and onion to  sauté for 5 minutes. Allow the onion to just turn translucent if you can see it.
  2. Add the garlic and continue to cook gently for another minute and then the tomatoes including the wine, sugar and tomato paste.
  3. The tomatoes may need to be broken up as they cook – just use a wooden spoon to create a sort of tomato mash. Put the whole mix on a low simmer and cook for another 25 to 30 minutes to thicken the sauce. It should have a syrupy consistency. 
  4. About 15 minutes before hand, get a large pan of salted boiling water on the go and about 5 minutes before serving, add the pasta and boil. Once the pasta is ready and this depends on which type is being used, the sauce should be ready to serve.
  5. Drain the pasta, and either pout the sauce on top or mix into the pasta.
  6. Finally, add the chopped basil, salt and pepper and just check the sauce for these flavours. The olives are also added at this point almost for decoration.
  7. Grate parmesan cheese on top.
  8. The arrabbiata sauce can also be stored in a sealed glass jar such as a kilner for a few days in the fridge.
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