This simple Arrabbiata Sauce is as easy as it gets with spicy, rich, bright, tomato, basil and garlicky flavors – a must have for every cook! Toss it with penne or use on pizzas, subs, and more!
Arrabbiata Sauce (also called Sugo all’arrabbiata in Italian) may sound fancy, but is ridiculously easy to make! It’s a rich, hearty, spiced up version of a sweet and savory marinara sauce made with San Marzano tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper, simmered to perfection, then finished with a crescendo of fresh herbs. If needed, you can even swap in dried herbs and aromatics so you can make this recipe any time – it can be our little secret ;). This Arrabiata Sauce recipe is also make-ahead and freezer friendly so you can always have it on hand. Use it to make Penne Arrabbiata, or on pizzas, subs, meatballs and more!
Fabulous Italian sauces belong in the repertoire of every home cook! Don’t miss 15-Minute Tomato Sauce, Homemade Marinara Sauce , Bolognese Sauce. Healthy Alfredo Sauce, and Pesto Sauce.
HOW TO MAKE Arrabiata Sauce VIDEo
WHAT IS ARRABBIATA SAUCE?
Arrabbiata sauce, arrabiata sauce or sugo all’arrabbiata in Italian, is a spicy tomato sauce that originated in the 1950s in Rome, Italy, when spicy food was in vogue in Roman cuisine. In fact, arrabbiata in Italian, translates to “angry” sauce, thanks to the raging spiciness of the chili peppers.
Traditional arrabbiata sauce is made from only sweet, crushed San Marzano tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and loads of fresh or dried red chili peppers simmered into a thick, concentrated sauce. Today, many modern versions, like the one I’m sharing with you today, also include onion and basil. Grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano are also often added to Penne Arrabiata.
Arrabiata Sauce FAQS
The correct spelling is with two b’s – arrabbiata, however, you may see it spelled more often with one b as arrabiata in English usages. No matter how you spell it, they both mean the spicy tomato sauce we know and love!
Arrabiata sauce is a spicy tomato sauce that’s rich and garlicky, with the perfect balance of sweet thanks to the simmering San Marzano tomatoes vs heat thanks to the crushed red pepper flakes.
Both of these classic Italian tomato sauces are made with tomatoes, garlic and herbs. Marinara, however, often contains a sofrito of onions, carrots and celery, and is not meant to be spicy. Arrabiata, on the other hand, translates in Italian to angry, as in fiery heat, because it is cooked with red chili flakes to create an as-spicy-as-you-can-handle sauce.
Pomodoro and arrabbiata sauce are very similar, both made with whole crushed tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and basil. The difference is the heat. Arrabiata is a spicier tomato-based sauce thanks to the addition of red pepper flakes.
Arrabiata sauce pairs well with any pasta, but particularly with ridged tubular pasta shapes such as penne and rigatoni. The sauce clings to the ridges of the sauce, and the tubes can also fill with the sauce creating more flavorful forkfuls.
Both arrabiata sauce and Bolognese sauce are tomato sauces made with crushed tomatoes, and garlic. Bolognese, however, is a more complicated meat-based tomato sauce which includes a sofrito of onion, celery and carrots along with white wine, chicken broth and either milk or heavy cream. Pancetta is often added as well. Additionally, Bolognese can include crushed red pepper flakes, but it is not meant to be spicy, unlike arrabiata sauce, which is intended to be fiery hot.
Traditionally, arrabiata sauce does not contain meat, but feel free to add whatever you like! Keep the sauce meatless to pair with meatballs or chicken Parm or brown Italian sausage or ground beef with the onions and then simmer the meat with the sauce. When adding meatballs, I slightly undercook them, then add them to the simmering sauce to finish cooking, so they soak up more flavor.
What MAkes The best Arrabiata Sauce Recipe
Arrabiata sauce is oh-so-popular for a reason. Here’s why you’ll love it:
It’s sweet, savory, spicy fabulous. What sets arrabbiata apart is sautéing a generous spoonful of crushed red pepper flakes in sizzling oil and then adding the whole tomatoes to simmer until the sauce reduces and thickens. The toasty, spicy heat enhances the flavors of the tomatoes, garlic and basil for an adept, swoon worthy balance, of sweet, savory and spicy.
It brings the heat but is easy to customize. While arrabiata is meant to be spicy, you can simply add less red pepper flakes to create the flavor profile your family will love; OR start with less for the kiddos, then crank up the heat for the adults.
It uses the best tomatoes to create a sweeter sauce. If you have been on the fence about cooking with San Marzano tomatoes because they are more expensive-now is the time! These stellar tomatoes are grown in the volcanic soils of the San Marzano region of Italy, and are highly prized for their sweet, intense tomatoey flavor and lower acidity. In fact, they are so sweet, you shouldn’t even have to add any sugar to the sauce!
The sauce is made with simple ingredients. The base of the sauce is canned tomatoes, which means you can whip it up year-round! If you don’t have fresh aromatics or herbs, simply swap in dried.
This arrabiata sauce recipe is super-versatile. Use it on pasta like penne or rigatoni, meatballs, margherita pizza, chicken Parmesan, sub sandwiches, or any recipe that calls for tomato sauce!
Is this Recipe Authentic?
No, this arrabbiata recipe is not authentic and instead, is my modern interpretation. In addition to classic San Marzano tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes, it includes sautéed onions, tomato paste, and additional herbs. These ingredients don’t overpower the classic ingredients, but instead, serve to enhance their deliciousness. For a classic recipe, simply skip the additional ingredients.
Arrabbiata SAuce Ingredients
The key to this easy arrabbiata sauce is to use quality ingredients because there are so few of them! You will need:
How to Make Arrabiata Sauce with Penne
You’ll love how quick and easy it is to prepare penne arrabbiata at home! There’s less than 10 minutes of hands-on prep required, then let the sauce bubble away on the stovetop while occasionally crushing the tomatoes to develop its signature spicy flavor.
- Step 1: Boil the pasta. Cook the penne in heavily salted water, just until al dente. Reserve some of the pasta water before draining the pasta.
- Step 2: Sauté aromatics and tomato paste. Sauté the onions in some olive oil until softened, then add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté one additional minute. Finally, add the tomato paste and cook one minute. Cooking the tomato paste deepens and sweetens the flavors so it doesn’t taste “tinny.”
- Step 3: Add the tomatoes and herbs. Add the whole tomatoes and juices, oregano, thyme and salt.
- Step 4: Simmer the sauce. Cook the sauce, occasionally mashing the tomatoes with a potato masher or wooden spoon until reduced and thickened.
- Step 5: Garnish and serve. Remove the sauce from the heat. Stir in the fresh basil and parsley, then stir in the cooked penne. Garnish with freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese and enjoy!
Tips for MAking the Best penne arrabbiata
Arrabiata sauce with penne is ridiculously simple to make, but there are a few notes to pay attention to:
How to Avoid an Acidic Arrabbiata Sauce
Use quality tomatoes: This is the first step in creating a balanced sauce. As stated above, look for quality WHOLE San Marzano Italian tomatoes because they are naturally sweeter and less acidic. If you use these tomatoes, you shouldn’t even have to add sugar to your sauce!
Add some sugar: If you use different tomatoes, be prepared to add some sugar to taste.
The best pots to cook tomato sauces in: Choose stainless steel or enameled cast iron. Stainless steel is non-reactive, staying chemically stable even when you use it for cooking or storing acidic foods. Porcelain enamel is a type of glass that’s resistant to both acidic and alkaline foods.
Don’t use reactive cookware like aluminum, cast iron or nonstick pans.
possible recipe variations
Arrabiata sauce is a springboard for adding protein, vegetables, herbs, cream etc. Here are a few tasty variations to try:
Ways to Use Arrabbiata Sauce
Use the arrabbiata sauce swirled with penne pasta like I’ve shared in this recipe, or you can use it in any of the following ways:
What to Serve with Penne Arrabbiata
I like to serve Penne Arrabbiata with a simple green salad and breadsticks, but you can also try it with any of these tasty sides:
Salad: Caesar Salad, Garden Salad, Wedge Salad with Blue Cheese Ranch, Strawberry Poppy Seed Salad, Green Bean Salad, or Apple Salad.
Veggies: Sautéed Lemon Brussels Sprouts, Parmesan Asparagus, or Roasted Broccoli.
Bread: Mop up that extra sauce with Garlic Bread, Soft and Fluffy Dinner Rolls or Garlic Parmesan Butter Breadsticks.
Fruit: Go simple with fresh grapes, melon, etc. or in fruit salad form. We love Fruit Salad with Honey Lime Vinaigrette, Winter Fruit Salad with Honey Lime Poppy Seed Vinaigrette
The arrabiata sauce is great to make ahead because it tastes even better after the flavors have time to meld together in the fridge. It will last for up to 5 days in the fridge.
Alternatively, to prep ahead, chop the aromatics and herbs ahead of time so you’re already to sauté and simmer.
The penne or rigatoni can be made, rinsed with cold water and tossed with a drizzle of oil to prevent it from sticking, then refrigerated in a separate airtight container from the sauce.
How to Reheat Penne Arrabbiata
Gently heat arrabbiata sauce in a large saucepan over medium-low heat until warmed through, adding a splash of water if needed to thin to desired consistency.
You can reheat the pasta in the same saucepan as the sauce, or reheat it in a separate saucepan, covered, over medium-low heat. Add a splash of olive oil or water to prevent the pasta from sticking to the pan or drying out.
HOW TO STORE and Reheat arrabbiata sauce
Transfer leftover arrabiata to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Gently reheat in a large sauce pan over medium-low heat until warmed through, adding a splash of water if needed to thin to desired consistency.
HOW TO Freeze arrabiata sauce
This arrabiata sauce freezes exceptionally well, so go ahead and make a double or triple batch and you’ll always have some at your fingertips. Store leftover sauce in freezer bags or freezer-safe containers to up to 6 months. Please note that sauce will likely stain plastic containers. To thaw, place in the fridge overnight.
Looking for more Italian Sauce Recipes?
15-Minute Tomato Sauce
Homemade Marinara Sauce
Healthy Alfredo Sauce
Sun-Dried Tomato Alfredo Sauce
Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
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Arrabiata Sauce with Penne
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- 1 pound penne
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 yellow onion, diced (or 1 teaspoon onion powder)
- 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
- 1-3 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes (or as much as you can handle)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 28 oz. can San Marzano whole tomatoes with juices
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp EACH dried thyme, salt
- 3 tablespoons minced fresh basil (or 1 TBS dried)
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley (or 2 tsps. dried)
- Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese for serving
- Cook penne in a pot of heavily salted water just until al dente. Reserve ½ cup pasta water before draining. Drain the pasta, rinse with cool water and toss with a drizzle of olive oil; set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large saucepan/braiser or Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the onions and sauté until softened, 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes (you can start with less red pepper and add more later, if desired); sauté for one additional minute. Add tomato paste and cook one minute.
- Add the whole tomatoes and juices, oregano, thyme and salt.
- Bring to a vigorous simmer then reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook the sauce for approximately 15-20 minutes, occasionally mashing the tomatoes with a potato masher or wooden spoon until they reach desired consistency. Add some reserved pasta water if desired to thin the sauce (the sauce will be thick).
- Stir in fresh basil and parsley, followed by the pasta.
- Make it your own! Season to taste with sugar for sweeter or red pepper flakes for spicier and/or salt and pepper. Serve with plenty of freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese.
- This recipe is not authentic. In addition to classic San Marzano tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes, it includes sautéed onions, tomato paste, and additional herbs. These ingredients don’t overpower the classic ingredients, but instead, serve to enhance their deliciousness. For a classic recipe, simply skip the additional ingredients.
- San Marzano whole tomatoes. These tomatoes are grown in the rich volcanic soils of San Marzano, Italy and are highly prized for their sweet, intense tomatoey flavor and lower acidity. In fact, they are so sweet, you shouldn’t even have to add any sugar to the sauce! I recommend the brands San Marzano and Muir Glen. If you see other brands claiming to be San Marzano tomatoes, take an extra step and check to see if they are DOP-certified – usually visible on the front or the back of the can. This is a protective seal that guarantees authenticity.
- Variations: See post for lots of variations such as adding vegetables, protein, cream, etc.
- Storage: Transfer arrabbiata to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. To freeze, transfer to freezer bags or freezer-safe containers to up to 6 months. Please note that sauce will likely stain plastic containers. To thaw, place in the fridge overnight.
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