Super Simple Arrabbiata Sauce
This angry pasta dish is the last thing you might think of to clear your mind and bring peace to your dinner table… but trust me, it works.
When I was learning how to cook, one of the first things I learned to make was pasta with tomato sauce.
My Nana would simmer hers for hours, with garlic, onion, and a healthy pinch of salt. She’d finish it with some Parmigiano Reggiano and toss some penne in some sauce with more parm, some olive oil, and a little pasta water to serve.
And when I tell you it was my favourite… I mean, *chef’s kiss*
The only person who topped her was Big Nonna, her mother. Nana and I often agreed that there was something about Nonna’s sauce. There was a sweetness that no matter what ingredient we added, or what technique we tried, we just couldn’t figure out.
I found out, years later, that she added the long, green cubanelle peppers to her sauce. It all made sense. This is not that story, at least not entirely.
My Tomato Sauce Saga
Before that revelation, I experimented with my tomato sauce. I tweaked this, added that, tried fresh roasted tomatoes instead of tinned, added tomato paste and a little sugar. I even added a chopped date one time.
It sounds gross, but I promise, it did something special.
And on that journey to work out Nonna’s sauce, I found a recipe for arrabbiata. I learned that arrabbiata is a reasonably new addition to Roman cuisine. It is thought to have been invented in the 1950s or 1960s, when spicy food became more popular in Rome.
The name means “angry” and is derived from the word arrabbiato, which refers to there being an excess of something. In the case of pasta arrabbiata, it means spice.
Using simple ingredients and techniques I knew well, learned from watching Nana all those years ago, I was raring to give it a try.
Oh my stars, was it ever worth it.
Fiery chilis, with subtle garlic, mingled throughout, and the sweetness of some good-quality tomatoes to balance the flavours. Add some pasta water to make the sauce silky and help it stick to the pasta, add a drizzle of olive oil and that’s it!
It’s the perfect mindful recipe.
Super Simple Arrabbiata Sauce
Spice, garlic, and sweetness in perfect harmony — this versatile sauce will quickly become a classic at your place!
Ingredients (Serves 4)
- 1 28 oz can of WHOLE tomatoes (I would even push the boat out and get the nice ones in a jar if you can — with such a simple recipe, quality ingredients are always better)
- 1–4 cloves of garlic (add as many as your heart wants)
- 1 tbsp of red chili flakes (or dice up some fresh chilis, add another tbsp if you like it spicy!)
- 1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- ~2 cups pasta (450g — traditionally penne was used, but I used fusilli, and it was delicious)
- ~½ cup of the reserved pasta water
- Any toppings (again, traditional is parm and a drizzle of olive oil, maybe a few basil leaves, but go with what your heart wants — mine wanted spicy vegan sausage and greens)
Instructions (15–20 minutes)
- Cook your pasta according to pasta instructions in salted boiling water; set aside. I recommend pulling the pasta off the heat and draining it just before it gets to al dente because you’ll cook it more in the last step of this recipe. Do not forget to reserve about ½ a cup of pasta water.
- If you’re using jarred passata, skip this step. If you’re using whole, canned tomatoes, then pour them into a bowl and smoosh them up into pieces with clean hands. They don’t need to be smooth, but you want bite-sized pieces.
- Mince your garlic while you heat the olive oil in a medium pan. You want a pan with a thick lip because you’ll be adding liquid to it later, and you don’t want it to overflow or splash you. That ish hurts!
- When the oil is hot, throw in your garlic and chilis and cook until fragrant (maybe 1–2 minutes).
- Pour in your smooshed tomatoes and a nice pinch of salt. Stir and bring to a simmer. You’re going to want to reduce/ thicken it for a couple of minutes.
- Then, add your pasta water and stir until combined. Bring back up to a simmer and reduce/ thicken for 1–2 minutes, or until the sauce looks thick and silky.
- Add the pasta and toss. Add in or on your favourite toppings with a drizzle of olive oil. Enjoy!
We eat this probably once a week in my house, and it’s always a hit.
Taking the time to make yourself some simple, yummy food is my favourite way to be a little bit more mindful. Put on some Italian ristorante music and get right into the cooking process. Chop and stir to the rhythm of the music, dance around your kitchen, keep a clean spoon by the pan to taste the sauce, and adjust the seasonings as you go. Then relax with a glass of wine and a plate of the angriest pasta I know.
You won’t regret it!