This spicy Arrabbiata Sauce recipe is super-simple to make, calls for just 6 main ingredients, and is guaranteed to kick your pasta nights up a delicious notch.
Ready to spice up your pasta nights…literally?
Let’s make some arrabbiata sauce! ♡
This classic spicy marinara sauce has become our go-to favorite red sauce these past few years. It’s made with all of the ingredients we all know and love in a good, traditional, slow-simmered tomato sauce. But thanks to the extra step of simmering a generous spoonful of crushed red pepper flakes in oil at the very beginning of the recipe — or better yet, in melted butter (yum) — you get the added bonus of the extra heat plus that amazing toasty flavor of those chiles mixed into the sauce. Which will give this sauce a totally different depth of flavor than you could get from just sprinkling the chili flakes on top. Which will also help to bring out all of the flavors in the tomatoes, garlic and basil, once everything is simmered together. Which is just downright delicious.
Seriously. It’s a simple little step that literally only takes two extra minutes. But I’m telling you — it’s magic.
As with any Italian marinara, this arribbiata sauce recipe is super-versatile and can be used in everything from pastas to pizzas to subs and more. Or, of course, it makes a dipping sauce for just about anything. Also, since this recipe calls for a base of canned tomatoes, it’s a simply pantry recipe that you can easily whip up all year round.
We saw this sauce on menus everywhere during our trip to Venice this past week, and I’ve been itching to make it again ever since we arrived home. So grab a bottle of crushed red chili flakes, and let’s cook up a batch together!
What Is Arrabbiata Sauce?
Before we get to the recipe, you may be asking — exactly what is arrabbiata sauce? It’s a spicy tomato marinara sauce that originates from Rome, Italy. In Italian, arrabbiata translates to mean “angry” sauce, thanks to all of those spicy chile peppers. And as mentioned above, this sauce can be used in any number of dishes.
Traditional sugo all’arrabbiata is made with just olive oil, garlic, tomatoes and dried (or fresh) red chile peppers. But modern versions are often amped up with some extra basil and onion. And since many American grocery stores don’t sell whole dried (or fresh) red chili peppers, I’ve written this recipe using crushed red chili flakes instead.
Heads up — this photo shows just a half batch of the recipe! :)
Arrabbiata Sauce Ingredients:
To make this arrabbiata sauce recipe, you will need:
Butter or olive oil: Olive oil is traditional, but if you don’t mind cooking with dairy, I highly recommend using butter instead. Its flavor pairs so perfectly with the tomatoes and garlic, and gives the sauce an extra richness that I love. But of course, it you would like to make this sauce vegan, use olive oil or a vegan butter.
Crushed red pepper flakes: Again, we’re talking about the spicy little flakes that are traditionally used to sprinkle on pizzas — not ground-up cayenne pepper. That said, if you live in a country where crushed red pepper flakes are hard to find, you can substitute in a few small (whole) dried red cayenne chiles.
Onion: We will use one small yellow or red onion, very finely-diced.
Garlic: Yes please. Lots.
Canned whole tomatoes: With such a short ingredient list, the quality of the tomatoes will make a noticeable difference here. I highly recommend buying San Marzano tomatoes, if you can. Otherwise, any good-quality brand will be great.
Fresh basil leaves: We will chop and stir quite a few into the sauce. But I also recommend sprinkling some on top if you serve this sauce with pasta.
Sea salt and freshly-cracked black pepper: To season.
How To Make Arrabbiata Sauce:
To make this arrabbiata sauce recipe, simply:
Sauté the crushed red pepper flakes: Heat the butter (or olive oil) in a large saucepan or deep sauté pan. Add the crushed red pepper flakes and sauté for about 2 minutes, to help toast and bring out their flavor.
Add onion and garlic: Add in the onions and sauté until softened, followed by the garlic.
Add tomatoes: Then add in the cans of whole tomatoes, juices included. And as they begin to heat up, use a wooden spoon or a potato masher to carefully break up the tomatoes. (Just wear an apron so that those juices inside of the tomatoes don’t accidentally splatter you!)
Simmer: Continue heating the sauce until it comes to a simmer. Then reduce heat to medium (or medium-low) to maintain a low simmer, and let the sauce cook for about 30 minutes, or until it reaches your desired consistency.
Stir in the basil, salt and pepper. Then taste the sauce, and season with any extra salt, pepper and/or crushed red pepper flakes as needed.
Serve warm. Or let the sauce cool and then refrigerate it in a sealed container for up to 4 days.
If the sauce gets a little too thick for your liking (especially once you have mixed it in with the pasta), feel free to add in 1/4 cup of the starchy pasta water to thin it out a bit. Or if the sauce is too thin for you, just keep simmering it until more of the juices have evaporated and the sauce has thickened.
Ways To Use Arribbiata Sauce:
There are all sorts of delicious ways that you can put this arrabbiata sauce to use! For example, feel free to use it in:
Pasta: Mix it into any shape of pasta or gnocchi, and combine it with any additional add-ins that you’d like. I especially love it this spicy tomato pasta with sausage and shrimp.
Pizza: This sauce will also be delicious on any kind of pizzas or flatbreads. (Feel free to simmer it down a bit more to thicken it, if you’d like.
Dipping sauce: For everything from breadsticks, to mozzarella sticks, to chicken fingers, calamari, toasted ravioli and more.
Subs and sandwiches: You know, Joey Tribbiani style. ;)
This Spicy Arrabbiata Sauce recipe is super-simple to make, calls for just 6 main ingredients, and is guaranteed to kick your pasta nights up a delicious notch.
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (or butter)
2–4 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes*
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
6 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves, torn or roughly-chopped
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
Heat olive oil or butter in a large saucepan (or deep sauté pan) over medium-high heat until melted. Add crushed red pepper flakes and sauté for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add onion and sauté for 5 minutes or until softened and translucent, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and sauté for 2 more minutes or until fragrant, stirring occasionally. Add in the tomatoes and stir to combine.
Continue cooking the sauce, breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon (or potato masher) as you go, until the sauce reaches a low simmer. Reduce heat to medium to maintain a steady simmer. Then let the sauce continue to cook uncovered for about 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it has thickened** and reached your desired consistency.
Stir in the basil, salt and pepper. Then taste the sauce, and season with any extra salt, pepper and/or crushed red pepper flakes as needed.
Serve immediately. Or let the sauce cool and then refrigerate it in a sealed container for up to 4 days.
Batch Size: This arrabbiata recipe makes a pretty large batch (which will yield a nice saucy pasta, if tossed with a 1-lb box of pasta which has been cooked according to package instructions). So if you are cooking less pasta, or if you prefer a less-saucy pasta, feel free to halve the recipe.
Crushed Red Pepper Flakes: I like to add 4 teaspoons (or more!) crushed red pepper flakes to this recipe, which definitely gives it a noticeable kick. But if you are sensitive to heat, I would start with 1 or 2 teaspoons and you can always add more later.
Consistency: If the sauce accidentally thickens too much to your liking, you can thin it out with water (ideally some starchy pasta water) — either in the pan of sauce itself, or you can add the water directly to the pasta once it has been mixed with the sauce.
This is a great “kicker” to the traditional recipe. Funny story.. many years ago, my ex-mother in law wrote down a few of our favorite recipes for the family to share. One was her totally awesome spaghetti sauce. About a year later, I was with one of my ex wife’s sisters and was asking if she had made the dish. She replied yes but it never seemed to come out as good as Juni’s did. Shortly after our discussion, I was able to watch it being prepared and while looking over her shoulder, I realized that she added a can of Rotel (Spicy diced tomatoes and peppers). Totally not in the recipe that she shared with us and that was the Game Changer! Your recipe reminded of that and I just had to share.. Love what you do and share! Keep it up!
Made this for the first time. I had the onion diced a little too large & used 1.5 teaspoons of red pepper flakes (plenty of heat for us). Thank you so much for the mention of using a potato masher! Would have been way too chunky! I only had dried basil (fresh would have been better) so added some oregano. And used tomato paste to thicken. Turned out very well! And I’ll stop buying the jar version. Very simple & tasty! Thank you!
Is there a method to either freeze or can this sauce?
We have frozen this several times and it freezes and thaws perfectly from a Pyrex dish.
Hi, Ali, A couple of notes: 1) I’ve found that using crushed tomatoes when making pasta sauces works well and eliminates the need to mash to whole tomatoes. I tend to use Muir Glen organic. I like the texture as is but if I want it smoother, it is easy and quick to use an immersion blender. 2) I read an article (America’s Test Kitchen) several years ago where they taste tested a variety of brands of tomatoes, including some from San Marzano (as distinct from the brand) and they found a great disparity of quality. I used the brand San Marzano believing that this is what was from Italy. They are good but usually a good deal more expensive than Muir Glen. 3) (I can’t count …) I will be trying your recipe for Arrabbiata soon, but I can see into future so I’ll rate it now. BTW, I had to improvise chili oil and several recipes called for heating pepper flakes in olive oil for several minutes; i.e., arrabbiata turns on something close to chili sauce.
We love this recipe and probably make it once a week! So easy and so delicious!
This is perfect! Now I can stop buying those bland sauces at the supermarket.
Your photos are brilliant.
that Joey Tribianni comment in the end made me think of all the Friday nights I have spent watching Friends on Channel 4!! So funny…..
Top job -we absolutely loved this recipe. I can’t cook but this was fool proof. I used chillis instead of chilli flakes at the start then added chilli flakes to taste. Boom. Many thanks.
This recipe is AMAZING! I added a head and a half of garlic (yes, I love garlic!!) and added 1 Tbs and a half of crushed red pepper flakes. Let me tell you, I can eat it by itself… it’s that delicious! Thanks!!
I made this today but had lots of cherry tomatoes so opted for them , delicious combination ?
Any tips on using fresh tomatoes instead?
Hi, I would like to Know more diffrent kinds of sauce recipies (Italian) as well as the pasta combination.Will the blanched fresh tomatoes ok for these sauces Kindly reply.
I’ve made this recipe twice now. It’s really amazing, the taste being spectacular. Takes me right back to Italy!!
This is the only site where the recipe has been given so easily. I’m cooking this for dinner today ? can’t wait to try it. Thank you for sharing this
Easy recipe and effortless. Like that you can control the spice…I added some finely chopped habanero peppers as I like my sauce extra spicy. Awesome recipe.
Can I use fresh tomatoes instead. If yes how much should I substitute
Add bay leaf
Love love love this recipe!
Sauté ing the chilli flakes in butter was an excellent tip. I didnt have fresh basil but added dried basil seasoning.
Used fresh tomatoes.
Love the chunky consistency!
Easy to prepare.
Will be defi making this again!
I love these recipes. I made the Meat balls and they were delicious!
My husband has been asking for arrabiata sauce for years. The ones I have tried before were not to his liking until this one I made a couple of weeks ago. This is a keeper and will be making another batch this week end. The key ingredient are the tomatoes San Marzano.
turned out exactly like in the photos, thank you!!!
Fantastic recipe! Tastes great, freezes perfectly, and we’ve even used it as a pizza sauce. Thank you! :)
This is going to be my new go to arrabiata. I added clams for a spicy red clam sauce. Delicious!
We have a TON of homegrown tomatoes in our garden. Can they be swapped out for the canned tomatoes? If so, should I make other changes to the recipe?
I absolutely love this sauce! We’ve made it with homemade pasta twice now- delicious! Do you have a meatball recipe you would recommend pairing with it? Thanks!
When somebody gives F.R.I.E.N.D.S reference, I got to try it (already rated the recipe coz it sounds delicioussss )
I just tried this recipe today! Oh my gosh, it’s the best I’ve ever tasted! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe with us!! I have three jars sitting overnight in the fridge for the flavours to meld, then I’ll pop into the freezer tomorrow!!
I found chipotle chili flakes, with smoke and heat, richer and more complex than cayenne flakes.
AMAZING with fresh pasta! So easy – love it!
I have made this recipe one million times over and realized I never commented! I absolutely love this recipe. For starters, it is SO, SO good. Just the right amount of spice (I usually make mine a bit more spicer). So flavorful and absolutely painless to make. THANK YOU for sharing. If you’re on the fence about making this, due yourself a favor and MAKE IT RIGHT NOW!
Perfect recipe for someone who is a bit lacking in the culinary department:). Delicious and so easy! It’s on regular rotation in my house!
As a novice “chef” and an arrabbiata lover, I found this sauce super easy and amazing! To make a single serving, I quartered the recipe and used Trader Joes’ 14.5 oz diced organic tomatoes, which made the mashing of the tomatoes pretty simple. Thank you so much for this delicious recipe!
This sauce is absolutely delicious!
I add in about a half pound mild ground sausage.
Perfect to eat by itself with some good Italian bread!
This is a great simple recipe. I’ve made it a few times, the last two i have added honey, oregano, and Pesto Rosso (sun-dried tomato pesto). I tend to be very particular about sauces, aas i often like ones that are fresh tasting, light, and spicy. All of which, in the original form and in my modified form, i can say this recipe fulfills. Probably the best sauce i’ve made myself. It is good on simple penne with ground beef, or even in manicotti which i made tonight. 10/10 would highly recommend.
Once cooked can this be put in the freezer?
So delicious!! I only used half the amount of tomatoes and kept everything else the same – I like my garlic, onions, and salt haha.
AMAZING! Thanks so much for this. EASY PEASY!! We love it.
Wow best arabiatta sauce I’ve ever had !!! Used this with baked eggplant slices instead of pasta for a low carb option and will definitely be making it again. Thank you!
Have I seen arrabbiata sauce with black olives mixed in?
I’m making this for an Italian friend so I hope it’s really good! It’s simmering right now and it smells terrific. I accidentally bought tomatoes with basil added so I plan to reduce the fresh basil quite a bit.
Thank you for your help,I’ve made this recipe twice now. It’s really amazing, the taste is spectacular
This turned out amazing and it’s so simple to make!
I tried using a 6 ounce can of tomato sauce to make one serving, while it did work and it was probably one of the best sauces I’ve ever had, I got too cocky and almost doubled the red pepper amount in the recipe. I also didn’t have basil, so I substituted it with spinach and it came out just as good.
TLDR: it’s SPICY ENOUGH. Only do so if your spice tolerance is through the roof. Also spinach is good too
I have made this countless times. My go-to recipe!
If you use olive oil instead of butter can you jar it vs freezing it? Or will it go bad?
Oh yeah try seaon salt, some cheese,, a little wine added to it and meatballs as well
Looks delicious but really just wanted to tell you how much I love your website name ‘Gimmie some Oven’. Lol, it’s awesome!!!
This recipe sounds deceptively simple, but the flavor was amazing! I couldn’t resist adding a spot of balsamic and a splash of red wine. Our fresh basil from the garden set everything off beautifully. I will be making this sauce again and again.
My sauce is simmering on the stove right now. I have tasted it and can just say BRILLIANT! It is perfect as you posted. But, I can’t help tweaking a recipe….so, I added Toscana sausage, achovy paste, 1/2 pesto cube, italian seasoning, Umami powder, truffle oil. Yikes! Thanks for the tip on the butter. I used Ghee and as you said it make all the difference. Arrabiatta is my favorite pasta sauce and this will be my go to forever.
I made the Arrabiata sauce, however I didn’t have fresh basil but I had a half package of fresh baby spinach leaves so I added that. I love spinach. It was sooo delicious. I will use Basil next time. Thanks for posting the recipe.