Spicy Arrabbiata Sauce

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.

Spicy Arrabbiata Sauce Recipe

Ready to spice up your pasta nights…literally?

Let’s make some arribbiata sauce!  ♡

This classic spicy marinara sauce has become our go-to red sauce in our house these past few years.  It’s made with all of the ingredients we all know and love in a really 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 chile 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!

Spicy Arrabbiata Sauce

What Is Arrabbiata Sauce?

Actually, 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.

The super-authentic version is traditionally made with just olive oil, garlic, tomatoes and dried 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 red chili peppers, I’ve written this recipe using crushed red chili flakes. (<– You know, the kind used in the States to sprinkle on your pizza!)

Spicy Arrabbiata Sauce with Basil

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.

Italian Arrabbiata Sauce (Spicy Marinara Sauce)

How To Make Arrabbiata Sauce:

To make this arrabbiata sauce recipe, simply:

  1. 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.
  2. Add onion and garlic: Add in the onions and sauté until softened, followed by the garlic.
  3. 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!)
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Penne Arrabbiata

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. ;)
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Spicy Arrabbiata Sauce Recipe

Spicy Arrabbiata Sauce

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 6 -8 servings 1x

Description

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.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons butter or extra virgin olive oil
  • 24 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes*, or more/less to taste
  • 1 small yellow or red 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 sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat butter or olive oil 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 onions 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Serve immediately.  Or let the sauce cool and then refrigerate it in a sealed container for up to 4 days.

Notes

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!) of 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.

Spicy Arrabbiata Sauce Recipe with Basil

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7 comments on “Spicy Arrabbiata Sauce”

  1. 5 stars
    Ali,
    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!

  2. Is there a method to either freeze or can this sauce?

    • 5 stars
      We have frozen this several times and it freezes and thaws perfectly from a Pyrex dish.

  3. 5 stars
    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.

  4. This is perfect! Now I can stop buying those bland sauces at the supermarket.
    Your photos are brilliant.

  5. 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…..

  6. 5 stars
    Thanks