Arrabiata sauce (or “arrabbiata sauce”) is a SPICY hot Italian tomato sauce. My version uses a few simple ingredients to create a high quality, irresistible sauce in less than an hour!
Something New: A Spicy Tomato Sauce 🔥
I’m taking a short break from the sweets to share this savory (and spicy!) arrabiata sauce. Full of flavor and plenty of heat, this spicy tomato sauce is an Italian classic!
A few things to know about my recipe:
- Arrabiata sauce is supposed to be very spicy, and my version is. I do include instructions on how to make a milder version below, if you’d like.
- For the most authentic taste, my recipe uses just a handful of high quality ingredients–only 8!
- It takes time to develop the best, most robust flavor. You cannot rush the process, so have patience! This recipe takes very minimal effort, the hardest part is allowing it to simmer long enough for the flavor to develop.
- It’s not just for spaghetti! Spoon this sauce over stuffed shells, use it to make a spicy lasagna, or swap it for pizza sauce and make a spicy homemade pizza.
- The name “Arrabiata” derives from the Italian word “arrabbiata” in Italian, which means angry (no surprise, given the heat of the sauce!). While the Italian name is “sugo all’arrabbiata”, you’ll typically find it spelled without the second “b” in America.
If you are a fan of spicy food, you need to try this one! And if not, no worries, we’ll be back to our normal, less-spicy recipes on Thursday 😉
What You Need
I use minimal ingredients to keep my recipe as authentic as possible. Because of this, it is so important that every ingredient is of high quality (so grind your own salt and black pepper, use fresh basil leaves, and grate your own parmesan). Here’s what you need:
- Extra virgin olive oil. Just like when making my rigatoni, we’ll use a high quality extra virgin olive oil here. We’ll use this as a a base for our sauce and to saute the onion and garlic.
- Canned tomatoes. Whole tomatoes are best because they have the most pure tomato flavor without any additives. And yes, I’m confident in my choice to use canned tomatoes here–I talk more about this choice in my marinara sauce post if you want to learn why.
- Red pepper flakes. An essential ingredient! This is what gives arrabiata sauce its heat. I use a hefty amount (this sauce is meant to be spicy!), but you can adjust this to suit your taste. Sure, it won’t be as authentic, but I totally understanding sacrificing in order to get the kids to the dinner table.
- Fresh basil. Please do not substitute dried basil–we really need the fresh stuff here! I prefer to hand tear basil instead of cutting it with a knife; hand tearing preserves the flavor and prevents the basil from turning black. Plus it looks more rustic!
- Salt and pepper. Use freshly cracked sea salt and black pepper, and make sure to taste test after simmering. If your sauce tastes bland, it just needs a bit more salt!
SAM’S TIP: This recipe makes enough sauce for 8 oz of pasta, but it can be doubled easily. Penne or spaghetti are good choices here, though really any kind of pasta will work.
A quick note on cookware
I used an enameled cast iron pan in the photos below.
Enameled cast iron and stainless steel are great options, but I don’t recommend non-enameled cast iron. The acidity of the tomatoes tends to interact with the iron and, after a long bout of simmering can make your arabiatta sauce taste like metal.
How to Make Arrabiata Sauce
- Heat the olive oil over medium, then add the onion and cook until translucent.
- Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook for about 30 seconds or until fragrant.
- Pour the tomatoes into the pan and use a wooden spoon to crush them into manageable bits. Bring the sauce to a simmer, then reduce the heat to cook uncovered for about 30 minutes. The sauce should be slightly thickened when it’s done.
- Tear the fresh basil before stirring it into the sauce. Taste test for seasoning, then add additional salt, pepper, or red pepper flakes as needed.
SAM’S TIP: Good sauce takes time to make! You must let this arrabiata sauce simmer for at least 30 minutes, as this allows the flavors to properly develop. Make sure to keep the heat low during this process so you don’t burn your sauce.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! In fact, “Arrabbiata” translates to angry in Italian, which reflects just how red hot it really is. My recipe is no exception to this!
If you can’t handle too much heat, you will need to reduce the crushed red pepper quite a bit. On the other hand, if you like a lot of heat, simply use more!
Both of these sauces are actually very similar, but the key difference between the two is spice level and sweetness. Arrabiata sauce is meant to be SPICY, while marinara sauce is a mild, sweeter sauce.
Besides that key difference, the ingredients are nearly identical.
Do you love spicy food?! Let me know in the comments if you’d like to see more recipes like this!
- ¼ cup (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup (140 g) finely chopped yellow onion
- 1-2 teaspoons crushed red pepper see note
- 2 Tablespoons minced garlic
- 28 oz (794 g) whole peeled tomatoes
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt plus more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon freshly cracked pepper plus more to taste
- 10 large basil leaves torn
- 8 oz (226 g) pasta for serving
- Grated parmesan cheese for serving (optional)
- Heat oil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Once shimmering, add onion and cook until translucent (about 5 minutes).¼ cup (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil, 1 cup (140 g) finely chopped yellow onion
- Add garlic and crushed red pepper and cook until garlic is fragrant (about 30 seconds).1-2 teaspoons crushed red pepper, 2 Tablespoons minced garlic
- Add tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Break the tomatoes with a spoon or spatula and bring to a simmer.28 oz (794 g) whole peeled tomatoes, ½ teaspoon fine sea salt, ¼ teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
- Reduce heat to low and allow sauce to simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cook until slightly thickened. If serving with pasta, begin preparing pasta according to package instructions after about 15 minutes of simmering.
- Add torn basil leaves and stir well. Taste-test and add more salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper as needed.10 large basil leaves
- Serve immediately over warm pasta topped with parmesan cheese (if desired) or allow to cool and store for up to 5 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator.8 oz (226 g) pasta, Grated parmesan cheese
Crushed red pepperThis is a HOT pasta sauce. For something more mild, reduce crushed the amount red pepper (it’s always easier to add more heat later). I recommend starting with 1 teaspoon, which is plenty hot enough for my family, then add more as desired.
To serve with pastaThis sauce makes enough for about 8 oz of pasta. You can serve over plated pasta OR add the cooked pasta to the saucepan with the sauce along with a splash of the pasta water. Toss everything together over low heat until sauce clings to the pasta.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.