Arrabbiata Sauce

published Nov 4, 2021
Arrabbiata Sauce Recipe

This fiery tomato sauce gets its heat frion red pepper flakes. Toss it with penne pasta or any of your favorite pasta shapes for an easy Italian dinner.

Serves4 to 6

Makes3 cups

Prep5 minutes to 10 minutes

Cook20 minutes

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Credit: Photo: Paola + Murray; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne

If you’re that person who sprinkles red pepper flakes on just about everything, arrabbiata is the sauce for you. The spicy tomato sauce hails from the Lazio region of Italy, where Rome is located, and is a beloved pantry-friendly sauce that’s easy to make at home. In fact, this recipe requires just five ingredients and no more than 30 minutes.

Whether you toss it with penne for a quick and comforting dinner, or double the recipe and freeze the sauce for meal prep, you’ll quickly find this sauce doesn’t disappoint. Here’s how to make the fiery Italian staple.

What’s the Difference Between Arrabbiata and Marinara Sauce?

Both arrabbiata and marinara sauce are Italian tomato-based sauces. They both include garlic and olive oil, and sometimes an herb like basil or oregano. The difference is that arrabbiata sauce also includes a healthy dose of red pepper flakes, giving it a spicy kick.

What Does Arrabbiata Mean?

Arrabbiata translates to “angry” in Italian — a nod to the fiery red pepper flakes.

Credit: Photo: Paola + Murray; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne

What to Serve with Arrabbiata Sauce

Arrabbiata sauce is typically tossed with penne pasta. However, the versatile sauce can be enjoyed in countless ways.

  • Toss it with just about any shape of pasta, including long noodles like spaghetti and bucatini. Or, try it with your favorite filled pasta (such as cheese ravioli or tortellini!) or gnocchi.
  • Combine it with cooked and crumbled sausage or shredded chicken and serve it over creamy polenta.
  • Use it as the base for eggs in purgatory, a Southern Italian dish of eggs poached in spicy tomato sauce.
  • Swap it in for marinara sauce when making baked ziti, stuffed shells, or lasagna.

Arrabbiata Sauce Recipe

This fiery tomato sauce gets its heat frion red pepper flakes. Toss it with penne pasta or any of your favorite pasta shapes for an easy Italian dinner.

Prep time 5 minutes to 10 minutes

Cook time 20 minutes

Makes 3 cups

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info


  • 3 cloves


  • 1

    (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    red pepper flakes, plus more as needed

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1 small bunch

    fresh basil

  • 1 teaspoon

    balsamic vinegar


  1. Smash and peel 3 garlic cloves. Pour 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes with their juices into a medium bowl and carefully crush the tomatoes with your hands into bite-sized pieces. (Alternatively, cut the tomatoes directly in the can with long kitchen shears.)

  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, high-sided skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the garlic and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes and sauté until very fragrant, about 2 minutes. Carefully pour in the tomatoes, season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil.

  3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, pick the leaves from 1 small bunch basil and coarsely chop until you have 1/4 cup.

  4. Remove the sauce from the heat and discard the garlic cloves. Add the basil and 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar and stir to combine. Taste and season with more red pepper flakes if desired.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The sauce can be made a day in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Alternatively, it can be frozen (without the basil) for up to 3 months. Let the sauce thaw in the refrigerator overnight before rewarming it in a saucepan over medium heat.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.