Ina’s Arrabbiata Sauce Is the Perfect Pandemic Pantry Recipe

updated Jan 13, 2021
Kitchn Love Letters
Arrabbiata Sauce

This spicy sauce has a stunning amount of garlic in it but don’t worry; the flavor mellows as it cooks.


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Credit: Lauren M

Just a few years ago, when Ina Garten got to work on her most recent cookbook, Modern Comfort Food (which pubbed in October 2020), she must have had psychic powers. She was right to assume that we’d all be craving her Barefoot Contessa take on comfort food, particularly during an ugly presidential election year. But what Ina never could have predicted was that we’d also be months into a global pandemic — and we’re not out of the weeds yet.

When I need to drown my sorrows, I turn to an Ina recipe. She never fails me. Upon browsing my brand-new copy of Modern Comfort Food, my thumb stopped on a recipe for Arrabbiata Sauce, a spicy tomato sauce made with what Ina calls “a stunning amount of garlic.”

Growing up, a big pot of tomato sauce meant that a family dinner was on the horizon. Missing those dinners a little extra these days, I knew this recipe would be the pick-me-up I needed. Plus, in the headnotes, Ina credits Missy Robbins, the chef of Misi and Lilia, two of Ina’s favorite restaurants in NYC, as the recipe inspiration. Missing restaurants deeply as well, I added another pro to the “Should I Make This?” list. (There are no cons on this list.)

Being the Millennial that I am, though, I didn’t actually make this perfect-sounding recipe until the universe (aka social media) sent me a reminder. Whilst doom-scrolling, I happened upon a video of Shay Spence (People‘s Food Editor and a general joy to follow on social media) making Ina’s recipe on TikTok.

“Do not be alarmed, this is exactly the right amount of garlic you need to make one of the best pasta sauces I’ve ever had,” he says in an extremely soothing voiceover.

In assessing the ingredient list, I realized I had pretty much everything I needed: good olive oil, garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, canned whole peeled tomatoes, salt, and pepper. I only needed to pick up fresh basil, fennel seeds, and dry red wine (which I would have had, if I hadn’t finished off that bottle the night before, whoops!). Did Ina unknowingly create the perfect pandemic pantry recipe? Yes, yes she did.

Credit: Lauren M

The most labor-intensive part of this recipe is peeling one cup of garlic cloves. (I outsourced this task and have no regrets.) Ina and Shay are not wrong that the one cup seems like an obscene amount of garlic cloves, but my motto is “In Ina We Trust,” so into the Dutch oven, along with a generous amount of good olive oil, they went. Just as Ina said, the garlic flavor mellowed as the cloves cooked.

The softened, golden garlic cloves are then pulsed in a food processor (or in my case, the blender) along with two cans of drained whole peeled tomatoes. Then the mixture goes back into the oil, along with the red wine and seasonings. The sauce simmers for 30 minutes, which gives you time to bring a huge pot of water to a boil for the pasta of your choice.

Credit: Lauren M

I tossed this sauce with an entire pound of linguine, topped with fresh basil, and served it with some crusty bread and the rest of the Chianti. A bowl of this is warm-your-whole-body spicy and just what you want to eat on nights that get dark at 4 p.m. Making this recipe from start to finish fulfilled my wildest dreams of the perfect Friday night in, and if I could do it all over again I would. And I will!

Arrabbiata Sauce

This spicy sauce has a stunning amount of garlic in it but don’t worry; the flavor mellows as it cooks.

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


  • 2/3 cup

    good olive oil

  • 1 cup

    whole peeled garlic cloves (2 to 3 heads of garlic)

  • 2 (28-ounce) cans

    whole peeled Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, drained

  • 2 teaspoons

    whole fennel seeds, chopped

  • 1 teaspoon

    crushed red pepper flakes

  • 1/3 cup

    dry Italian red wine, such as Chianti

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/4 cup

    julienned fresh basil leaves


  1. In a medium (10 to 11-inch) pot or Dutch oven, such as Le Creuset, warm the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the garlic has softened and is lightly browned. Watch it closely so it doesn’t burn.

  2. Meanwhile, place the tomatoes in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until roughly chopped. With a slotted spoon, transfer the garlic to the food processor and pulse again just to chop the garlic.

  3. Pour the tomato mixture into the pot with the oil; add the fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, wine, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the basil and taste for seasonings.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: Prepare the arrabbiata sauce and store it covered in the fridge for up to a week.

Recipe courtesy of MODERN COMFORT FOOD. Copyright © 2020 by Ina Garten. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

At Kitchn, our editors develop and debut brand-new recipes on the site every single week. But at home, we also have our own tried-and-true dishes that we make over and over again — because quite simply? We love them. Kitchn Love Letters is a series that shares our favorite, over-and-over recipes.