Pasta, Pizza, Risotto, Vegan/Vegetarian

Pennette all’Arrabbiata

Nicoletta August 25, 2017

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Pennette all’Arrabbiata, a quick and easy, classic Italian pasta dish, typical of Rome and the area. A flavorful, spicy and simple sauce made of San Marzano tomatoes, e.v.o. oil, garlic, chili flakes and parsley to coat a beautiful al dente penne pasta.

Song of the day: “Arrivederci Roma” – Dean Martin.

Pennette all'Arrabbiata

Is there anything more comforting than a plate of pasta? Or more soothing, rewarding, joyful, and uncomplicated? Not for me. Pasta can overshadow pizza and sweets, my two other food passions. I turn to making and eating pasta on many different occasions: when the world seems to be a troubled place and I find making pasta a reassuring and heartening activity; when my lonely days away from my husband unravel one after the other and eating alone seems less dreary if in front of me I have a plate of consoling pasta; when friends or family show up at the last moment and what a better way to share an improvised meal than making pasta; when you come back from a long holiday and the house seems uncomely and the fridge looks like a ‘waste land’, so you look at the pantry and some cans of tomatoes and a few boxes of pasta are there standing confidently welcoming you home.



You cannot really say there is nothing to eat if your pantry is well stocked with dried pasta, canned tomatoes, a bottle of good olive oil, and spices. These are the ingredients of this traditional Italian pasta dish: Pennette all’Arrabbiata. Ingredients that you’ll always find in our kitchen. What you need more is parsley, dried will do, but we still have plenty in our backyard and a pot of salted boiling water. That’s all. And you can sit at the table and enjoy one of the most flavorful sauces ever.

Pennette all'Arrabbiata

Whenever I make pasta, and I have to say although Loreto is the main savory cook in this house, pasta is my specialty, I turn to classic, reliable, recipes I’ve eaten all my life. Simple recipes that use very few ingredients and still pack a ton of flavor. I don’t add things here and there for the sake of creativity, because it’s cool, or I want to try if it works.  I stick to the recipe that has been there for years, even centuries, and I know that I can count on it to deliver the best experience ever. Most of the times I don’t feel that I am very creative but Loreto is always there to convince me otherwise. I have to say, nonetheless, that I lean on tradition to carry the confidence through.

Pennette all’Arrabbiata (‘arrabbiata’ means ‘angry’, in Italian) is another recipe that comes from my dear native city, Rome. It was a staple there, you could find it frequently on any family’s weekly meal plan, on restaurants menu, it was even eternalized in movies like “La Grande Abbuffata“, director Ferreri;  Roma“, director Fellini. It was on our roster of dishes for the week, at home, many times, so simple, and quick, and so good. But maybe the extreme simplicity that once was the secret to its goodness, is leading now to its decline. The rise of fusion, complex, level flavoring, has put the Arrabbiata on the back burner. It is to chefs and home cooks to bring it back to life, to encourage people to make this dish and let it shine through the quality of its few ingredients. That is the secret of Italian sauces and most dishes. Quality over quantity. Simplicity over complexity.

Pennette all'Arrabbiata

Pennette all’Arrabbiata, let’s have a look at the main ingredients.

  • the pasta: for dried pasta, if you’re willing to spend more, buy a first quality durum wheat semolina pasta. Look for a rough textured surface with a pale yellow, almost white, color. Cheaper products are dark golden with a very smooth, almost plastic appearance, and they tend to overcook getting stickier and gummier.  The rough, porous pasta is ideal for picking up sauces, while on a uniform surface your sauce won’t cling too well. Cook the pasta al dente, or according to the manufacturer’s suggested time on the package, better less, than more. Less, if you want (and you should) finish off your pasta in the pan where the sauce has been cooking.
  • the tomatoes: not all tomatoes are created equals and not all canned tomatoes are good to make sauces. We stick to the San Marzano D.O.P. variety, famous for its rich flavor, tender texture, and mild acidity. Some canned tomatoes are way too acidic and don’t have that sweetness needed to counterpart the spiciness of this sauce. Fresh tomatoes work perfectly fine for this dish, as well, and a chunky sauce would also be acceptable.
  • the olive oil: unfortunately, the old saying “you get what you pay for” is true. Choose “extra virgin olive oil” over the ones labeled simply “olive oil”. It is the purest, least processed and most flavorful type. Check the date (olive oil doesn’t get better with age), the country of origin, that it is “first cold pressed”, and the certification seals. Then, it is a matter of personal tastes: more aromatic, less robust, fruity, grassy.

Pennette all'Arrabbiata

Making the sauce is pretty simple and quick. When the pasta is ready, add it to the pan where the sauce was cooking, letting the pasta and the sauce get acquainted to one another. Coat each pennette with the sauce, stir and blend. Then, serve it with just a sprinkle of fresh chopped parsley (and maybe more chili flakes for the heat you desire).

Pennette all'Arrabbiata

If your endless creativity wants to add ingredients to this simple sauce, do so as your heart desires. The only courtesy I ask you as an Italian, is to please respect the tradition and call it something else, or ‘Arrabbiata inspired’.

Buon appetito!

Song of the day: “Arrivederci Roma” – Dean Martin.

Pennette all'Arrabbiata

Pennette all’Arrabbiata

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes


  • 800 g (1 can) San Marzano Tomatoes D.O.P., crushed or pureed
  • 4 Tbsp e.v.o. oil
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 1 tsp peperoncino (chili flakes) or more depending on what kind of heat you want
  • salt
  • fresh parsley, chopped
  • 400 g pennette (or penne) pasta


  1. In a saute pan over medium heat fry the olive oil with a full crushed garlic clove.
  2. When the garlic is golden, add the chili flakes, and the tomatoes.
  3. Add some chopped parsley, season with salt and let cook for about 20 minutes.
  4. In the meantime cook your pasta in plenty of salted boiling water and according to manufacturer’s suggested cooking times.
  5. Scoop the al dente pasta out of the cooking water and add to the tomato sauce, letting the sauce coat the pasta. If the sauce is still warm there is no need to turn on heat. Otherwise, turn it on low just for a minute to warm it up.
  6. Serve warm with a sprinkle of fresh chopped parsley.


The pasta cooks while the sauce is being made, so they’re both ready at the same time. Be aware of the cooking time of the pasta and cook accordingly.


  • Serving Size: 4 servings
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Pennette all'Arrabbiata

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  • Avatar
    Reply The FoodOlic August 25, 2017 at 9:41 am

    Mamma mia! This goes right to my and my husband heart! His favorite dish of his favorite cuisine! A good Arrabbiata sauce! Nothing like a simple, made with the best ingredients pasta dish! I must go to Rome soon, explore a bit more beautiful Italia! Are you guys back home?

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta August 25, 2017 at 2:06 pm

      Thank you so much! Glad to hear this pasta is dear to your hearts. It is dear to mine as well! We’re back! Arrived Monday night, so still a bit jet lagged 😉 . You definitely have to go back to Rome and explore more of Italy. I’ll be in Rome all winter, if you ever pass by, let me know 🙂 .

  • Avatar
    Reply allergygirleats August 28, 2017 at 2:22 am

    I love how pasta is your comfort food. It is so true, when we aren’t sure what to cook a good Arrabbiata sauce can solve all problems. I always try to have at least a can of tomatoes in the house for this very reason. I have recently started to get more into olive oil and definitely see the difference, you are so right!

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta August 28, 2017 at 9:48 am

      Thanks so much! Extra virgin olive oil is so good for you. So glad you started to get into it!

  • Avatar
    Reply karrie / Tasty Ever After August 28, 2017 at 3:23 pm

    Pasta is the BEST comfort food of all time! Especially when it’s covered in a spicy sauce 🙂

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta August 29, 2017 at 1:56 pm

      I have to agree, Karrie!! 🙂 Thank you so much for stopping by!

  • Avatar
    Reply Markus Mueller August 28, 2017 at 5:25 pm

    This is one of my go to dishes for a quick weeknight supper! I love eating pasta at home ( even better if it’s homemade) and usually keep some homemade pasta sauce in the freezer. Unfortunatly I hardly ever use San Marzano, since they are so expensive here in PEI. I tried growing my own, but had no luck this year. I’ll need to move the garden to an even sunnier location!

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta August 29, 2017 at 2:07 pm

      Hey Marcus, so happy that this dish is one you also appreciate! So simple yet so flavorful. I know, San Marzano tomatoes are a bit pricey also here. Good luck for next year! Hope you get to grow them!!

  • Avatar
    Reply nicole | Culinary Cool August 29, 2017 at 8:35 pm

    San Marzano’s are my fave too, but true San Marzano’s are hard to come by here. We have an Italian deli that sells two varieties with the D.O.P designation on them and I just bought a can over the weekend to try. I think I might have to use them for this sauce!

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta August 30, 2017 at 8:26 am

      I know, here we find the San Marzano DOP at the Italian store. They do make a difference in sauces… Hope you try it and let me know 🙂 . Thank you!!

  • Avatar
    Reply Gloria Duggan August 31, 2017 at 7:27 am

    We are pasta lovers here. I have found that “simple is best”….and this sauce is the perfect example of easy and totally delicious. Pour the wine…dinner is served!!

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta September 1, 2017 at 9:09 am

      Yes! A nice red for this type of pasta 🙂 . Thank you, Gloria!

  • Avatar
    Reply annie@ciaochowbambina August 31, 2017 at 4:38 pm

    I can’t think of anything more comforting! Such a beautiful meal full of gorgeous flavor!! Love it, Nicoletta! Pinned!

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta September 1, 2017 at 9:09 am

      Thank you, Annie! No lacking of flavor, for sure 😉 .

  • Avatar
    Reply Christine September 1, 2017 at 1:28 am

    Pasta is absolutely one of my comfort foods. I’d probably eat it every day if my waistline allowed it. Love arrabbiata – Will definitely have to try this!

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta September 1, 2017 at 9:11 am

      In Italy my family eats pasta every day (and I used too), and nobody is overweight 🙂 . Hope you try it and let me know! Thanks so much for your comment!

  • Avatar
    Reply Analida's Ethnic Spoon September 1, 2017 at 5:11 am

    I love a simple sauce with just a few ingredients! Those are the best. Pinning for later!

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta September 1, 2017 at 9:12 am

      Few good ingredients, and simple recipes, are the Italian way 😉 . Thank you for stopping by!

  • Avatar
    Reply kate September 1, 2017 at 4:38 pm

    I love simple pastas like this. So delicious and easy to throw together.

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta September 2, 2017 at 8:41 am

      Thank you Kate, yes, really easy and so delicious!

  • Avatar
    Reply Erin @ The Speckled Palate September 1, 2017 at 5:24 pm

    YUM! This pasta looks absolutely perfect for any day. Pasta is one of our favorites, and that sauce looks incredible!

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta September 2, 2017 at 8:42 am

      Pasta is perfect for any day, especially on a busy week night. This arrabbiata sauce is so so good, you will love it! Thank you for your comment!

  • Avatar
    Reply Kimberly @ Berly's Kitchen September 2, 2017 at 8:27 am

    This is one of my absolute favorite pasta dishes. Before I started cooking a lot, I had a cookbook that had a similar recipe. That cookbook is long gone, so this is perfect for a new “go-to” arrabiata. Pinning this for later and will be making it soon.

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta September 2, 2017 at 8:47 am

      So glad to be of some help! Now that you have this recipe you can make it again! Easy, fast, and yummy! Thank you so much for your comment!

  • Avatar
    Reply Kathryn @ FoodieGirlChicago September 2, 2017 at 9:26 am

    Such a create classic pasta sauce. Perfect fall comfort food!!

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta September 3, 2017 at 9:15 am

      Thanks, Kathryn, a classic spicy sauce, great for Fall’s comfort food!

  • Avatar
    Reply Big Flavors from a Tiny Kitchen September 2, 2017 at 3:58 pm

    It’s hard to use another tomato once you’ve used San Marzano! This sauce looks SO beautifully vibrant – I wanna dive in!

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta September 3, 2017 at 9:16 am

      I’m glad you are another San Marzano tomato lover! 🙂 Thank you so much for stopping by!

  • Avatar
    Reply Amy September 2, 2017 at 9:02 pm

    This is such a delicious, simple dish that is just the way I love pasta. And I couldn’t agree more with your tips about buying quality pasta, tomatoes and olive oil! They make a huge differnce!

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta September 3, 2017 at 9:45 am

      They really do! Thanks so much, Amy 🙂 !

  • Avatar
    Reply Jessica Randhawa September 2, 2017 at 9:41 pm

    Pasta is one of my all-time favorite comfort foods. Especially a big bowl with awesome, easy to make, sauce! Saving this for later 🙂

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta September 3, 2017 at 9:47 am

      You will see how easy, fast and delicious it is! Thanks so much!! 🙂

  • Avatar
    Reply jodiemo September 3, 2017 at 8:52 am

    I’m such a pasta addict! I love simple sauce recipes like this especially when it’s good and spicy. This looks amazing.

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta September 3, 2017 at 9:48 am

      Simple sauces are Italian’s signature mark 😉 . Thank you so much!

  • Avatar
    Reply chefcarolb2014 September 3, 2017 at 11:51 am

    You are right about pasta being the ultimate comfort food! I can almost taste that sauce and I love the simplicity!

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta September 3, 2017 at 3:19 pm

      Thank you! It is definitely my ultimate comfort food, and this sauce is so tasty!

  • Avatar
    Reply Renee Gardner September 8, 2017 at 9:16 pm

    This dish takes me straight back to Italy. I’m now craving pasta.

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta September 9, 2017 at 8:42 am

      Thanks so much! Happy to hear that 🙂 .

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