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How to Make Arrabbiata Sauce: Italian Arrabbiata Recipe

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Sep 9, 2020 • 2 min read

Italian Arrabbiata sauce brings spice to dishes like penne all’arrabbiata.



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What Is Arrabbiata Sauce?

Arrabbiata means "fiery" or "angry" in Italian, so, naturally, pasta all’arrabbiata is made with hot chiles. Arrabbiata sauce originated in Rome, Italy, where it's still popular today, and it has spread around the world as a spicy alternative to the standard marinara sauce.

Which Pasta Pairs Well With Arrabbiata Sauce?

Spicy arrabbiata sauce is traditionally served with penne pasta, but you can use it anywhere you would other tomato sauces. Try it on a pizza with fresh mozzarella, or as a dipping sauce for crusty bread. Or, try arrabbiata with spaghetti or orecchiette. Whichever pasta you use, remove it from the pot when al dente, still wet with pasta water, and add it to the pasta sauce; finish cooking the pasta in the sauce so that the pasta becomes evenly coated in sauce and cheese. If you salted the pasta water sufficiently, the dish shouldn't require any additional salt. For a gluten-free alternative, try zucchini noodles.

4 Essential Arrabbiata Ingredients

Arrabbiata is one of the simplest Italian sauces, with just four key ingredients.

  1. Tomatoes: At its heart, arrabbiata is a tomato sauce. Though arrabbiata is usually made with whole canned tomatoes, you can substitute fresh ripe plum tomatoes when in season.
  2. Pancetta: Pancetta, the salt-cured pork belly that is Italy's answer to bacon, is essential to authentic Roman-style penne all’arrabbiata. It's often left off of American menus, but if you can get your hands on some pancetta, it takes this basic red sauce to the next level.
  3. Chiles: Arrabbiata sauce is traditionally made with whole dried peperoncini rossi (hot red peppers usually tied onto a string), but many cooks use red pepper flakes as a shortcut.
  4. Pecorino Romano: Pecorino Romano is milder and less sweet than parmesan cheese, and makes a better topping for spicy arrabbiata sauce.
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Classic Italian Arrabbiata Sauce Recipe

Enough for 1 pound of dry pasta
Prep Time
10 min
Total Time
30 min
Cook Time
20 min


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 ounces pancetta or bacon, diced
  • 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes or crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano tomatoes, drained and diced
  • 2 dried hot red peppers, preferably Italian peperoncini rossi
  • ¼ cup grated pecorino romano
  • Torn fresh basil leaves, to serve, optional
  1. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil until just simmering. Add the onion and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the minced garlic and pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until some of the fat starts to render out of the pancetta and the garlic is fragrant but not brown, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the diced tomatoes and dried peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thick, about 12 minutes. Remove the peppers.
  4. If serving with pasta, add barely al dente pasta with a splash of cooking water to the pasta sauce and stir to coat. Add grated pecorino and stir to combine. Continue stirring until the sauce emulsifies, about 1 minute. Serve hot, garnished with torn fresh basil leaves, if desired.

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