Spaghetti All’Arrabiata


This will be a quick post for a change–I bet you’re relieved not to have to read (or skip over) my ramblings.  Believe it or not, I’m sitting at the dinner table with my husband and our two friends who are visiting us for the week.  We’re having a casual meal and as we chat and catch up over wine, I’m preparing this post for you.  They don’t mind; then again, I’ve also got a Nutella tart in the oven for them.

I’m still a little under the weather and I had a late day at the office today so I wanted something easy for dinner.  Pasta always ends up being a good choice for me because I can have a complete meal (including a salad) very quickly.  This arrabiata sauce required minimal prep and simmering time and dinner was served.

Arrabiata sauce is really a basic tomato sauce, the presence of peperoncino (chili flakes) giving it its defining characteristic (and a lively kick).  Arrabiata means “angry” in Italian, I think.  It’s typically served with penne but I’m partial to spaghetti.  Besides fresh thyme, I also added fresh basil to mine but I’m not certain that this is customary for arrabiata since I typically only see the latter in regular pomodoro sauces.  Can anyone tell me?  My herbs are doing quite well, though, and I look for every reason to use them.

So here’s dinner tonight; it fed three hungry men and me.  I already had a batch of caesar dressing that I made ahead of time so dinner was on the table in thirty minutes.

Spaghetti All’Arrabiata

  • 1 – 1 1/2 pounds spaghetti (I used the larger amount)
  • 2 large shallots, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
  • peperoncino (red chili) flakes, as much as you can take
  • 2 28-ounce cans of diced tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • Small amount of fresh chopped basil (optional)
  • Olive oil
  • A pinch or two of sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Parmigiano Reggiano (garnish)
  • Chopped Italian parsley (garnish)

Sauté the shallots in some olive oil (I’m pretty generous) in a skillet large enough to accommodate the cooked pasta.  Making sure your stove is set on medium heat, add the chili flakes, chopped thyme and garlic, taking care not to burn the latter.  After the garlic has cooked for a couple of minutes, add the two cans of tomatoes and simmer for about 15-20 minutes.  During this time, I added some salt, pepper and sugar.  The latter helps to reduce the acidity of the tomatoes and also lends a long-simmering quality to the finished product.  Boil the pasta to al dente towards the last few minutes of simmer time and also add the chopped basil to the sauce, if using.

Add the pasta to the sauce and toss.  Plate in serving bowls and top with cheese and parsley.  Enjoy!


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  1. Hello! Nice to see such a classic dish featured! And what a lovely photo–I wish I had your talent.

    To answer your question, there are no herbs in a traditional arrabbiata, except for a bit of chopped parsley at the end–and pecorino, if you want cheese, but more traditionally, no grated cheese. (Shallot and sugar aren’t traditional either, but some (non-traditional) recipes call for onion and I suppose a pinch of sugar may help if using non-Italian tomatoes.) TMI? Sorry, I can’t help myself!

    Hadn’t thought about having spaghetti with this sauce–after so many years of living in Rome, you reach automatically for the penne–but actually it sounds like a great choice. After all, arrabbiata is really nothing more than an ajo ojo made ‘in rosso’ (ie, with tomato).

    Always good for a quick and easy meal–and the spiciness helps in this heat!

    • Frank, not TMI at all. This is the kind of information I was hoping to get, so thank you! I’ve never had herbs in my arrabiata in Italy, especially basil, but I couldn’t get a definitive answer from the sources I looked up last night. You’re right about the shallots, too, and the grated cheese is new info to me so that’s another good thing.

      I didn’t use San Marzano tomatoes this time so I did have to add the little sugar to compensate.

      I always appreciate the tips so I’m glad for your comment. Thanks! 🙂

  2. Yum I love pasta and yours looks delish. Must try the sauce. Hope you’re feeling better! Oh and the nutella tart, you must post! I love nutella anything!

  3. Arrabiata is one of my favorite kind of pasta sauces. I hope its spiciness knocks out whatever bug is ailing you.

  4. You just gave me a great idea for dinner tonight. Thank you for sharing. I love all the fresh ingredients.

  5. I love simple pasta dishes for nights when I want a quick, simple and yet satisfying meal! Your recipe looks delicious. Gorgeous photo!

  6. This is right up my brother’s alley. He’s always adding tons of chili flakes to everything I make. I should make him this and put extra in and see how he likes it THEN. Bwaha…. In all seriousness, this looks really great and easy and much better than anything jarred I usually pull out.

  7. Your friends probably appreciate all the beautiful things you post…including this! What a simple yet tasty bowl of pasta. I am anxiously awaiting some pictures of that Nutella Tart.

  8. Gorgeous photo! I’m sure your spaghetti sauce was delicious, I would have added fresh basil and thyme as well, can’t help myself around the fresh herbs! Looking forward to seeing the tart:-)

  9. the photos look great!

  10. what a great sauce….it is a classic!! I have not seen this sauce in so long….thanks so much for sharing this wonderful pasta dish!

  11. I love arrabiata sauce. Love it. I like it with penne or linguini. I also think it’s a good opportunity to use whole grain noodles, since the hearty spice of the sauce kinda sucks the blah out of the wheat. Just sayin’… anyway, looks great. Now, where’s the nutella tart!?

    • Lauren, I’m really trying to like whole grain pasta. I just bought the Barilla Plus over the weekend. I’ll have to see how it goes. The Nutella tart is coming right up! 🙂

  12. Yummy, I love this dish and the hotter the better 🙂 Its definitely one dish that never fails. Congrats on your foodgawker submission.

  13. This is a beautiful, simple pasta dish. I love evenings when everything is easy to prepare, but we enjoy it just as much as all the fussy stuff.

  14. Nice. A good spagetti is always a crowd pleaser. yours look great!

  15. I would be so distracted when I was surrounded by friends. I mean, they wouldn’t let me do it haha. Your friends once they see this post, they will appreciate the work you did and the time they let you do. Beautiful dish. The photo is gorgeous. You turned a simple spaghetti dish to a gorgeous dish!

  16. Your photo looks amazing! A great sauce too.

  17. So classic and so perfect. Like others here I have a few ideas about the “proper” way to make this dish. But the rule in my house is “the cook is always right”, as you so artfully proved. GREG

  18. This looks like the perfect comfort food. I will confess to using jarred sauces when I come home from work and I’m starving but homemade sauces like this one definitely trump!
    PS: The pictures are stunning. They look like professional shots for a food magazine 🙂

  19. Mmm, arrabiata is one of my favorites. I’ll need to try this. You’re an amazing host! Homemade caesar dressing too! (I buy Girards-lol.) Your guests are so lucky! 🙂

    • Hey, there’s nothing wrong with Girard’s. 🙂 I like their Light Champagne dressing a lot! I’ve just gotten used to making a huge batch of dressing at a time so I can use it over a few days.

  20. Wonderful looking dish!

  21. Love read chili flakes! Combined with pasta and tomatoes and garlic and I am a happy camper!

  22. Lovely Photo! and such a classic simple dish
    thank you,
    CookNg SIsters

  23. Huge fan of this pasta! Thanks!

  24. Lovely pasta and excellent photo 🙂

  25. Talk about multitasking! Blogging, having dinner, and baking a tart all at once? You’re superwoman!

  26. oh how i love a good arrabiata! i am off to the kitchen to make this…..thanks


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