How to cook the perfect pasta all’arrabbiata


Penne all’arrabbiata is one of the most typical Italian delicacy, notably from Rome. A burst of flavor with a few simple ingredients: tomato puree, garlic and chilies. If you like very strong tastes, take notes of the ingredients because it will soon become your top-ranking dish.

pasta all'arrabbiata

Penne all’arrabbiata, its history: the chillies which make you blush…

Despite the peculiarity, the origin of its name is not clear. Who got angry? Why?

I think nobody got angry but the name might refer to the tendency to get blue in the face as you were angry, when you eat this very hot spicy sauce.   

This sauce comes from the most genuine peasant tradition, from poor people who managed to get by on very simple things: the well known art of make-doing. Actually, these old rural recipes are the foundation of the modern cuisine- they are getting more and more popular in the most important restaurants all around the world. Along with Carbonara, Gricia, Amatriciana, Arrabbiata is that toothsome sauce which you can’t do without, if you want to take some taste of Lazio and Rome into your kitchen!

When is arrabbiata eaten in Italy?

With a nice cold beer, it makes an informal dinner with friends perfect. Everyone likes penne all’arrabbiata, guaranteed without doubt! Made of simple and healthy ingredients, it is fast and easy to prepare, but, as every traditional recipe, Arrabbiata hides few secrets to enhance its poor ingredients and cook it at the best! Here I am to reveal them!

penne alla arrabbiata

Is it a variation of “aglio olio e peperoncino”? A highly debated delicacy.

Yes, it may be considered something like a red variation of spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino (pasta with garlic, olive oil and red chili pepper flakes). Almost all the towns in Lazio have always claimed the paternity of this dish: for sure it has become an outstanding  culinary symbol of Italy. With or without cheese? This is another source of debate: according to a school of thought pepper and parsley strictly forbid it, another stands for a generous sprinkle of grated parmigiano or pecorino cheese.

The best pasta for a perfect arrabbiata?

Although pasta shape is not a matter of ultimate importance here, ridged penne is preferable; smooth penne doesn’t fit as the sauce can’t cling to it.

It is ready in a few minutes: the best choice to welcome unexpected guests, or for a fast dinner when you are short in time, so choose the pasta shape you like. Arrabbiata goes with every kind of pasta.

A few secrets

  • Chili pepper is essential in this hot recipe: choose fresh hot chili pepper and measure the quantity according to your own taste.
  • Brown the garlic very very gently over low heat: the oil mustn’t go over 80°C (176°F). If you don’t have a kitchen digital thermometer; you may be sure the oil has reached the right temperature when bubbles form around the garlic cloves;
  • Don’t burn the garlic because its bitter taste would spoil the sauce: remove it before adding the tomatoes (that’s why cooking over low heat is very important). You may also remove the chili pepper if you don’t want your sauce to get too hot and spicy.
  • Make the garlic heat and cool down; it will release all its wonderful fragrance and get easier to digest. The sauce will be sweeter and richer in taste.
  • Don’t cook the parsley as it will get unpleasantly bitter.
  • Add the tomatoes when the sautéed vegetables have cooled down completely: this is an essential step. The unforgettable taste is worth a little longer preparation time.

How can you peel garlic?

I am not really fond of garlic but this is the way I usually deal with it:

  • Remove from the bulb as many cloves as you need;
  • On a cutting board place the clove under a the blade of a large chef’s knife;
  • Press down with the palm of your hand until you hear a crack; do not flatten it completely;
  • Remove the knife and peel away the skin with your fingers.

penne all'arrabbiata

How can you cut chili pepper without making mistakes?

As the main character chili pepper give the recipe a real burst of flavor, but it may also spoil it if it not properly used: the sauce may get much hotter than you like.

Follow this method:

  • Rub the pepper in your hands to remove the seeds;
  • Cut the tip of the pepper and gently tap it with the cut tip facing downwards, the seeds will just fall out;
  • Cut the pepper into two halves and trim the inner whitish membrane away with a small sharp knife; the pepper gets milder as this is the hottest part of the fruit;
  • Finely dice or slice it according to your taste.

Keep in mind that some peppers are spicier than others, and their juice is (very) spicy too, so don’t touch your eyes and cover any wounds. You may lose a little sensitivity if you use disposable gloves, so be careful with the knife. After cutting the pepper, wash your hands with plenty of soap to remove its spicy juice. 

How to cook the perfect pasta all’arrabbiata

This is the best recipe to surprise your friends with a fast and easy pasta dish. With a few ingredients you always have in your pantry, you may prepare a real delicacy in a few minutes: the timeless super classic garlic, olive oil, and chili pepper sauce enriched by peeled plum tomatoes. So, let’s get started. Take some water to a rolling boil and preparers the sauce which will make you blush! 
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword penne arrabbiata
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 4 people


  • 380 gr pasta, ridged penne for instance 
  • 300 gr tinned peeled plum tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic 
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 
  • chillies to taste 
  • a small bunch of parsley
  • salt
  • Extra: grated pecorino romano or parmigiano reggiano


  • Prepare the garlic and the chili pepper as describe above and put them into a cold skillet with the oil and a few entire stems of parsley. Slice the pepper or leave it in one piece, according to your taste;
  • Cook for one minute until hot and then remove from the heat; let cold down. Put the pan over the heat and cook until warm again; let cool down. Repeat three times: this operation will make garlic and pepper release all their full aroma; 
  • Remove the parsley to prevent any bitter aftertaste in the sauce; 
  • Break up the peeled plum tomatoes with a fork and add them to the skillet when the oil has cooled down;
  • Cook over low heat until it gets to a boil;
  • Simmer for about 15 minutes until the sauce thickens; 
  • Stir occasionally;  
  • Season with salt to taste; 
  • In the meanwhile cook pasta in plenty of salted water;
  • Drain pasta al dente and stir into the sauce; 
  • Combine well until pasta is evenly coated; 
  • Sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley;
  • Serve hot; 
  • Enjoy this Italian delicacy, with or without cheese to your taste. 

A few variations you may encounter around Italy

  • In Sicily penne all’arrabbiata recipe wants eggplants, mozzarella cheese, tomato puree and 1g of chili flakes; it is combined both with dry or egg pasta. Sicilian “Arrabbiata” and Roman “Arrabbiata” have a few ingredients in common;
  • In Calabria “Arrabbiata” is prepared with fresh chili peppers, cherry tomatoes, onion, oregano, garlic, and sometimes spicy chili salami;
  • In Naples, “Arrabbiata” with black olives and a mix of aromatic herbs is paired with a very special kind of pasta, vermicelli.

penne all'arrabbiata

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