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Penne arrabbiata is definitely one of the best Italian pasta dishes that save your dinner during busy weeknights. It’s so easy, quick, full of flavor, and budget-friendly!
All you need is a handful of inexpensive cupboard essentials and 20 minutes of prep time for a simple, juicy, delicious pasta dish.
I don’t know why it took me so long to share this recipe with you all. Together with my ricotta pasta, pasta with olives and cream cheese pasta, penne arrabbiata was one of my favorite staples when I was a student.
Penne arrabbiata, correctly spelled “penne all’arrabbiata” (angry penne), is one of the simplest Italian pasta dishes served in trattorias: small rustic restaurants you’ll find throughout all of Italy.
But don’t mistake simple for bland!
The rich tomato sauce is cooked in olive oil with garlic and plenty of chili flakes. It sounds easy, but it packs a complex depth of flavor. Then the sauce is tossed with the pasta and fresh parsley or basil.
And it’s ready, dinner is served.
This is a keeper my friends, definitely spicy and not exactly a kid-friendly dish, but busy grown ups love it at the end of a long day, especially served with this crusty panini bread or olive focaccia.
List of the ingredients
- Penne (rigatoni or spaghetti are totally fine)
- Good-quality canned whole tomatoes (or diced tomatoes)
- Chili flakes (same as crushed red pepper)
- Olive oil or extra virgin olive oil
- Fresh parsley or fresh basil (optional)
- Salt & pepper
How to make penne arrabbiata
(Note: this is a quick description with step by step photos, the full recipe is at the bottom of the page)
- Gently fry minced garlic and chili flakes in olive oil.
- Add canned tomatoes, salt and pepper and cook for 15 minutes.
- Smash the tomatoes with the back of a spoon, taste and adjust the seasoning.
- Cook, drain and toss the pasta with the arrabbiata sauce and herbs until well combined.
Recipe notes & FAQ’s
Penne arrabbiata ingredients
PASTA: traditionally, the arrabbiata sauce is served with penne rigate (with a ridged surface instead of smooth), but rigatoni and spaghetti work just fine. Go for premium quality pasta, possibly trafilata al bronzo (bronze cut) and cooked until al dente. My favorite brands are Garofalo and Rummo.
TOMATOES: good-quality whole peeled tomatoes are great. They are fleshier and less watery than their diced counterparts, but good finely chopped tomatoes or diced tomatoes are ok too. My favorite brand for canned tomatoes is Mutti.
CHILI FLAKES: fresh or dried chili (or crushed red pepper flakes) are a must, but feel free to adjust the amount according to your taste.
HERBS: either fresh parsley or basil work fine, they both add fresh herbal notes to the spicy sauce. But this is meant to be a fuss-free recipe, so skip the fresh herbs if you don’t have any.
CHEESE: pecorino cheese or parmesan cheese are common addition to this penne arrabbiata recipe, however, feel free to skip the cheese because the vegan option will taste equally delicious.
What’s the difference between Arrabbiata sauce and Marinara sauce?
The main difference between the two Italian pasta recipes is minimal. Penne arrabbiata uses more chili than marinara sauce, while marinara sauce is less spicy, a bit more garlicky and uses dried oregano instead of fresh herbs.
What does arrabbiata mean?
The Italian word arrabbiata means angry. The spicy sauce is so hot that makes your face red like if you were angry!
What to serve with penne arrabbiata?
For a quick yet delicious Italian meal, you might serve this penne arrabbiata with a tomato and onion salad or tomato and cucumber salad. Alternatively, an Italian chickpea salad or cannellini bean salad make excellent side dishes packed with plant based protein.
More quick Italian pasta recipes?
If you look for Italian pasta dishes ready in no time, I’ve got you covered! I’ve shared many of my favorite pasta dishes on the blog, including these popular quick & easy pasta recipes. Here are a few more (yes, we love pasta!):
- Spaghetti with garlic and olive oil, aka aglio e olio
- Pasta alla marinara
- Pasta with walnut sauce
- Penne with pesto
If you make this penne arrabbiata, or if you have any questions, let me know! Leave a comment or rate it. I would love to hear from you!
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- 8 oz (220 grams) penne (rigatoni or spaghetti are fine too)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- ½ tsp chili flakes or crushed red pepper, plus more to taste
- 1 can (14oz) canned whole tomatoes (diced are ok too)
- ¼ tsp fine salt, plus more to taste
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2-3 Tbsp grated parmesan or pecorino cheese, optional
- Heat the olive oil in a large pan and when it start shimmering add garlic and chili flakes. Cook over medium heat until aromatic, about 60 seconds. Make sure the garlic doesn't turn brown.
- Add the canned tomatoes, salt and few twist of black pepper and give a good stir. Let it cook over medium heat for 15 minutes until is slightly reduced, breaking with a back of a spoon the whole tomatoes. Stir occassionally.
- While the sauce is cooking, bring a pot of salty water to the boil and cook pasta until al dente.
- Reserve about ¼ cup of pasta cooking water and drain.
- Taste the arrabbiata sauce, adjust the seasoning according to your taste, and stir in pasta and fresh parsley.
- Toss until wel combined adding a touch of the reserved pasta cooking water if you need to loosen the sauce.
- Serve immediately with an extra drizzle of extra virgin olive oil if you wish, and extra parsley or grated parmesan cheese if desired. Enjoy.