My version of a classic Arrabiata Pasta recipe includes a spicy homemade tomato sauce made with red chili pepper flakes, fragrant garlic and fresh basil. This zesty sauce is tossed with tender fusilli pasta for an easy and satisfying dinner that’s ready in just 30 minutes. Top with grated parmesan cheese for the perfect garnish!
Table of Contents
What is Arrabiata Pasta
Arrabiata Pasta is a popular Italian recipe that features a sauce made with spicy red chili peppers and tomatoes. In fact, the word “arrabiata” means angry in Italian, which refers to the bold spiciness of the dish.
So if you’re looking to add a bit of heat to your next pasta night, this recipe is exactly what you need.
The vegetarian tomato, chili pepper, garlic and basil sauce is combined with al dente fusilli pasta, which is my favorite pasta to use because of how wonderfully it holds the sauce.
You can substitute with other types of pasta, but be sure they are hearty pasta such as penne or rigatoni.
Why This Recipe Works
While arrabiata pasta recipe is very easy to prepare, the homemade tomato sauce really makes it a special dish. Buying a jar of sauce might be the easiest route but it just won’t have the same amazing flavor. And even with a scratch-made sauce this recipe only requires 30 minutes!
The arrabiata sauce is made with a fresh tomato puree simmered to perfection with a handful of classic bold spices. Red chili flakes add the kick of spiciness you crave, and the amount included can be adjusted to taste.
Of course, you could cut the spice a bit by topping the pasta with freshly grated parmesan cheese – your choice of dairy or dairy-free for a completely vegan recipe.
Ingredients You Need
- Pasta: I use fusilli pasta in my recipe. However, as mentioned above, you certainly can swap with whatever hearty pasta you like. Traditional arrabiata is made with penne, but you can even use macaroni, rigatoni, ziti or shell pasta.
- Tomatoes: A sauce made from scratch with a fresh tomato puree base is the real star of this dish. You’ll want ripe tomatoes to make the puree using a food processor or blender.
- Spices and seasonings: Garlic, basil and red chili peppers add great spicy, earthy flavor to the sauce. Use your choice of chopped fresh red chili peppers (chilies) or crushed red pepper chili flakes. The fresh peppers will have a bit more heat to them than the dried flakes. You even can use simple red chili powder if fresh chiles or red chili flakes aren’t available.
- Make your own chilli flakes: I did not have fresh red chilies on hand, so I ground some dried Kashmiri red chilies to get chili flakes. This also gave a nice red color to the arrabiata sauce.
- I always recommend using fresh tomatoes to make the puree. However, if you don’t have enough tomatoes feel free to make a mixture using half fresh tomatoes and half store bought puree or canned tomatoes (whole or crushed). Or, you can use all canned tomatoes without any fresh produce in a pinch.
- The puree is made in a food processor, and is blended until smooth. If you want a chunkier sauce, save some of the tomato (fresh or canned) to chop and add at the end.
- For a healthier dish you can use whole wheat or your preferred gluten-free pasta.
How to make Arrabiata Pasta
1. Heat 4 cups of water together with ½ teaspoon salt in a pot. Bring the water to a boil.
2. Then add 2 cups fusilli pasta (175 grams). You can add penne, rigatoni, ziti, shell or macaroni pasta instead.
3. On a medium to high heat, cook until the pasta is al dente or cook it completely, based on your preference.
4. In a colander, drain the pasta and set aside.
Make Tomato Puree
5. Peel and roughly chop 2 large tomatoes (220 grams). Add them in a blender or a food chopper or processor.
TIP: Try to use tomatoes which are ripe, red and less tangy. Extremely sour tasting tomatoes will make the sauce taste very tangy.
6. Without adding any water, blend to a smooth puree. Set aside. If using canned tomato puree, include 1 cup of it.
Make Arrabiata Sauce
7. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet or pan on a low or medium heat. Add 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic. Sauté for some seconds. There is no need to brown garlic.
8. Then add 2 teaspoons of fresh or dried crushed red pepper (chili flakes). Stir and mix in the oil. You can reduce or increase the amount of crushed red pepper depending on your spice and heat tolerance.
TIP: Instead of crushed red pepper (chili flakes), you can also add ½ to 1 teaspoon cayenne or red chilli powder (which is basically powdered dry red chillies and not the Mexican chilli powder).
9. Next add the prepared tomato puree.
10. Add salt as needed.
11. Combine and mix well.
12. Cover the pan with its lid.
13. On a low heat, simmer the sauce for about 10 to 12 minutes until the raw flavor and taste of tomatoes goes away.
Add some water (about ¼ cup) if the tomato puree starts sticking to the pan. When you see some oil specks on the sauce, this means that the tomato puree is cooked.
Make Pasta Arrabiata
14. Add ¼ teaspoon dried oregano, ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper. You can also add ¼ teaspoon sugar.
If the tomatoes are too tangy, then only add sugar. Mix very well. You can add sugar as required depending on the tanginess of tomatoes.
15. Add the cooked pasta to your sauce.
16. Combine and mix very well, so that the sauce coats the pasta evenly.
17. Switch off the heat and add 1 tablespoon chopped basil leaves. Mix again. You can add more basil if you like.
Serving your sauce fresh on pasta is always best, however the sauce can be made in bulk and stored in the fridge. This is a great way to preserve fresh tomatoes that may otherwise go bad.
Have a lot of fresh tomatoes on hand? Use the puree method on as many tomatoes as you like and then store extra puree in the fridge to use the next time you make this sauce or any tomato puree based sauce.
Arrabiatta pasta is best served garnished with some vegetarian freshly grated parmesan cheese, however, any grated cheese works. Keep it dairy-free by using a vegan parmesan cheese.
Tips + FAQs
As-is this recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of red chili flakes, which makes a fairly spicy dish. Add an extra teaspoon to kick up the spiciness. Or reduce the amount to just 1 teaspoon (or less) to make a milder version.
Sprinkle on some freshly grated parmesan cheese (vegetarian) for an authentic Italian dish. You also can use your favorite vegan plant-based parmesan cheese for a totally dairy-free recipe. I also like to add some slivers of fresh basil for a pop of flavor and color.
Yes, it is easy to double this pasta recipe. The original recipe is for 3 servings, but simply double the ingredients to prepare up to 6 portions.
It’s best to store the sauce by itself in the fridge, and I personally like to make fresh pasta each time I enjoy. However, the combined pasta with sauce is also quite delicious to enjoy as leftovers. Let the sauce and/or pasta cool completely before putting in an airtight container, and keep in the fridge for up to 2 to 3 days.
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Arrabbiata Pasta Recipe
For cooking pasta
- 2 cups fusilli pasta – 175 grams or penne or rigatoni
- 4 cups water
- ½ teaspoon salt or add as required
For arrabiata sauce
- 2 cups chopped tomatoes – 220 grams or 2 large tomatoes or 2 cups chopped tomatoes or 1 cup tomato purée
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic – 5 grams
- 2 teaspoons chilli flakes or add as required, swap with ½ to 1 teaspoon red chilli powder or cayenne
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon dried oregano or add as required
- 1 tablespoon chopped basil leaves or 3 to 4 basil leaves or 1 teaspoon dried basil
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper powder or add as required
- ¼ teaspoon sugar – optional
- ¼ cup water – optional
- 2 to 3 tablespoons parmesan cheese (vegetarian) or choice of cheese – optional
- Heat water together with salt in a pot. Bring the water to a boil.
- Add the fusilli pasta. Opt for penne pasta or rigatoni if you do not have fusilli pasta.
- On a medium to high heat, cook until the pasta is al dente or cook until softened, based on your preference.
- In a colander or strainer, strain the pasta and set aside.
Making arrabbiata sauce
- Peel and roughly chop tomatoes. Transfer them to a blender or a food chopper or processor.
- Without adding any water, blend or process to a smooth puree. Set aside.
- Heat olive oil in a pan or skillet. Add finely chopped garlic. Sauté garlic for some seconds.
- Add the crushed red chili flakes and mix with the oil and garlic. You can reduce or increase the quantity of red chili flakes as needed. Instead or red chili flakes, you can also add ½ to 1 teaspoon red chilli powder or cayenne.
- Next, add the tomato puree. Add salt as per taste and mix well. Cover the pan with its lid.
- On a low heat simmer the arrabbiata sauce for 10 to 12 minutes until the raw flavor and taste of tomatoes goes away. Add some water (about ¼ cup) if the tomato puree starts sticking to the pan.
- When you see some oil specks on the sauce, this means that the arrabiata sauce is cooked.
- Add dried oregano, ground black pepper. You can also add ¼ teaspoon sugar. If the tomatoes are too tangy, then only add sugar. Mix again. You can add sugar as needed depending on the tanginess of tomatoes.
Making arrabbiata pasta
- Add the cooked pasta and mix very well, so that the sauce coats the pasta evenly.
- Switch off the heat and add 1 teaspoon chopped basil leaves. Gently mix again.
- Serve in a bowl or a deep dish garnished with grated vegetarian parmesan cheese and a few basil sprigs. You can top with your preferred cheese if you do not have parmesan cheese.
- Enjoy spicy hot arrabbiata pasta with cheese garlic bread or a simple garlic bread. It is also great to serve with a refreshing salad or a soup by the side.
Storage and Leftovers
- It’s best to store the sauce by itself in the fridge, and I personally like to make fresh pasta each time. However, the combined pasta with sauce is also quite delicious to enjoy as leftovers.
- Let the sauce and/or pasta cool completely before putting in an airtight container, and keep in the fridge for up to 2 to 3 days.
Nutrition Info (Approximate Values)
This arrabiata pasta recipe post from the blog archives (December 2016) has been republished and updated on 17 May 2021.