Penne Arrabiata

This homemade spicy Italian Penne Arrabiata pasta dish is made with a deeply flavoured sauce with just enough heat! It makes a great vegetarian dish, served with fresh parmesan, and fresh basil. I have tried my fair share of arrabbiata sauces and by far this is the best arrabiata sauce out there - I say that with full confidence because this recipe stems from Ina Garten. Her version is just spicy enough, intensely garlicky but in a sweet caramelized way, with loads of vibrant tomato flavor. Gluten-free friendly served with gf pasta and naturally vegan. I adjusted the amount of garlic and olive oil and seasoning to my taste and know you will love this version so much. It calls for caramelizing the garlic - cooking it low and slow for some minutes before pureeing it with the canned whole tomatoes - then it further cooked into the sauce adding its rich and luscious flavour as the sauce simmers for another 30 minutes (don’t worry I included a quick 20 minute version of this recipe below too). It is a great sauce to make ahead and have on hand as it freezes well. It makes for a super flavourful meatless pasta dish or feel free to stir in a protein or use the sauce alone as a dipping sauce, pizza sauce or for meatballs.

Penne Arrabiata

What is Arrabiata sauce?

Arrabiata sauce or more accurately arrabbiata sauce (for some reason us North Americans tend to drop the extra b and misspell it), or sugo all’arrabbiata in Italian, is a spicy sauce for pasta made from garlic, tomatoes, and dried red chili peppers cooked in olive oil. Arrabbiata (or arrabiata) literally means “angry” in Italian, because the sauce in this dish is supposed to be “angry” spicy. There are many versions out there that add extra things like onions, fish sauce or anchovy paste, tomato paste and other things - those things are optional but one thing that stays unchanged is those four components listed above - tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and chili peppers - in whatever form you want to add them

Penne Arrabiata

Ingredients to make homemade arrabbiata sauce:

  • OLIVE OIL - there’s about ¼ cup called for in this recipe the perfect amount if you are caramelizing the whole garlic cloves. Feel free to use less if you are making the 20 minute version
  • GARLIC - I used a whole head of FRESH garlic and caramelized the whole cloves which mellows out the garlic and adds so much sweetness to the sauce - feel free to reduce the amount of garlic to taste especially if you are making the 20 - minute version (always use fresh)
  • CRUSHED RED PEPPER FLAKES / chili flakes - these give the sauce its signature kick or spice - feel free to adjust the amount according to taste - I do not add the chili flakes to the olive oil with the garlic simply because I don’t want the chance of any of it to get pureed with the garlic and make this sauce even spicier. Feel free to add it to the oil after the garlic is removed if you prefer to infuse the oil with the chilis initially or add it with the sauce as directed in the recipe. I recommend not eyeballing the amount or trying to estimate the amount - measure it out carefully and if you are unsure about your tolerance - start with half the amount or ½ tsp.
  • PENNE - I love the texture of this sauce with the penne - love to drag the penne along the side of the plate collecting all that sauce but feel free to use any shape pasta you like
  • TOMATOES - I like to use whole peeled canned tomatoes which I end up pureeing with the garlic for this sauce. Feel free to use already crushed tomatoes for this version or the 20 minute one if you prefer ( you will still have to puree it along with the garlic if making the whole garlic version) - I recommend whole tomatoes for either though for the best flavour and if you can get the canned ones from Italy even better - crush by hand to form a chunky sauce or purée them for a smoother sauce.
  • BASIL (FRESH) - the perfect addition to the sauce - feel free to use as little or as much as you like or use fresh parsley in it place or a bit of both. Just be sure to use fresh
  • RED WINE - optional but recommended as it adds such delicious flavour to the sauce
  • FENNEL SEEDS - I love the flavour the fennel adds to this sauce - it is completely optional but I recommend it even if its just a pinch - feel free to adjust amounts to taste

Penne Arrabiata

How to make Arrabbiata Sauce/ Penne Arrabbiata:

  1. INFUSE & CARAMELIZE: Add olive oil to pan or deep skillet along wth whole garlic (or minced if using 20 min version) on medium low or low heat setting for12-15 minutes until lightly golden fragrant and caramelized. This infuses the olive oil with garlic flavour. Feel free to add red pepper flakes in oil to extract their heat and flavor, but be careful not to transfer too much of them with the garlic to be pureed as this will intensify the heat levels.
  2. PUREE: Once the oil has a chance to infuse and garlic has caramelized - add strained whole tomatoes to food processor or blender and pulse to break them up or crush them - transfer the garlic to food processor with slotted spoon and pulse and puree to create a sauce.
  3. SIMMER: pour sauce into pan with the olive oil along with the fennel, chili flakes, wine and salt and pepper and simmer for 30 minutes. The flavors mix and mingle and you’re left with the most aromatic arrabbiata sauce.
  4. FINISH: by adding the sliced or torn basil and taste and adjust seasoning adding more salt or more chili flakes to taste

Penne Arrabiata

Arrabbiata Variations:

  • Arrabbiata spaghetti: substitute spaghetti noodles. You could also use fresh pasta here too
  • Skip the pasta and use the sauce as a dipping sauce for garlic bread or crusty bread or a sauce for meatballs or meatball sandwiches, pizza sauce, enjoy it with roasted veggies,
  • Although not traditional - feel free to use a good quality marinara sauce to make the arrabiata sauce instead of the whole or crushed tomatoes.
  • Add more flavour to the sauce by adding some anchovy paste to the olive oil and garlic infusing it with loads of Umami flavour
  • Add 1-2 tbsp of tomato paste to the sauce for richer deeper tomato flavour
  • Add a protein/meat: ground beef, chicken, shrimp, chorizo, sausage, meatballs,
  • Add vegetables: grill desired vegetables (zucchini, pepper, onions, etc) in step 2, before adding tomatoes.

Penne Arrabiata

20 minute version

  1. Instead of sautéing the whole garlic cloves - used 1-3 minced garlic cloves instead.
  2. Instead of using whole tomatoes use already crushed tomatoes as you wound need to puree the garlic for this version
  3. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and crushed red pepper; cook, stirring for 30 seconds.
  4. Add crushed tomatoes wine and fennel if using
  5. Bring to a simmer over low heat and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add fresh chopped basil.
  6. When pasta is cooked, drain the water and add it to the tomato sauce. Toss well. Taste and add more red pepper flakes or salt and pepper, if needed.
  7. Serve immediately topped with a generous portion of grated pecorino or parmesan cheese and fresh chopped basil

Penne Arrabiata

Make ahead To Freeze:

Make the arrabbiata sauce and allow it to cool completely. Store it in a freezer safe container for 2-3 months. Reheat in a sauce pan on low heat. Make noodles fresh for serving. The sauce can keep in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 3 months.

Penne Arrabiata

More Pasta recipes you will love:


Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Prep Time: 10-15 mins
Cook Time: 40-45 mins


  • ¼ cup good extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Head of whole garlic cloves smashed and peeled and left whole
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes strained
  • 2 teaspoons whole fennel seeds, chopped (adjust to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes/ chili flakes (adjust to taste)
  • ⅓ cup red wine
  • ¾ tablespoon salt or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or to taste
  • ¼ cup julienned/chopped fresh basil leaves, plus extra for serving
  • 1 pound dry penne
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving


  1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat olive oil just to warm over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, (or more if you want them really caramelized) tossing occasionally, until the garlic has softened and is lightly browned and super fragrant - you do not want to burn them so keep and eye on the temperature lowering it if needed.
  2. In the meantime place strained tomatoes in a food processor or blender and pulse until tomatoes are roughly chopped. With a slotted spoon, transfer the caramelized garlic to the food processor and pulse again to chop the garlic. (Feel free to purée if you want the garlic completely pulverized)
  3. Pour the tomato puree garlic mixture back into the pot with the olive oil, add the fennel, red pepper flakes, red wine, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir in the basil, taste for seasonings and keep warm over very low heat.
  4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a full boil and salt generously. Add the penne and cook according to the package instructions until just 2 minutes from al dente
  5. Lift the pasta out of the boiling water (or strain but reserve 1-2 cups pasta water) and add it to the sauce, along with ¼ cup of the pasta water. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, until the pasta is al dente. Adding a little extra pasta water to pot as needed.
  6. Spoon the pasta into bowls, sprinkle with extra basil and Parmesan cheese, and serve hot.

Recipe Notes

  • Please note that this version is more of a low and slow version - check the blog post above for a quick 20 minute version and any ingredient adjustments to be made for the quick version
  • Storage, Make Ahead & Freezing: Make the arrabbiata sauce and allow it to cool completely. Store it in a freezer safe container for 2-3 months. Reheat in a sauce pan on low heat. Make noodles fresh for serving. The sauce can keep in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 3 months.

Penne Arrabiata