Penne Arrabiata – A fiery Italian tomato sauce made with San Marzano tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil and garlic, tossed together with penne pasta.

It’s rich and comforting. Plus it’s naturally vegetarian!

A black bowl filled with penne arrabiata, with fresh baby basil leaves sprinkled on top. There is a fork sticking out of the bowl. The bowl is in a dark surface and there is a loaf of bread with a couple of sliced pieces and a jar of chilli flakes at the top of the frame.

The absolute most important thing about this recipe is the sauce. Arrabbiata sauce, made the traditional way, with extra virgin olive oil, garlic, chilli and San Marzano tomatoes.
This is a rich and spicy sauce, and it’s pretty simple to make too!

Once you’ve got the sauce, you can add any type of cooked pasta you like to it.

I love it with fresh tagliatelle or pappardelle when I’m in the mood for long pasta.

For short pasta, penne is the most popular way to go, but of course, you can replace with any short pasta you like.

📋 Sauce ingredients

Ingredients for Arrabbiata sauce on a wooden board.

The main ingredients for a traditional Arrabiata sauce include:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • San Marzano tinned tomatoes
  • Garlic
  • Chilli Flakes

📺 Watch how to make the sauce

Note – this video shows the arrabbiata sauce with long pasta, but you you just need to add the cooked penne to the sauce in the same way.

👩‍🍳PRO TIP This is a low & slow sauce. Cook the onions slowly, then simmer the tomatoes nice and slowly for a thick, rich tomato pasta sauce.

Overhead image of a silver pan filled with arrabbiata sauce on a light background. There is a wooden spoon and sprinkled fresh basil leaves in the sauce. There are basil leaves, garlic cloves and a jar of chilli flakes around the pan.

Once that spicy arrabbiata sauce is ready, stir in cooked penne pasta.
Serve topped with black pepper, chilli flakes, basil leaves and parmesan (or for vegetarian, use vegetarian Italian-style hard cheese).

Overhead image of a black bowl filled with penne arrabiata, with fresh baby basil leaves sprinkled on top. There is a fork sticking out of the bowl. The bowl is in a dark surface and there is a loaf of bread with a couple of sliced pieces at the top of the frame.

🍽️ What to serve it with

A black bowl filled with penne arrabiata, with fresh baby basil leaves sprinkled on top. There is a fork sticking out of the bowl. The bowl is in a dark surface and there is a loaf of bread with a couple of sliced pieces at the top of the frame.

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Penne Arrabiata

A fiery Italian tomato sauce made with San Marzano tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil and garlic, tossed together with penne pasta. It's a rich and comforting dinner.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Course: Dinner, pasta
Cuisine: Italian

Ingredients

Arrabbiata Sauce:

  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion peeled and finely diced
  • 4 fat cloves of garlic peeled and minced
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes (red pepper flakes) add more if you like it really spicy
  • 4 x 400 g (4 x 14 oz) cans San Marzano tomatoes *see note 1
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree (paste for USA)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • a good handful (about 10g/0.35oz) fresh basil leaves roughly chopped (or 1 tsp dried basil)

Also:

  • 400 g (14 oz) penne pasta
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsps parmesan cheese or vegetarian Italian style hard cheese for vegetarian
  • a good handful (about 10g/0.35oz) fresh basil leaves

Instructions 

  • Start by making the arrabbiata sauce. Add the oil to a large saucepan and heat over a low-medium heat.
    3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • Add the chopped onions to the pan and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring often, until the onions are very soft (they shouldn’t be browned though).
    1 small onion
  • Add the garlic and chill flakes and cook for a further 2 minutes.
    4 fat cloves of garlic, 1 tsp chilli flakes (red pepper flakes)
  • Add the tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, salt, and pepper and stir together.
    4 x 400 g (4 x 14 oz) cans San Marzano tomatoes, 1 tbsp tomato puree, ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp black pepper
  • Turn up the heat to medium and bring to a gentle simmer. Then turn down the heat and simmer gently for 45-50 minutes, until thickened. Stir occasionally and break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon as you stir.
  • About 15 minutes before the sauce is ready, cook the pasta. Add the pasta to a large pan of boiling salted water.
    400 g (14 oz) penne pasta
  • Bring to the boil, then simmer for about 11 minutes for al dente pasta (or 12-13 minutes if you like it a little softer).
  • Drain the pasta in a colander and place the drained pasta back in the pan.
  • Coming back to the sauce, stir in the basil and give the sauce a taste. Add a little more salt and pepper if you like.
    a good handful (about 10g/0.35oz) fresh basil leaves
  • Pour the sauce over the pasta in the pasta pan and stir together to coat the pasta in the sauce.
  • Serve topped with a sprinkling of black pepper, grated parmesan, and fresh basil leaves.
    1/4 tsp black pepper, 2 tbsps parmesan cheese, a good handful (about 10g/0.35oz) fresh basil leaves

Video

Notes

*Note 1 – San Marzano Tomatoes
San Marzano tomatoes are the best and most authentic option for Arrabbiata sauce. They have a thicker flesh, less seeds, they’re less watery, less acidic and they’re sweeter than regular tinned tomatoes.
I buy mine at deli shops or online from Sous chef. I’ve seen them in Waitrose too. They’ll say ‘San Marzano DOP’ or ‘San Marzano PDO’ on the label – so you know they’re the right ones.
*PDO = Protected designation of origin
*DOP =Denominazione d’Origine Protetta (which means Protected designation of origin)
If you can’t get hold of them, you can use other good quality tinned whole tomatoes + 1/4 tsp of sugar per 400g/7oz tin.
Secret Tip: I found Sainsbury’s Italian plum tomatoes were actually very close in taste (when doing a blind raw taste test at home). I didn’t need the extra sugar when using that brand (I wasn’t paid by them to say that, it’s purely my opinion).
Can I make it ahead?
I wouldn’t recommend making the whole dish ahead, but you can make the sauce ahead.
Make the sauce, then cool, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Reheat in a pan over a medium heat, stirring occasionally until piping hot – about 6-8 minutes.
Once hot, add in your cooked pasta.
Can I freeze it?
I wouldn’t recommend freezing the whole dish, with the pasta in, but you can make the sauce ahead and freeze it.
Make the sauce, then cool, pour into a freezer-proof container and seal with a lid. Then freeze.
Defrost overnight in the refrigerator.
Reheat as per the reheat instructions above.
How to scale up or down
Double or halve the recipe using the same ingredient ratios.
  • If doubling you will need to simmer the arrabbiata sauce for 10 minutes longer.
  • If halving, you will need to simmer the arrabbiata sauce for 10 minutes less.
Nutritional information is per serving, based on this recipe making 4 servings.

Nutrition

Calories: 562kcal | Carbohydrates: 95g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 2mg | Sodium: 920mg | Potassium: 1077mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 14g | Vitamin A: 923IU | Vitamin C: 41mg | Calcium: 200mg | Iron: 6mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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Hi, I'm Nicky and I love to cook! I want to share with you my favourite, delicious family friendly recipes. I want to inspire you to create fantastic food for your family every day.

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