Penne all'arrabbiata has its origin in the Rieti province, in Lazio, not far from Rome. Together with spaghetti aglio e olio and pasta cacio e pepe, penne all'arrabbiata is one of the most popular pasta dishes of Italy. It's simple, yet delicious, and naturally vegan, made only with a few healthy ingredients.
🥬 Ingredients & substitutions
Penne: to get the best result get some penne trafilate al bronzo (bronze cut). Bronze cut pasta has a better texture. Its's dusty and more rugged than standard pasta. Also, make sure your pasta is made with only durum wheat and water. If it contains other ingredients don't buy it.
Tomatoes: in summer you can use very ripe fresh tomatoes. In winter opt for whole peeled canned tomatoes imported from Italy. Pick a good brand so that the tomatoes will have a better flavour and the sauce won't be too watery.
Hot chili: you can use fresh red hot chili peppers if in season. Alternatively, use dry chili peppers, chili flakes, or chili powder.
Garlic: use fresh garlic very finely chopped, or turned into a paste.
Flat-leave parsley: fresh parsley coarsely chopped. Also, set aside a few parsley stems that we will use to flavour the cooking oil.
Coarse and fine sea salt: use the coarse sea salt to season the pasta cooking water, and the fine sea salt to season the tomato sauce.
Extra virgin olive oil: ideally imported from Italy.
📋 Recipe Card
- 2 cups penne (200 g)
- 8 oz whole peeled tomatoes (400 g)
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 red hot chili pepper fresh or dry
- 1 handful parsley
- ½ gallon water
- 1½ tbsp coarse sea salt to salt the pasta water
- 2 pinches salt
- In a large pot, put 2 litres (½ gallon) of water to boil.
- Separate the leaves of the parsley from the stems. Chop the leaves coarsely and save 5 stems for later. Set aside.
- Finely chop the garlic. Try to turn it into a garlic paste if you can.
- In a non stick pan, add 2 tbsp of olive oil, the 5 stems of the parsley and the garlic. Warm up the oil on low heat until the garlic starts to fry gently. Turn the fire off, then add the chopped chili (or dry chili).NOTE: arrabbiata is a spicy pasta dish, but you can choose yourself how much chili you want to add based on your spice tolerance.
- Turn the fire on one more time until the garlic starts to fry again (make sure the garlic does not turn brown), then when the pan is hot, quickly discard the parsley stems and add the peeled tomatoes with ½ cup of water to rinse the tomato can.
- Add about 2 pinches of sea salt and let simmer on medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Stir occasionally and with a fork break down the peeled tomatoes. Then start cooking the pasta, but leave the tomato sauce simmering.
- At this point the water to cook your pasta should be boiling. Add 1½ tbsp of coarse sea salt, then put the pasta in. Give it a stir with a wooden spoon, then let cook for 6 minutes, or about half the time suggested on the pasta package.NOTE: we want the pasta half cooked because we are going to finish it in the tomato sauce. This way, the pasta will release the starch into the sauce, making it extra creamy.
- Once the 6 minutes have elapsed, drain the pasta but save the pasta water.
- Add the pasta to the tomato sauce with 1 cup of pasta water. Let cook on medium-low heat until the pasta is "al dente" (cooked, but with a bite to it) and ready to be served. Stir frequently. It should take about 4 minutes. The pasta should be completely coated in creamy sauce.
- While cooking, the pasta will absorb water, so you might want to add another ½ to 1½ cups of pasta cooking water if required.
- Shortly before serving add the chopped parsley, give it a stir, and serve.
👨🏻🍳 Top tips
Turn the garlic into a paste
Garlic can be difficult to digest for many people. Other people simply don't like seeing it in their food, and others don't like its taste.
The best way to prep the garlic for a good arrabbiata sauce is to chop it really fine, then turning it into a paste by working it with the side of your knife. See our video for technique.
This way the garlic will melt away in the tomato sauce, infusing the sauce of a light garlic flavour that will make your pasta stand out.
Add the stem of the parsley to the oil
We do this to infuse some parsley flavour into the hot oil. This will make our arrabbiata sauce extra aromatic. Just remember to remove the stems from the pan before adding the tomatoes.
Finish the pasta in the sauce
Only cook the pasta half way through in the water, then finish it up in the tomato sauce adding some of the pasta cooking water.
While this cooking method might seem bizarre, it is by far the best way to make a creamy sauce.
Cooked this way, the starch in the pasta will leak into the tomato sauce, giving it that creaminess without having to add any cheese or butter.
📖 Questions & answers
Arrabbiata means angry. Due to chili peppers, eating the pasta will make your face red, like if you were angry. Hence the name arrabbiata.
You could say that arrabbiata is a spicy version of marinara. However, in Italy usually marinara is used on pizza, and rarely on pasta, whereas arrabbiata is only used on pasta, and never on pizza.
The ingredients, however, are the same, with the addition of the chili pepper and the parsley in the arrabbiata.
Yes, the original Italian recipe of penne all'arrabbiata is naturally vegan.
Penne all'arrabbiata is best eaten on the spot. If you have some leftover, store it in a air tight container in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours.
To reheat it, add it to a small pot with a dash of tap water and warm it up on medium-low heat. Sprinkle with some fresh parsley. Do not reheat more than once.
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