Rigatoni Arrabbiata is a classic Italian pasta dish with a spicy tomato-based sauce with a bold and rustic flavor.
Arrabbiata is the perfect pasta sauce for an easy but tasty last-minute dinner, as you can make it in 20 minutes with simple pantry staples.
Table of Contents
Pasta with arrabbiata sauce is a popular Italian entree made with a bold tomato sauce with a spicy kick.
Arrabbiata means angry in Italian due to the spicy sauce with a generous amount of red chilies or red pepper flakes.
Our recipe is moderately spicy, but you can adjust the spice level based on your taste.
Rigatoni is a tube-shaped pasta with large holes and ridges that hold on wonderfully to the spicy sauce. When you bite into them, the sauce trapped inside makes this dish bursting with flavor.
Here we share with you the secret to making the best rigatoni arrabbiata.
That is, undercook the pasta, then finish cooking it in the pan with the sauce, adding pasta water.
This way, the starch in the pasta leaches out into the sauce, making this dish the best, richest, and creamiest arrabbiata pasta you’ve ever had.
Ingredients & Substitutions
Find the complete recipe with ingredients and instructions in the recipe box at the bottom of the page.
Rigatoni is a tube-shaped pasta with a larger hole than penne or ziti. They are perfect for this recipe as they get filled with the sauce.
Substitute any other short pasta like penne, rotini, ziti, or fusilli. For gluten-free, use your favorite gluten-free pasta.
- Extra virgin olive oil: substitute regular olive oil.
- Garlic: fresh garlic is best; grated, pressed, or finely chopped.
- Red pepper flakes: substitute thinly sliced red chilis or chili powder.
- Whole canned peeled tomatoes: they contain less water and yield a richer sauce than crushed tomatoes or tomato puree.
If possible, try to get an imported Italian brand that uses “San Marzano tomatoes.” They have a richer, less watery, and more intense flavor. Substitute tomato puree or Italian passata.
- Fresh parsley: flat-leaf fresh Italian parsley is used in rigatoni arrabbiata.
It should be coarsely chopped and rigorously fresh. There is no fresh basil or dried oregano in arrabbiata. If you’d like a recipe that uses basil, check out our tomato basil pasta.
If you want one that uses oregano, check out our tofu meatballs in marinara sauce.
- Salt: used for the sauce and the pasta water. Italians use coarse sea salt for the pasta water and fine sea salt for the sauce.
Ingredients that are not in rigatoni arrabbiata: the original Italian recipe for pasta arrabbiata doesn’t have bell pepper, veggies, spinach, fennel seeds, parmesan cheese, ground beef, Italian sausage, shrimp, chicken or any other type of meat in it, but if you like, feel free to use this as a base recipe and add your favorite add-ins.
How to make rigatoni arrabbiata
Make the arrabbiata sauce
Warm the oil in a large skillet, then add finely chopped garlic and red pepper flakes.
Fry on low heat for about a minute. The garlic should not turn golden brown or burn.
Note: you can use a large frying pan, a large sauté pan, or a Dutch oven for this recipe. The pan should be large enough to contain the sauce and the pasta.
Add whole peeled tomatoes, rinse the can with 1/2 cup of water, and add it to the pan.
Season with salt, crush the tomatoes with a fork and simmer on medium-low heat for 15 minutes.
In the meantime, cook the pasta.
Note: some recipes mention blending the tomatoes in a food processor, but that is not necessary nor customary for this dish. The arrabbiata should not be completely smooth.
Boil the pasta
Boil the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water per package instructions minus 3 minutes.
Tip: You want the pasta slightly undercooked because we finish cooking it directly in the arrabbiata sauce. This way, the starch in the pasta will leach out into the sauce, making the dish creamy.
Toss pasta in the sauce
Reserve two cups of pasta cooking water, drain the rigatoni, and add them to the pan with the sauce. Add one cup of reserved pasta water.
Finish cooking the pasta in the sauce on medium heat. Stir the pasta often, and add more reserved pasta water if necessary.
Shortly before turning the heat off, add the parsley.
When the pasta is “al dente” (with a bite), turn the heat off and serve immediately.
Same sauce, different pasta. This is how arrabbiata sauce is served in Italy: with penne.
Check out our penne arrabbiata recipe.
Cherry tomato pasta
Cherry tomato pasta is a quick and easy recipe with a simple tomato sauce with fresh tomatoes, garlic, and basil.
Check out our cherry tomato pasta recipe.
Pasta pomodoro or spaghetti pomodoro is a simple recipe with a tasty tomato and basil sauce, excellent for a last-minute family dinner.
Check out our pasta pomodoro recipe.
How to cook pasta?
You’ll need a large pot of salted water as follows:
- 8 ounces of pasta (230 grams): cook pasta in 2 quarts of boiling water (8 cups or 2 Liters) with 1 tablespoon of salt (15 grams). Serves 2 – 3 people.
- 12 ounces of pasta (340 grams): cook pasta in 3 quarts of boiling water (12 cups or 3 Liters) with 1 ½ tablespoons of salt (21 grams). Serves 4 people.
- 1 pound of pasta (450 grams): cook pasta in 1 gallon of boiling water (16 cups or 4 Liters) with 2 tablespoons of salt (30 grams). Serves 5-6 people.
Undercook the pasta
Boil it for 3 minutes less than instructed on the package, then finish cooking it in the pan with the sauce and reserved pasta water.
If you try this trick, you’ll never cook rigatoni arrabbiata any other way. The sauce will be extra creamy and rich and coat the rigatoni perfectly.
This is thanks to the starch that leaches from the pasta and goes into the arrabbiata sauce.
Rigatoni arrabbiata is the perfect entree for a quick and easy lunch or dinner. Serve it with a green salad or quick sautéed vegetables:
Make ahead: this recipe is not suitable for making ahead as pasta is best when just made.
Refrigerator: store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
Reheat on a pan with a drizzle of olive oil, and add some fresh parsley before serving. Alternatively, one minute in the microwave will do.
Freezer: we don’t recommend freezing this recipe.
More pasta recipes
Looking for delicious easy pasta ideas? These are quick to make with simple ingredients:
- Garlic and oil pasta (parsley, spaghetti, garlic, red pepper flakes, olive oil.)
- Cherry tomato pasta (cherry tomatoes, spaghetti, garlic, parmesan cheese, etc.)
- Lentil bolognese (lentils, carrot, celery, onion, mushrooms, soy sauce, etc.)
- Pasta pomodoro (canned tomatoes, spaghetti, parsley, olive oil, garlic, etc.)
For many more 30-minute meal ideas, check out our 30-minute meal category page.
For the Arrabbiata Sauce
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic finely chopped, pressed, or grated
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes more or less to taste
- 28 ounces (1 large can) whole peeled tomatoes + ½ cup water to rinse can
- 1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
- 3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley chopped
For the Pasta
- 12 ounces rigatoni
- ¾ gallon water
- 1½ tablespoons sea salt for the pasta water
- Warm 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet, then add 3 cloves garlic (pressed or minced) and ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakesFry on low heat for about a minute without burning it.
- Add 28 ounces (1 large can) whole peeled tomatoes, rinse the can with ½ cup of water, and add it to the pan.Season with 1 teaspoon salt, crush the tomatoes with a fork and simmer on medium heat for 15 minutes.
- In the meantime, boil the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water per package instructions minus 3 minutes.
- Reserve two cups of pasta cooking water, drain the pasta, and add it to the sauce. Add 1 cup of reserved pasta water.
- Finish cooking the pasta in the sauce stirring and adding more pasta water if necessary.Shortly before turning the heat off, add 3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley (chopped).
- When the pasta is "al dente" (with a bite), turn the heat off and serve immediately.
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