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Pasta with arrabbiata sauce is a popular Italian entree made with a rich and spicy tomato sauce. While in Italy arrabbiata sauce is generally served with penne (check out our penne arrabbiata recipe), internationally, rigatoni arrabbiata has become very popular. And to be honest with you, we prefer rigatoni for this pasta dish.
Rigatoni have a larger hole than penne and capture more sauce. When you bite into them, the sauce trapped inside makes this dish absolutely delicious.
In the Italian language, arrabbiata means angry. It's called like this because this is a spicy sauce, generally made with fresh chilies or chili flakes. Our recipe is moderately spicy, but you can adjust the spice level based on your taste.
Finally, 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 leaks out into the sauce, making this dish the best, richest, and creamiest arrabbiata pasta you've ever had.
Note that this is not Maggiano's Little Italy arrabbiata recipe. This is the original Italian recipe for pasta with arrabbiata sauce.
Rigatoni: tube-shaped pasta type with a larger hole than penne or ziti. They are perfect for this recipe as they collect the arrabbiata sauce inside of them. You can replace them with any other short pasta types.
Olive Oil: extra virgin olive oil is what is used in the original Italian recipe. It's healthier and tastier than regular olive oil, so we recommend using that in our recipes. You can replace it with regular olive oil.
Garlic: a key ingredient for arrabbiata sauce. It needs to be finely chopped or grated.
Chilli: use fresh chili, thinly sliced; chili flakes, or red pepper flakes. We use red pepper flakes for this recipe.
Whole peeled tomatoes: those are best because 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.
Fresh parsley: flat-leaf, Italian parsley is what's used in rigatoni arrabbiata. It should be coarsely chopped and rigorously fresh. Contrary to popular belief, 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 for the pasta water. Italians use coarse sea salt for the pasta water.
Ingredients that are not in rigatoni arrabbiata: the original Italian recipe for pasta arrabbiata is naturally vegan, so there is no parmesan cheese, ground beef, Italian sausage, or any other type of meat in it. There's also no bell pepper.
Make the arrabbiata sauce
Finely chop the garlic, then add it to a large skillet with the olive oil and red pepper flakes. Heat oil and gently fry on low heat for about a minute without burning the garlic. The garlic should not turn golden brown.
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 the can of whole peeled tomatoes. Rinse the can with ½ cup of water and add that to the pan. Stir and simmer on medium to low heat for 5 minutes.
Crush the tomatoes with a fork or with a wooden spoon. They should be soft enough after 5 minutes of simmering. Try to break off large pieces of tomato.
Season with salt. For us, 1 teaspoon salt is enough, but adjust based on your preferences.
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.
Let simmer for 15 minutes on medium heat. In the meantime, cook the pasta. Before adding the pasta, taste the sauce and adjust for salt and chili.
Cook the pasta
Boil the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water. Important: cook the pasta 3 minutes less than instructed on the package. Why? We finish cooking the pasta directly in the arrabbiata sauce. This way the starch in the pasta will leek out into the sauce, making the dish extra creamy.
Reserve two cups of pasta cooking water. Drain the rigatoni and add them to the pan with the sauce. Stir the pasta in the sauce, then add 1 cup of 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.
Boil the pasta 3 minutes less than instructed, then finish cooking it in the pan with the sauce and with 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 will coat the rigatoni to perfection.
This is due to the starch that leaks out of the pasta and goes straight into the tomato sauce. Try and let us know what you think.
Rigatoni arrabbiata is the perfect entree for a quick and easy lunch or dinner. The dish itself is nutritious and fulfilling. However, you might want to serve it with a side dish of vegetables.
We recommend a light and easy vegan chickpea salad, a simple tofu salad, or a tomato, cucumber, and onion salad.
To make this pasta dish even more nutritious and fulfilling, try adding our pan-fried tofu.
If you want an even more complete dinner, then you could serve a smaller portion of the pasta, followed by a second course of pan-fried tofu with mushrooms, lemon tofu, or vegan baked fish. They are all easy, nutritious, and delicious recipes.
More pasta recipes
Looking for more delicious vegan pasta recipes? Here are some of our favorites. They are all easy to make with simple plant-based ingredients:
Pasta is best eaten hot, straight out of the pan. If you have leftovers, store them in the fridge for up to 24 hours. Reheat on a pan with a drizzle of olive oil and add some fresh parsley on top before serving.
For many more 30-minute meal ideas, make sure to check out our 30-minute meal category page.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil extra virgin*
- 3 cloves garlic finely chopped
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes or more to taste
- 28 ounces (1 large can) whole peeled tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
- 4 tablespoons parsley flat leaf, chopped, reserve stems
- 1 pound rigatoni
- 1 gallon water
- 2 tablespoons coarse sea salt to salt the pasta water**
Make Arrabbiata Sauce
- To a large skillet, add the oil, the finely chopped garlic, and the red pepper flakes (or finely chopped chili pepper).Fry the garlic in oil for 2 short minutes. Make sure the garlic does not burn.
- Add the whole peeled canned tomatoes. Rinse the tomato can with ½ cup of water and add that to the pan. Add salt and let simmer on medium heat for about 5 minutes, then crush the tomatoes with a fork.
- Let the sauce simmer gently for another 10 to 15 minutes or until the pasta is ready. Before adding the pasta, taste the sauce and adjust for salt and chilies.
Cook the Pasta
- Put the water to boil in a large pot. When it boils, add the salt, then the pasta.Stir and let cook uncovered as instructed on the package, minus 3 minutes***. If the package says 10 minutes, you cook it for 7.When the pasta is ready, drain it, but reserve 2 cups of the pasta cooking water.Add the pasta to the tomato sauce and add 1 cup of reserved pasta water.
- Let cook on medium-low heat until the pasta is "al dente" (cooked but with some bite).Stir frequently. It should take about 2 to 3 minutes. The pasta should be completely coated in a creamy arrabbiata sauce. Add more pasta water if necessary.
- Shortly before serving, add plenty of chopped parsley, give it a stir, and serve.