Imagine this: rich, bright tomato sauce infused with buttery olive oil, fresh garlic, and tons of crushed red pepper flakes. The result is a vibrant red sauce that takes garlic and heat to the next level!
I’d been dancing around making arrabbiata pasta for years because I love spicy pasta, but never had I taken it to this level of fiery, garlicky drama! And when I tossed the sauce with penne, it was instant love.
Plus, just 8 pantry staples required for this Italian classic. Let us show you how it’s done!
What is Arrabbiata?
Arrabbiata is a spicy, tomato-based sauce that originated in the Lazio region of Italy (near Rome). It’s most commonly served with penne pasta as a dish called penne all’arrabbiata. And while the word arrabbiata means “angry” in Italian, eating pasta made with this sauce will make you anything but angry! Instead, it’s a reference to the spiciness of the sauce.
Our version strays a bit from the traditional with the additions of maple syrup and vegan parmesan cheese. It’s balanced and full of flavor yet made with easily accessible ingredients. For a more authentic version of the dish, check out this recipe from the lovely Ciao Florentina blog.
How to Make Penne Arrabbiata
Our version starts with cooking the noodles in generously salted water to infuse them with maximum flavor. We did a side-by-side test of salted vs. unsalted pasta water and salting really does give it a boost, friends.
But the most important part is the sauce! Crushed red pepper flakes and garlic are sautéed in olive oil until fragrant, being careful not to let them burn as that can lead to a bitter taste. We also sauté the tomato paste to add depth of flavor.
Next comes the main component: crushed tomatoes! The better quality tomatoes you use, the better your sauce will taste. And while we prefer Pomi or San Marzano brands, we include three healthy pinches of sea salt and a little maple syrup to enhance the flavors no matter the brand.
When ready to serve, we love garnishing with vegan parmesan cheese for a rich, salty finish and fresh basil because tomatoes + basil = love.
We hope you LOVE this penne arrabbiata! It’s:
& SO delicious!
It’s a quick and easy weeknight entrée on its own or pairs well with other Italian-inspired dishes. For a comfort food feast, try it with garlic bread or our Vegan Pesto Parmesan Breadsticks. Or pack in the veggies by serving with our Easy Vegan Zucchini Boats, Easy Zucchini Fritters, Chickpea Caesar Salad (30 Minutes!), or Vegan Ricotta & Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Salad.
More Delicious Pasta Recipes
- Creamy Vegan White Pasta with Summer Vegetables
- Vegan Pasta Al Limone
- Vegan Roasted Red Pepper Pasta (GF)
- Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta (Vegan + GF)
If you try this recipe, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a photo #minimalistbaker on Instagram. Cheers, friends!
Easy Penne Arrabbiata
- Water for boiling
- 1 Tbsp salt (for seasoning the water)
- 10-12 ounces pasta of choice (penne is best // gluten-free as needed)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for finishing (if oil-free, sub water and add more as needed as it evaporates)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2-3 tsp crushed red pepper flakes*, plus more for serving
- 3 Tbsp tomato paste* (organic, high quality when possible)
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes (we prefer Pomi or San Marzano)
- 3 healthy pinches sea salt, plus more to taste
- 2-3 tsp maple syrup, plus more to taste
FOR SERVING optional
- 1/4 cup vegan parmesan cheese
- Fresh basil, chopped or torn
- Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil for the pasta.
- Heat a large rimmed skillet or saucepan over medium heat. Once hot, add olive oil, minced garlic, and crushed red pepper flake (for milder spice, start with the lesser quantity — for a serious kick, go with the full amount!). Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly, and watching carefully not to let it burn.
- Add tomato paste and stir into the garlic and red pepper flake (a spoon or rubber spatula works best). Cook until fragrant and the tomato paste has darkened slightly — ~2-3 minutes.
- Add crushed tomatoes, salt, and maple syrup and stir. Bring to a very low simmer. Cook, covered, for 20-30 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced slightly and the flavors are deepened.
- Taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding more salt to taste, red pepper flake for heat, or maple syrup for sweetness / to balance the spice. A bit more tomato paste can be added for depth of flavor, but a little goes a long way. And if the flavors aren’t quite developed, simmer for just a bit longer (covered) to allow the flavors to deepen.
- Meanwhile, when the water in the pot boils, add the pasta and stir to prevent clumps. Cook to al dente according to the package instructions. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water then drain the pasta.
- Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and stir to coat. If your sauce looks too thick, add pasta water 2 tablespoons at a time until you have a silky sauce that clings to the noodles. You likely won’t need all of the reserved pasta water.
- Serve as is or garnished with vegan parmesan cheese and fresh basil. Extra red pepper flakes on top add additional heat and a pop of color.
- Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator up to 2-3 days, though best when fresh. Sauce is freezer friendly (when stored separate from the pasta) for up to 2 months. Reheat pasta on the stovetop, adding a bit of water to thin as needed.
*High-quality tomato paste is key! We recommend double-concentrated.
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated with 10 ounces rice-based gluten-free penne, the lesser amounts where ranges are provided, 1/4 tsp of the salt in the pasta water (because the full tablespoon isn’t absorbed into the pasta), and without optional ingredients.