Easy Penne Arrabbiata

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Slices of garlic bread next to a pan of our easy penne arrabbiata recipe

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! 

Olive oil, crushed tomatoes, penne pasta, salt, red pepper flakes, tomato paste, maple syrup, and garlic

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.

Sautéing garlic and red pepper flakes in olive oil

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.

Pouring crushed tomatoes into a skillet of sautéed red pepper flakes, garlic, and tomato paste

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.

Penne noodles over a pan of arrabbiata sauce

When ready to serve, we love garnishing with vegan parmesan cheese for a rich, salty finish and fresh basil because tomatoes + basil = love.

Bowl of penne arrabbiata topped with vegan parmesan cheese and fresh basil

We hope you LOVE this penne arrabbiata! It’s:

Rich
Saucy
Garlicky
Comforting
& 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

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!

Close up shot of a bite of pasta arrabbiata

Easy Penne Arrabbiata

Perfect arrabbiata sauce made in 1 pot with 8 pantry staples. Incredibly spicy, garlicky, vibrant tomato flavor. Gluten-free friendly and naturally vegan.
Author Minimalist Baker
Print
Close up shot of a bite of penne arrabbiata
4.92 from 12 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 4 (Servings)
Course Entree, Side
Cuisine Gluten-Free, Italian-Inspired, Vegan
Freezer Friendly 2 Months (sauce only)
Does it keep? 2-3 Days

Ingredients

PASTA

  • Water for boiling
  • 1 Tbsp salt (for seasoning the water)
  • 10-12 ounces pasta of choice (penne is best // gluten-free as needed)

SAUCE

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.

Video

Notes

*Spice-sensitive folks should start with 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes.
*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.

Nutrition (1 of 4 servings)

Serving: 1 serving Calories: 399 Carbohydrates: 74.4 g Protein: 9 g Fat: 9.3 g Saturated Fat: 1 g Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.9 g Monounsaturated Fat: 5 g Trans Fat: 0 g Cholesterol: 0 mg Sodium: 578 mg Potassium: 725 mg Fiber: 6.9 g Sugar: 12.2 g Vitamin A: 614 IU Vitamin C: 21.9 mg Calcium: 81.2 mg Iron: 4 mg

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  1. Hamamelis says

    Super easy, super tasty. I used Aleppo red pepper flakes so only used 1/2 tsp. I topped it with the caramelized eggplant cubes!

  2. JB says

    I love a spicy dish and this did not disappoint! I’m a big MB fan and love trying new dishes from your site. I’ve been experimenting with soy curls lately so rehydrated some with vegetable broth and added into the sauce for a faux chicken (and some more plant based protein and fiber). It was great!

  3. Its me says

    OMG this was such a simple recipe but oh so tasty. I didn’t have basil so I added a handful of baby spinach towards the end and some Italian herbs spice. I also used whole wheat penne pasta and it was absolutely de-lish-ous!!!!!!

    Thank you

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      We’re so glad you enjoyed it! Love the additions. Thank you so much for the lovely review!

  4. Anne K says

    We had this for dinner tonight and it was outstanding. I had chosen the recipe because it looked like it would be quick and easy – It was! But I was taken by surprise with how delicious it was. I skipped the maple syrup because my husband doesn’t like any sweetness in his entrees, and I added a pinch of baking soda instead to cut down the acidity. Delicious! Thank you so much for the recipe. I will put it in regular rotation.

  5. Jess says

    This was soooo good and so easy. We used high protein lentil pasta and it was a great pairing! Thanks so much!

  6. Isabella says

    Hi Minimalist Baker! Your recipes mean the world to me! Every Monday, Me and my Sister always look on your website for mouth watering recipes. I really enjoy them! Keep up the good work:)

  7. Neha says

    I tried this recipe yesterday and we loved it! I used an equal quantity of fresh coarsely pureed tomatoes, 1 tsp chili flakes, some dried basil and some ready pasta seasoning that I had on hand. I also used whole wheat pasta. It was wonderful with some garlic bread. Thank you!

  8. Jim G says

    So very tasty, and SO very easy.
    We like spicy and 2-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes was enough. The maple syrup is a great addition

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Rob, thanks for that tip! You can add them to a blender and pulse for a crushed effect. Hope that helps!

  9. Nicole says

    This was great! I crumbled in a few of the vegan sausage patties (also great) for a play on bolognese.

  10. June says

    Made this tonight. Another winner recipe and very simple. I added a jalapeno pepper to make it hotter. It’s so tasty. Tastes like it could come from a fancy restaurant. Thanks for posting this!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Ooo – we love that you added even more spice! Yum! Thanks so much for the lovely review, June, we’re so glad you enjoyed! xo

  11. Marie Biddix says

    I was visiting your website this morning for my usual chocolate muffin recipe when this pasta dish caught my eye. I waited all day to make it and it did not disappoint! I used chopped parsley since I did not have any basil. I used 1.5 t of red pepper flakes just in case it was too much heat and since I am not as tolerant as I used to be I added some lemon zest and that did the trick! At one point tonight I realized I had so many MB recipes yesterday and today. Hash browns, chocolate muffins, broccoli pesto salad and millet cake. Thanks again to all you wonderful people for helping me on this journey that has changed my life. July 30th makes 1 year of eating this way and your 5 circles fit just right into my life. I am healing and food is medicine for me! XOXOXOX

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Aw, yay! Thanks so much for the lovely review and for sharing your modifications, Marie! We’re so glad you enjoy so many recipes! xo

  12. JenBas says

    Looks delicious! I am on a “no-added sugar” diet for some health reasons so I would omit the maple syrup, but what impact will that have?

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Jen! During testing we found that the maple syrup added a slight pleasant sweetness that balanced the spice nicely, but you’ll be find to omit it. Let us know what you think if you give it a try! xo

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Doreen! We haven’t tried this with fresh tomatoes, but we’d suggest cutting them, letting them drain slightly (in a colander over a bowl) to release excess liquid, and then blending them until they’re broken down slightly, but not a smooth sauce. Let us know how it goes if you give it a try! xo

  13. Deneen says

    It was very good except it was SO spicy. I only used 1t red pepper flakes. Maybe some brands are spicier than others. I will try again but with 1/4t of red pepper flakes.
    Thank you for the easy recipe.

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Deneen! Thanks so much for your review and for sharing your experience, we love to hear you’ll make it again! xo

      • Kelly says

        I prepared this recipe yesterday and I LOVED it! I followed the recipe exactly as written along with your advice to start with 1 teaspoon of the crushed red pepper (I can’t handle the heat!). Quick, easy and delicious!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Tony! We found during testing that maple syrup added a nice sweetness that balanced the spicy, savory notes of the sauce. We love it! Let us know what you think if you give it a try! xo