This spicy spaghetti arrabbiata recipe is a quick weeknight pasta full of spicy tomato flavor! It's made with pantry staples like olives, capers, and canned tomatoes and comes together in just about 30 minutes!
Have you ever tried pasta arrabbiata? It's an Italian-style spicy tomato sauce with red pepper flakes and plenty of garlic. It's saucy, spicy, and so delicious! You can enjoy it on its own or throw in some shrimp or chicken for a more complete meal.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- 🗄 Pantry-Friendly: This pasta dish uses mostly pantry ingredients, like canned tomatoes, capers, olives, and red pepper flakes. It's easily customizable so that you can skip a trip to the grocery store!
- 🌶️ Spicy and Tangy: Despite being quick and easy, the sauce boasts a ton of flavor! The tomatoes add a nice tang, balanced out by aromatics and anchovies (which can be omitted if you're vegan or vegetarian).
- 💪🏽 Highly Adaptable: I'm big on flexibility when it comes to recipes, and this arrabbiata sauce is no different. Out of capers? Just used up your olives? Head to the ingredients section to see options for swaps and substitutions.
- The dish's name, "Arrabbiata," translates to "angry" in Italian, referring to the fiery and intense heat from the chili flakes.
- Arrabbiata sauce is sometimes spelled as "arrabiata sauce"; some sources say this is a misspelling, but others note it's a different dialect. Either way, the official spelling of the sauce appears to be Arrabbiata.
- It appears to have been invented in Rome in the 20th century.
- Traditionally, arrabbiata has oil, garlic, chili peppers, tomato, and sometimes pecorino cheese. Here, I've added a few additional ingredients to bolster the flavor to my liking -- but there's something to be said about how delicious and simple the original version is!
- Red Pepper Flakes: Use as much or as little as you like according to your spice level, but remember this is an essential ingredient! I recommend starting with ½ teaspoon, but I personally use 1 teaspoon, which offers a kick in every bite without being overly spicy. You can also sub in Calabrian chili peppers, too.
- Olives and Capers: I love the brininess of olives and capers paired with the tangy tomatoes. This addition leans more toward a puttanesca vibe, but I'm for it. If you don't have olives or capers or want to keep things simple, feel free to omit these!
- Canned Whole Peeled Tomatoes: If you choose a more minimalist version of this dish, I highly recommend looking for good quality whole peeled tomatoes. It really makes a difference. My favorites are Bianco diNapoli and Mutti, or Cento San Marzano tomatoes.
- Spaghetti: Dried spaghetti or homemade pici pasta are my two favorite cuts for this dish. Penne is also another great option.
- Fresh herbs: Fresh basil is a great addition and adds a bit of brightness. Parsley works, too.
- Anchovies: I add 2 anchovies to the sauce for umami. Feel free to omit these if you're vegan or vegetarian.
- Pecorino-Romano Cheese: Pecorino is the traditional cheese topping for this dish, but parmigiano reggiano (parmesan) cheese can be used as well. If you're vegan, you can easily omit this -- it's still delicious!
For a full list of ingredients and quantities, refer to the recipe card.
How to Make Spaghetti Arrabbiata
Step 1. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, and cook the pasta until just before al dente, according to package instructions.
Step 2 - Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet or dutch oven. Add the anchovies (if using), garlic, shallot, and red pepper flakes. Saute for 3 - 4 minutes until you start smelling those delicious aromatics and the garlic and shallot soften.
Step 3 - Add the olives and capers, and saute over medium heat for 1 - 2 minutes.
Step 4 - Stir in the tomato sauce, add a pinch of salt, and simmer everything for 10 minutes. Season to taste.
Step 5 - Over low heat, stir in the al dente pasta, tossing to combine. You can loosen the sauce with a bit of pasta water if needed. Garnish with a bit of basil and cheese. Serve and enjoy!
Leftover spaghetti arrabbiata will last 3 - 4 days stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You can also make the sauce a day ahead, then toss it with the pasta just before serving.
When reheating leftovers, you may need to loosen the sauce with a bit of water.
Absolutely! You can omit the anchovies and/or the pecorino romano cheese to make a vegan/vegetarian version.
Yes, for sure! Fresh tomatoes will add a whole new level of brightness to the dish. I might recommend adding a tablespoon of tomato paste with the fresh tomatoes to give it a bit more body and tang.
If the sauce has simmered for at least 15 minutes already, I recommend adding a tablespoon or two of unsalted butter to round out the flavor.
For even more cozy recipes, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter.Happy eating! Love, Karishma
Spaghetti Arrabbiata Recipe
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 filets anchovies, optional; omit for vegan version
- 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 1 shallots, finely minced
- ½ - 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ¼ cup pitted olives, drained, rinsed, and chopped
- 1 ½ tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed
- 14 ounces whole peeled tomatoes, good quality
- ¼ cup fresh basil, chiffonade, or parsley
- ¼ cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, optional, omit for vegan version
- 6 ounces dried spaghetti, or penne
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
- Saute the aromatics: Meanwhile, set a large skillet or dutch oven with 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil over medium-low heat. Add 2 filets anchovies, the minced garlic, minced shallot, and ½ - 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Saute for 3 - 4 minutes until the garlic and shallot soften and smell fragrant, and the anchovies begin to dissolve (I break them up with a wooden spoon).
- Add ¼ cup pitted olives and 1 ½ tablespoons capers, and saute over medium heat for 1 - 2 minutes until they begin to smell briny.
- Simmer the sauce: Stir in 14 ounces whole peeled tomatoes, crushing them slightly with the back of the spoon (they will continue to break down as the sauce simmers). Simmer for 10 minutes over medium low heat until it thickens slightly, the tomatoes break down, and it tastes tangy but not too acidic. Season the sauce with salt as desired, but remember the salinity of the other ingredients!
- Cook the pasta: While the sauce cooks, salt the water, then add 6 ounces dried spaghetti and cook al dente per the package. Reserve ½ cup of pasta water.
- Finish the dish: Transfer the pasta to the skillet and toss to combine. Season again as needed.Note: If the sauce feels too thick, you can loosen it by adding a little pasta water and reducing the sauce over medium-low heat until it reaches your desired consistency.
- Serve: Divide the pasta amongst serving bowls and garnish with ¼ cup fresh basil and ¼ cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese (if using). Serve hot.
- Red Pepper Flakes: Use as much or as little as you like according to your spice level, but remember this is an essential ingredient! I recommend starting with ½ teaspoon.
- Canned Whole Peeled Tomatoes: If you choose a more minimalist version of this dish, I highly recommend looking for good quality whole peeled tomatoes. My favorites are Bianco diNapoli and Mutti, or Cento San Marzano tomatoes.
- Traditionally, this sauce does not include anchovies, shallots, olives, or capers, but I personally love how they bolster the flavor of the dish. However, you absolutely can omit any of these ingredients if you don't have them.
- Do not overseason the sauce: The anchovies, olives, and capers all add a good amount of brininess and salinity to the dish, so make sure not to use a heavy hand of salt! Start with a pinch and go for there.
- Storage: Lasts in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. You can also make the sauce a day ahead, then toss it with the pasta just before serving. When reheating leftovers, you may need to loosen the sauce with a bit of water.