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Penne Arrabbiata Spicy Italian Tomato Pasta

Penne Arrabbiata is a classic Italian tomato sauce pasta recipe & the easiest to cook, dried chilli and tomatoes rule the roost here.

This recipe is an incredibly simple dish that uses store cupboard essentials and it will go from your pantry to your table in under 20 minutes.

Italian penne arrabbiata served with basil, parmesan, black pepper and cheesy garlic bread.

Homemade Spicy Arrabiatta Sauce

Penne all arrabbiata or arrabiata as it is occasionally spelt is one of the classic Italian tomato-based pasta sauces.

It joins other classic tomatoes in pasta sauce dishes like spaghetti alla puttanesca, spaghetti all’assassina and a bacon and tomato pasta based on Bucatini Amatriciana. I’ve even got gnocchi with tomato and red wine sauce.

Arrabbiata is the simplest of them all though! At its heart, there are just great tomatoes, great olive oil and dried chilli.

I am as guilty as many cooks for over-egging the pudding occasionally. But this dish is really stripped back and so much better for it.

No garlic and no onions for me in this dish for me. Considering how much of these I use on a weekly basis, this is definitely a “thing”!

If you want slightly unusual but equally delicious tomato pasta recipes then check out my tomato tuna pasta, nduja pasta and my tortellini soup!

Overhead Italian penne arrabbiata served with basil, parmesan, black pepper and cheesy garlic bread.

Frequently Asked Questions

What sort of chillies should I use?

Traditionally this dish would have been made with pepperoncini, the name for a shot of spicy Italian chilli peppers.

I am a huge advocate of playing with chilli! To begin with, we all have different tolerance levels to capsaicin and secondly, it offers the opportunity to play with flavour, which let’s face it, is why we cook!

I usually use dried cayenne pepper flakes. However, I’ve used everything from arbol chilli flakes to smokey chipotle flakes.

Can I use other types of pasta?

Of course, this is your dinner, use whatever you fancy! I find that penne offers lots of places for that sauce to hide, rigatoni works for the same reasons.

Can I use garlic and onion?

Again, the same answer as above. This is your dinner, make it yours, but at least give it a try without them once and decide whether you add then next time.

If you want onions, then consider shallots and dice them as finely as you can. If you are adding garlic thin slices are best and they will impart a lovely flavour to the oil without becoming overpowering.

Can I serve this cold?

Yes, this is a superb lunch box dish. It will save in the fridge for 3-4 days, I would make this saucier if I am eating it cold.

Cold pasta dishes benefit from more sauce than warm dishes because it helps prevent them from drying out.

Close up Italian penne arrabbiata served with basil, parmesan, black pepper and cheesy garlic.

Serving Suggestions

When it comes to sides for pasta I like bread, ach let’s face it I just like bread.

Garlic bread or cheesy garlic bread is an obvious choice as a side for this penne arrabbiata recipe.

Although I am just as likely to toast some ciabatta or focaccia bread and drizzle it with olive oil, particularly if I have some leftover.

Classic penne arrabbiata served with basil, parmesan, black pepper and cheesy garlic bread.

Equipment Used

I only name-check brands of equipment if I think they make a material difference to a recipe. If you have any questions feel free to ask them in the comments section below the recipe.

  • Stovetop.
  • 20cm or 8″ saucepan.
  • 12″ or 30cm frying pan.
  • Chopping board.
  • Kitchen knife.
  • Colander.
  • Weighing scales and or measuring cups and spoons.
  • Stirring and serving spoons.
Classic penne arrabbiata served with basil, parmesan, black pepper and cheesy garlic bread.
Yield: 2 Servings

Quick and Easy Penne Arrabbiata Recipe

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Penne arrabbiata is a classic quick and easy spicy pasta recipe from the Lazio region of Italy that tastes divine!


  • 3 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1-1½ Tsp Dried Chilli Flakes
  • 200g (½ Tin) Tinned Whole Plum Tomatoes
  • ¼ Tsp Sugar
  • ½ Tsp Black Pepper
  • ¼-½ Tsp Salt + extra for boiling pasta
  • 185g (6-7oz) Dried Pasta
  • Fresh Parmesan Shavings To Garnish
  • Basil Leaves to Garnish
  • Extra Salt for Boiling Pasta
  • Extra Black Pepper to Serve


  1. Roughly chop the tinned tomatoes.
  2. Fill a 20cm or 8" saucepan of well-salted water to a boil (I use 1½ teaspoons of salt in a pan this size).
  3. Heat a medium frying pan (28cm or 11") over a medium heat and when it is to temperature add the olive oil.
  4. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook it for 30-60 seconds less than it says on the packet.
  5. Add the chilli flakes to the warmed oil and allow it to cook for 60 seconds. You need to ensure that the oil is not too hot, if it is the chillies will blacken and become bitter.
  6. Add the tinned tomatoes, stir well to combine with the oil, then turn the heat to low.
  7. Add the salt, black pepper and sugar, stir, then have a taste and adjust the seasoning to taste.
  8. When the pasta is cooked so that it has a nice al dente texture set aside 50-75ml (¼-⅓ Cup) of the cooking water and drain the pasta.
  9. Add the drained pasta to the tomato sauce and gradually stir in enough of the cooking water to form a nice emulsion.
  10. Serve sprinkled with basil leaves and parmesan shavings.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 351Total Fat: 22gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 18gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 22mgCarbohydrates: 34gFiber: 3gSugar: 4gProtein: 7g

Calorific details are provided by a third-party application and are to be used as indicative figures only.

Did you make this recipe?

If you made this recipe, I'd love to see what you did and what I can do better, share a picture with me on Instagram and tag me @krumplibrian and tell me how it went!


Friday 12th of November 2021

Could you add cooked chicken to this and instead of dried penne fresh ?

Brian Jones

Friday 12th of November 2021

Yup no problem with adding cooked chicken, I would personally make the sauce a little wetter if I were adding protein to stop it all feeling a little dry. Fresh pasta is great, just cook it for a minute or two (it usually takes 2-3) and then add it through the sauce after. The only difference will be the amount of starch in the cooking liquid, I find that fresh pasta does not add as much which means the sauce will have a less creamy mouth feel when you add the cooking liquid to let down the tomato sauce.

Enjoy. Brian


Monday 25th of June 2018

How much brown sugar do we add?

Brian Jones

Monday 25th of June 2018

Sorry Chelcie, it is just a pinch so half a teaspoon.. If your passata is sweetened omit the sugar :)


Wednesday 7th of February 2018

Awesome recipe. Can we share the recipe on our cafe's FB page after giving you credit please ?

Brian Jones

Wednesday 7th of February 2018

Thank you, you are welcome to drop a link to the recipe on your page but you are not permitted to copy and paste the recipe and take the picture.


Wednesday 25th of May 2016

You keep making me jealous with all this tomato harvest talk!

Brian Jones

Sunday 5th of June 2016

It's all fun and games until you have to harvest 5kg a day and have to preserve them ;)

Mary (The Godmother @ Goodie Godmother)

Tuesday 24th of May 2016

Next pasta night I hope I remember to make this! Pasta is such a comfort food for me, and my garden basil is very happy this year and I want to find all sorts of new recipes to use it! I have 3 plants, I call them the "basil bunch"...

Brian Jones

Sunday 5th of June 2016

I hope you enjoy it Paige, it is super simple but really tasty... Basil is my arch nemesis in the garden and I get a modicum of success but nowhere near what I would like :(

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