What is Arrabbiata Sauce?

wiseGEEK Writer

Arrabbiata sauce is a light marinara or red Italian sauce that is given an extra spicy flavor by adding hot peppers to the sauce. The word "arrabbiata" can loosely translate to “angry mood,” a name inspired by its piquant taste. There are many varieties of this sauce, but most include red pepper, tomatoes, garlic, parsley, and onions.

Pasta with arrabbiata sauce.
Pasta with arrabbiata sauce.

Arrabbiata sauce will go well with any plain pasta, and it is often best enjoyed with penne, which are small ridged tubular pasta. The ridges help hold the sauce, and the tubes can also fill with the sauce creating fiery mouthfuls with each bite. When making arrabbiata with a tubular pasta like penne, it's important to make more sauce than needed to have adequately coated pasta, since arrabbiata sauce and others like it will be readily absorbed by the pasta.

Tomatoes are a principle ingredient in an arrabbiata sauce.
Tomatoes are a principle ingredient in an arrabbiata sauce.

Though the most authentic arrabbiata recipes rely on crushed red pepper or red pepper flakes, some recipes do use alternatives like chili peppers, habaneros, or jalapenos. Some also include smoked chili peppers or fire roasted crushed tomatoes to evoke an earthier, smoky taste in the finished product.

Arrabbiata sauce often includes parsley.
Arrabbiata sauce often includes parsley.

Most recipes for arrabbiata sauce are fairly quick to cook, making them attractive alternatives to red sauces that simmer for several hours. They also don't take a lot of preparation — just a few moments to chop onions, garlic, parsley and peppers. Using canned tomatoes rather than chopping them before making sauce each time can save a lot of time. The advantage of taking the extra time to chop tomatoes is usually that they yield a fresher taste.

Some recipes call for alternatives such as chili peppers.
Some recipes call for alternatives such as chili peppers.

The principle ingredients of arrabbiata sauce are tomatoes, tomato paste or sauce, chopped parsley, garlic, onions, Italian seasonings and of course chopped red pepper or red pepper flakes. Garlic and parsley are simmered first in a little olive oil, and then the lengthiest cooking process is cooking onions. They should be sauteed over medium heat for about ten minutes, allowing them to soften and sweeten up.

Arrabbiata sauce usually contains garlic.
Arrabbiata sauce usually contains garlic.

The rest of the ingredients are added when the onions are properly cooked, and cooking time in recipes varies greatly. Some cooks suggest simmering the sauce for about 45 minutes, while others suggest only 10 to 15 minutes of cooking the arrabbiata sauce when all ingredients are combined. There’s also some dispute regarding whether or not to add cheese to these ingredients. Some recipes suggest a cup or more of Parmesan be added.

Crushed red pepper is commonly used in arrabbiata sauce.
Crushed red pepper is commonly used in arrabbiata sauce.

Traditionally, arrabbiata sauce does not contain meat, but many recipes add smoky or spiced sausage to make a more hearty meal. Without cheese and with cooking spray rather than oil used, the dish can be a very low-fat one, and also a vegetarian dish. Spicy foods can tend to provide a feeling of fullness sooner. Thus, it's possible to enjoy the food more because of its heat, but eat less of it.

Fresh jalapenos can be used to make an arrabbiata sauce.
Fresh jalapenos can be used to make an arrabbiata sauce.
Some recipes for arrabbiata sauce include quite a bit of grated Parmesan cheese.
Some recipes for arrabbiata sauce include quite a bit of grated Parmesan cheese.

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Discussion Comments

anon925820

I bought some arrabbiata sauce from a grocery store without knowing what it was and I found it to be almost too spicy. The label for pasta sauces won't always provide a heat level, like you might find on a jar of salsa.

It wasn't totally inedible, but you'd better be prepared for at least a medium to medium-high pepper burn. I'm glad this article exists, because some people may go to a grocery store and assume all of pasta sauces are created alike. Maybe some have meat and some have cheese, but they're all going to be just a little sharp or tangy.

Arrabbiata sauce has a long and slow burn that reminds me more of Mexican cuisine than Italian.

anon273245

It comes from the Italian word rabbia, which means anger. This is from the Latin root- rabere, which means to rave, to be mad. It is where we get our word 'rabies' from.

anon111462

I just want a good and general authentic recipe for Arrabbiata sauce please.

anon80064

it's a name from rome or greece.

anon64036

does "arrabbiata" word origin come from Arabic?

anon19991

Excellent article, thanks for the info!

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