Why It Works
- Finishing the pasta in the sauce coats every piece perfectly.
- Adding pasta water to the sauce helps emulsify it.
Exceedingly simple in concept and execution, arrabbiata sauce is tomato sauce with the distinction of being spicy enough to earn its "angry" moniker. Here's how to make it, from start to finish.
- Kosher salt
- 1 pound (450g) penne pasta
- 3 tablespoons (45ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as desired
- 1 medium clove garlic, crushed
- As much crushed red pepper as you dare (see note)
- 1 (28-ounce; 794g) can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand (see note)
- 2 ounces (60g) finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
- Small handful minced flat-leaf parsley leaves
In a medium saucepan of boiling salted water, cook penne until just short of al dente, about 1 minute less than the package recommends.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, combine oil, garlic, and pepper flakes. Cook over medium heat until garlic is very lightly golden, about 5 minutes. (Adjust heat as necessary to keep it gently sizzling.)
Add tomatoes, stir to combine, and bring to a bare simmer. When pasta is ready, transfer it to sauce using a strainer or slotted spoon. (Alternatively, drain pasta through a colander, reserving 1 cup of cooking water. Add drained pasta to sauce.)
Add about 1/4 cup pasta water to sauce and increase heat to bring pasta and sauce to a vigorous simmer. Cook, stirring and shaking the pan and adding more pasta water as necessary to keep sauce loose, until pasta is perfectly al dente, 1 to 2 minutes longer. (The pasta will cook more slowly in the sauce than it did in the water.)
Continue cooking pasta until sauce thickens and begins to coat noodles, then remove from heat and toss in cheese and parsley, stirring vigorously to incorporate. Stir in a drizzle of fresh olive oil, if desired. Season with salt and serve right away, passing more cheese at the table.
The red pepper flakes are what makes this dish "angry," but exactly how angry you want it to be is a personal choice. It's also important to note that different red pepper flakes have different levels of heat. Add as much, or as little, as you feel comfortable with. Feel free to substitute minced fresh red chilies instead of dried, if desired. When tomatoes are in peak season, you can switch from canned to fresh, using an equal quantity of diced fresh ripe tomatoes (cook just until they soften and begin to break down) or either Raw Tomato Coulis, Quick-Cooked Tomato Coulis, or The Best Fresh Tomato Sauce.