It is sometimes said that the proof of fine talent is not in the mastery of complexity, but in doing the simple things brilliantly. If that is so, this dish pays homage to the classic traditions of Roman cuisine, in the most meaningful way.
The name of this dish - arrabbiata - refers to the “angry” heat of the chilli-laced tomato sauce. The inclusion of beautiful, fiery Italian chilli flakes in the arrabbiata sauce distinguishes it from the other classic tomato sauces in the Italian repertoire.
Indeed, verandas of homes across the Italian south are adorned with beautiful hanging chillies so that, when the need for heat presents itself, an arrabbiata sauce can be conjured up at short notice. And whilst the chilli flakes are important, so too is the generous quotient of garlic, adding an aromatic and gutsy vibrance to this traditional sauce from Lazio. Due to the omission of cheese in the dish, the sauce itself is also naturally vegan.
Although penne is the traditional pasta shape used to accompany arrabbiata, you may also opt for rigatoni in its place. Even though Italians traditionally enjoy it as an entrée or primo piatto, this simple, yet flavorful pasta recipe certainly holds its own as more than a mere prelude to the main course.
While the history of penne all’arrabbiata remains uncertain, this iconic dish has been immortalised in two of the most famous Italian films of the 1970s: ‘Roma’ by Federico Fellini and ‘La Grande Bouffe’ by Marco Ferreri.
Our penne all’arrabbiata recipe
Total cooking time: 30 minutes
Calories per serving: 403 kcal
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced
- 1 tsp chilli flakes
- 2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
- 300g dried or fresh penne
- a handful basil leaves, roughly chopped or torn
- Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and fry the garlic and chilli flakes together for 2-3 mins. The garlic should become lightly golden. Make sure you keep an eye on the garlic as it burns quickly.
- Tip in the chopped tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes until the mixture has slightly thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Cook the penne in a pan of boiling salted water until al dente (around 10 minutes). Drain the pasta and reserve a cupful of the pasta cooking water.
- Tip the pasta into the pan with the sauce, sprinkle with most of the basil and toss to combine. Add a splash of the reserved pasta cooking water to help the sauce coat the pasta, if needed. Scatter with the remaining fresh basil leaves to serve.