Nothing beats a hearty pasta meal after a long day at work, and this Rigatoni Arrabbiata takes that to a whole new level. This dish is simple to make, and the flavors are truly out of this world. With its bold flavors and spicy kick, this dish will become a staple in your house in no time!
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⭐ Origin Story
Arrabbiata comes from the Italian word "arrabbiare," which means "to anger." The sauce for rigatoni arrabbiata is made with crushed red chili peppers, which gives it a spicy kick! While exact ingredients and proportions vary by region, most arrabbiata sauces contain tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and crushed peppers. It does not contain basil or parmesan (so is naturally vegan).
My version, on the other hand, is inspired by my neighborhood restaurant in Rome. So, I've used both parmesan and basil instead of parsley. I have notes in the recipe on how you can make it more authentic if you want to go that route. Enjoy!
💭 Why you'll love this recipe
Let's be honest, pasta is pretty much the best food ever. It's comforting and insanely easy to make. But this rigatoni arrabbiata is definitely the best!
- Perfect balance of flavors. The tomatoes add a pop of sweetness, the garlic adds a lot of depth of flavor and the chili flakes give it just enough of a kick. Plus, there's always room for more cheese! (P.S., if you love cheese, then make sure to also check out my authentic cacio e pepe recipe, inspired by Anthony Bourdain's favorite restaurant in Rome)
- Super easy to make vegan: You'll need butter and parmesan to add rich creaminess to the tomato sauce, but you can use plant-based butter and vegan parmesan to make this recipe completely vegan!
- It's budget-friendly. This dish requires a few simple ingredients you probably already have in your pantry. Tomatoes, garlic, chili flakes, parmesan!
- Super versatile. This arrabbiata sauce can also be used as a pizza topping or as a dipping sauce for breadsticks or other appetizers!
📋 Ingredients and Notes
To make rigatoni arrabbiata, you will need rigatoni pasta, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, dried thyme, red pepper flakes, whole peeled canned tomatoes, black pepper, salt, parmesan cheese, butter, and basil.
Notes and Variations
- Use high quality ingredients, as much as possible. This recipe only uses a few ingredients, so it's important to get high quality ingredients. For instance, this assumes use of whole peeled canned tomatoes, because tomatoes are highly seasonal and tomatoes are canned at the height of their taste. Using extra virgin olive oil will also help elevate the dish.
- Use fresh tomatoes in the summer. I love using San Marzano tomatoes when I have a bountiful summer harvest! If you grow your own tomatoes, check out the best types of canning tomatoes to understand which ones work best for sauces! You can also use crushed tomatoes or diced tomatoes in a pinch.
- Substitute rigatoni. Rigatoni is a type of tubular pasta that has ridges along the length. Ridges help the sauce grip the pasta, resulting in a heartier, more flavorful dish. More ridges means higher surface-area-to-sauce ratio, but you can substitute with any short, tubular pasta like penne, ziti or cavatappi!
- Adjust spice levels. Traditional Arrabbiata is a bit spicy, and meant to have a kick! You can reduce, exclude or increase the red pepper flakes from the recipe to adjust for your desired spice levels. You can also add fennel seeds to the sauce if you want a more flavorful variation of this dish.
📖 How to make the best rigatoni Arrabbiata!
Salt a large pot of water like the ocean! Cook the pasta following the box instructions but stop about 2 to 3 minutes short of the time (so for instance, if it says 10 minutes, cook for 7 to 8 minutes). Reserve some pasta cooking water for later (about half a cup). Set pasta and pasta water aside.
Add the olive oil to a large skillet. Add minced garlic while the oil is still cold, when the garlic starts to sizzle, add red pepper flakes, and dried thyme. Fry on low heat for about 2 minutes. Stir constantly so the garlic doesn’t burn.
Then add the can of peeled tomatoes and stir to medium heat for about 8 minutes until the sauce thickens, stirring occasionally. You can use a wooden spoon to crush the tomatoes a bit.
Add the parmesan cheese, and stir to combine, for about 1 minute.
Add the pasta to the sauce and toss to coat thoroughly. If the sauce looks too dry, you can add a bit of the pasta water. Cook for 2-3 minutes to finish cooking the pasta to al dente perfection.
Then, add the butter to the sauce. While this is optional, it results in a really silky texture for the sauce! Stir until just combined.
Serve immediately with fresh basil, freshly grated parmesan cheese or even red pepper flakes on top and consume while hot!
Note: The traditional version of this rigatoni arrabbiata recipe will use chopped parsley instead of fresh basil, and you can either skip or swap with vegan parmesan if you wish to make this vegan.
👩🏽🍳Top Tips to make Rigatoni Arrabbiata!
This rigatoni arrabbiata is hearty, filling, and packed with flavor. Here are four tips to make the best rigatoni arrabbiata every time:
- Don't overcook the pasta. Rigatoni is thick, tubular noodles that are best-cooked al dente—meaning they should have a firm bite when you bite into them. Avoid overcooking to avoid mushy pasta. Aim for 11 minutes of cook time for perfectly cooked rigatoni!
- Don't be afraid of the spice. The name of this dish literally means "angry," so it's no surprise that it packs a bit of a punch. But don't let that scare you off! The heat level can be easily adjusted to suit your taste by simply using more or less chili pepper flakes.
- Use less sauce than you think you need. It can be tempting to want to drench your pasta in sauce, but resist the urge. You want just enough sauce to coat the pasta without making the dish too wet or soupy.
- Let the dish sit for a few minutes before serving. Allowing the dish to sit for a few minutes gives all the flavors a chance to marry and develop, resulting in an even more delicious final product.
👩🏽🍳 Troubleshooting FAQs
Arrabbiata is a light marinara or red Italian sauce that gets its name from the Italian word for "angry." The sauce is made with tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and red chili peppers, which give it a slightly spicy flavor.
Both Arrabbiata and Pomodoro are Italian sauces made with tomatoes, but there are a few key differences between the two. Arrabbiata has a spicier flavor compared to Pomodoro thanks to the addition of chili peppers. In terms of texture, and Arrabbiata is usually thinner than Pomodoro.
Marinara, similar to pomodoro and arrabbiata, also uses tomatoes as a base, but arrabbiata is spicier due to red chili peppers or flakes.
🍴 Serving and storage suggestions
The arrabbiata sauce for this dish can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days! Reheat in a pan before adding the cooked pasta. For the best experience, eat it hot! (I eat it straight from the pot).
Store leftover cooked pasta in an airtight container in the fridge for no longer than 24 hours. Then, heat it back up in a skillet with some olive oil and fresh basil and parmesan sprinkled on top. Serve and enjoy!
In the mood for comforting pasta? Check out these other delicious recipes:
- Authentic Cacio e Pepe
- Broccoli Pesto Pasta
- Spring Pasta with Peas and Oyster Mushrooms
- Leek and Mushroom Pasta
Did you make this recipe?! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Please leave a comment and a star rating and let me know how it went! We love hearing from you, thank you so much
- 1 pound rigatoni pasta
- 2 tablespoon s olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ tablespoon s red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 pounds canned peeled whole tomato
- ½ cup parmesan cheese, substitute with vegan parmesan of choice
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons butter, optional, for finishing sauce
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
- Salt a large pot of water like the ocean! Cook the pasta following the box instructions but stop short of 2-3 minutes (packages typically list 10 to 15 minutes, so if it says 10 minutes, stop cooking at 7 minutes). Reserve some pasta water for later, about 1⁄2 cup. Set aside.
- Add minced garlic while the oil is still cold, when the garlic starts to sizzle, add red pepper flakes, and dried thyme. Fry on low heat for about 2 minutes. Stir constantly so the garlic doesn’t burn.
- Add a can of peeled whole tomatoes and stir on medium heat for about 8 minutes until the sauce thickens. You can use a wooden spoon to crush the tomatoes a bit (but not too much) to release the juices.
- Add the parmesan cheese, and stir for about 1 minute. You can use vegan parmesan instead as well. Taste, and then add salt / black pepper to taste.
- Add the pasta and butter to the sauce. Stir until just combined. If the sauce looks too dry, you can add a bit of the pasta water. Note: If you're going vegan, you can skip the butter step, or swap with plant-based butter.
- Serve immediately with fresh basil!
- Salt the pasta water generously! It should taste briny. For 1 pound of rigatoni, I recommend 2 tablespoons of salt to 1 gallon of water.
- I recommend cooking the pasta 2 to 3 minutes under package directions since you'll finish cooking the pasta in the sauce. If you cook to package directions, it might be too mushy!
- Arrabbiata literally means "angry pasta" so it's definitely got a kick to it. Make sure to adjust the spice levels to suit your taste.
- Rigatoni can be substituted with any short, tubular pasta (e.g., penne, shells, ziti, cavatappi, etc.)
- The traditional recipe calls for parsley, but I've used basil (mostly because the batch of parsley I had in my fridge the day I shot this recipe was all wilted, and I wanted something fresh instead). So if you want to go a more traditional route, make sure to garnish with parsley, not basil!