Spicy Arrabbiata Sauce

By Alexandra Caspero on July 16, 2021
Spicy Arrabbiata Sauce! If you like heat then you've gotta try this healthy pasta sauce.
Serves 4-6

Spicy Arrabbiata Sauce! If you like heat then you’ve gotta try this healthy pasta sauce.
Homemade tomato sauce with crushed red pepper and lots of garlic.

Spicy Arrabbiata Sauce! One of my favorite quick dinners and proof that something so simple as tomatoes, olive oil and red pepper flakes can taste incredibly complex. Funny enough, as I post this Arrabbiata recipe today, I’m reminded that I’ve already posted a similar recipe twice already. I clearly have a thing for spicy pasta.

One version is served over pasta with roasted zucchini cubes and another contains a few more vegetables. Both are incredibly delicious but if you’re looking for classic Arrabbiata sauce then this is the recipe for you. And, if you don’t like heat, then you’ll want to head over to my homemade tomato sauce recipe.

I’m fairly certain you’ve already got all of the ingredients in your pantry already (perhaps minus the fresh basil) to make this spicy Arrabbiata sauce, so you’re 99% of the way there. Make this one soon.

Infusing the butter with the chilli flakes and garlic is crucial for this recipe.

Ingredients for Spicy Arrabbiata Sauce

Here’s what you’ll need to make this spicy arrabbiata sauce:

  • 2 large cans of whole canned tomatoes, San Marzano tomatoes are my favorite 
  • Minced Garlic
  • Red Chili Pepper. If you want a less spicy sauce, then you can use black pepper instead
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Olive oil and butter or non-dairy butter. Yes, you need both.
  • salt and more freshly ground black pepper

Why both butter and olive oil? Well, the butter (a vegan version works!) offers more complex flavor than the olive oil, while helping to emulsify the crushed tomatoes into a sauce. The butter and olive oil in this sauce is what makes it taste so complex for being such a simple sauce. Additionally, cooking the red pepper flakes in this fatty mixture helps impart spice throughout the entire dish.

Do not try to skip the oil and use water instead. You need the fat to bloom the red pepper flakes and provide the spicy flavor throughout the entire dish. If you want things more spicy, add in more red pepper flakes.

How to make Spicy Arrabbiata Sauce

  1. Sauté garlic and red pepper

    Heat both the olive oil and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add in the garlic and crushed red pepper and sauté for 1 minute. 

  2. Add in the canned tomatoes

    Stir in the canned whole tomatoes and their juices to the pot, then use a back of a wooden spoon to gently crush as the marinara sauce cooks. A wooden spoon should crush the whole tomatoes easily, but you might have to remove any tough stem ends with your hands.

  3. Simmer sauce until thickened

    Then add in the basil leaves and cooked pasta. Drizzle in a little of the reserved pasta cooking water to allow the sauce to really stick to the pasta then add cheese, if desired, off heat and serve.

The sauce is rich and satisfying. Use immediately or store for later use.

What tomatoes are best?

Spend the extra dollar on good tomatoes here, I think it’s worth it. I made this dish with generic tomatoes and then made it again with the good stuff (you know the kind, the $2-3 can of whole tomatoes) and it was so much better than the first version. 

What to serve this sauce with

I love this arrabbiata sauce most over pasta with more fresh basil, but the possibilities are endless with this spicy sauce. 

Enjoy it as a dipping sauce with crusty french bread, on pizzas, with spaghetti and chickpea meatballs and more.  It’s also great with crispy polenta rounds.

Here’s the question you will end up asking yourself: how can something so simple, be so good? And, that’s really the beauty of most pasta dishes, especially a simple spaghetti sauce like this one. They take minimal effort to prepare, with dynamite flavor. Perhaps that’s why we enjoy a bowl at least once a week.

More Pasta Recipes

More Sauce Recipes

Spicy Arrabbiata Sauce


What does Arrabbiata mean?

Arrabbiata means “angry” in Italian, representative of the spicy sauce in this dish. 

What is the difference between arrabbiata sauce and marinara sauce?

Both sauces are made with garlic, tomatoes and basil. However, marinara is sweeter in flavor as arrabbiata is spicier using red pepper flakes.

How do you pronounce Arrabbiata?

I love saying Arrabbiata, especially as I can hear my grandmother’s voice in my head as I do. It’s pronounced ahrr-ahbb-yah-tah.

Spicy Arrabbiata Sauce Recipe

If you try this recipe, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, and tag your Instagram photos with #delishknowledge . I absolutely love seeing your creations. Happy cooking! 

Spicy Arrabbiata Sauce Recipe

Spicy Arrabiata Sauce

  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 46 servings 1x
  • Category: dinner, main, pasta
  • Method: stove top
  • Cuisine: Italian, vegetarian
  • Diet: Vegan


Spicy Arrabiata Sauce! If you like heat then you’ve gotta try this healthy pasta sauce. Homemade tomato sauce with crushed red pepper and lots of garlic. Delicious and healthy!

  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 46 servings 1x
  • Category: dinner, main, pasta
  • Method: stove top
  • Cuisine: Italian, vegetarian
  • Diet: Vegan
  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 46 servings 1x
  • Category: dinner, main, pasta
  • Method: stove top
  • Cuisine: Italian, vegetarian
  • Diet: Vegan


  • 2 tablespoons butter (vegan butter works for non-dairy version)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper chili flakes (I will add up to 2 tablespoons for a really spicy sauce. 1 tablespoon is probably good for most people, add more if you like more spice)
  • 2 (28ounce) cans of whole tomatoes (I use unsalted and add salt, take note if you use salted, you’ll want to use less salt overall. The quality of tomatoes matters; this is a great place to spend an extra dollar or two for good canned tomatoes.)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup torn fresh basil leaves
  • 1 lb. pasta and reserved pasta water, for serving


  1. Heat the butter and olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and chili flakes and cook until garlic is soft, stirring often. Take care not to burn the garlic, it will ruin the sauce if it becomes too browned.
  2. Add the tomatoes and the juice to the pan, breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon as you stir. If your tomatoes have tough ends, remove them from the pan all together. I like sauce with just a little texture, but break down the tomatoes to your liking. Simmer for 30 minutes until thickened, stirring occasionally.
  3. While the sauce is cooking, make your pasta (or whatever you are serving this with.) I like a hearty tube pasta, but anything kind will work. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water before draining pasta.
  4. Stir in the basil leaves and season with salt. I start with 1/2-3/4 teaspoon salt and add more if needed. If you used salted tomatoes, you won’t need as much.
  5. If serving with pasta, add the just al dente pasta (I undercook by a minute or two to finish cooking in the sauce) along with a tablespoon of pasta water. Stir to combine, adding more pasta water a tablespoon at a time to loosen the sauce. Season to taste and serve immediately. Off heat, stir in parmesan or vegan parmesan cheese and extra fresh basil.

did you make this?

Tag @delishknowledge on Instagram and hashtag it #delishknowledge

This post was first published in January 2018 and has been updated with new images, July 2021. 

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Meet Alex Caspero

Alex Caspero is a Registered Dietitian, New York Times Bestselling Plant-Based Chef and mom of two. She aims to cut through the nutrition noise by providing real-life, nourishing tips for body and mind. Learn more about Alex.

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    1. Josie
      November 20, 2022 AT 12:59 pm

      Exactly what I was looking for.

    2. Tyson
      October 30, 2022 AT 6:24 pm

      As good as any red sauce I’ve had a restaurant.

    3. Samantha
      October 10, 2022 AT 6:55 pm

      Love this spicy sauce with thick noodles. Very satisfying.

    4. Annabel
      September 26, 2022 AT 12:50 pm

      This has become my go-to sauce for dinner parties. Always a crowd pleaser.

    5. Sharon
      September 26, 2022 AT 12:49 pm

      It was a hit! A nice change-up from bland jar sauce.

    6. Tad
      September 26, 2022 AT 12:49 pm

      Great spice!

    7. Stuart
      September 24, 2022 AT 11:19 am

      My go-to arrabbiata recipe. Can you can this?

    8. Jill
      September 24, 2022 AT 11:12 am

      This sauce is SO good. Can’t wait to make other recipes of yours– I like my sauce on the mild side so only used 1/2 a teaspoon of red pepper flakes, still tastes great!

    9. Ranai
      September 21, 2022 AT 9:53 am

      So simple and easy– a weeknight staple for my husband and I. I usually freeze 1/2 of the recipe for another day.

    10. Leslie
      September 21, 2022 AT 9:10 am

      Fantastic. Served it over polenta with grilled sausage.