The Best Arrabbiata Sauce Recipe EVER

Arrabiata is my absolute favourite vegetarian pasta sauce! This easy arrabbiata sauce recipe uses minimal ingredients and time (30 minutes!) to bring you the best pasta sauce EVER!

Thick, chunky, garlicky and spicy with a rich flavour from fresh tomatoes and olive oil, it’s also cheap as chips to make.

Known as sugo all’arrabbiata in Italy, which loosely translates as “angry sauce”, I can guarantee that nobody you serve this to will be angry with you!

A closeup of arrabbiata pasta with fresh basil

I’ve been working on this sauce for years, trying to perfect the flavours of my favourite version ever. It was served at an Italian restaurant in Valencia which was run by a lovely couple from Tivoli.

I later moved from Valencia to Madrid, and when I was back visiting, I discovered that the restaurant had unfortunately shut down.

I’ve been pretty disappointed with other versions I’ve had since, until now!

Which pasta should I serve arrabbiata sauce with?

Traditionally, arrabbiata sauce is served with penne. I find it hard to get good penne here in Spain (and don’t say that word in Spanish, it sounds like a very rude word…just trust me on this one.) so I usually use rigatoni as the ridges catch all the tasty sauce.

A forkful of spicy tomato basil pasta

I often eat it with spaghetti as well, but that’s because I have a weird childish fascination with spaghetti (you can TWIRL it!).

Whichever type of pasta you use, do NOT add oil to your drained pasta to prevent sticking, as this will also stop the sauce adhering to the pasta.

If my pasta is done before the sauce I simply drain it, rinse it in cold water and then put it back in the pot with cold or tepid water so it doesn’t stick together. You can then drain and toss with the hot sauce to serve.

A bowlful of spicy tomato pasta with garlic bread

This means it will slide right off and you’ll end up eating a bowl of pretty flavourless pasta and being surprised that there is a ton of sauce left at the bottom of your plate after eating all the carby goodness.

How to make it

This is a pretty easy, if not super quick recipe, and it will be even easier and faster if you have a food processor. Those who want their food and they want it now may have more luck trying my easy ten-minute roasted red pepper pasta sauce.

It takes about 45 minutes to make this sauce if you need to chop the tomatoes and onion and garlic by hand, and 35 with a food processor (and either way it’s totally worth it, I swear).

First, heat up the olive oil in a pan over a medium-high temperature. Next, chop the onions and add them to the pan. Fry the onions for five-eight minutes, until golden, then reduce the heat to medium.

Make sure to stir the onions often or they will burn and impart a bitter taste to your sauce.

Golden fried onions, chili flakes and garlic in a pan
Sauteed onions, garlic and chili flakes

Add the chopped garlic and chili flakes and fry for about two minutes, stirring often. 1/2 a teaspoon of chili flakes gives me the perfect hit of heat, nearing the edge of my spice tolerance levels, but hubby and the kids find it too spicy and stick with a 1/4 teaspoon.

Remember that toasting the chili flakes will also increase their spiciness.

Fresh chopped tomatoes mixed with garlic and onion
Add the fresh chopped tomatoes to the pan.

Next, add the chopped fresh tomatoes to the pan. DO NOT substitute with canned chopped tomatoes! I usually roughly chop the tomatoes to separate the sides from the core and chuck them in my food processor to chop up properly.

Broken down tomatoes and onions
Broken-down tomatoes with the onion, garlic and chili flakes.

After five minutes, add the salt and cook the tomatoes five-ten minutes more until the tomatoes have broken down.

Next, add the water and the canned puréed tomatoes. Note that this is NOT the same as tomato purée/ tomato concentrate, which is the thick concentrated tomato sauce that looks more like ketchup and is a deep red.

Tomato sauce in a frying pan

If you can’t find any canned puréed tomatoes, you can substitute it with some good passata (preferably one without added herbs).

You can also use canned chopped tomatoes and whizz them up in the blender, or as a last resort, fresh tomato purée (it won’t have the same depth).

Make sure the heat is set to medium and simmer for 15 minutes. It is likely that you will get some of those apocalyptic splashes, seeking to destroy your clean countertop and backsplash, so I suggest partially covering the pot with a lid.

(But don’t cover it too much or you won’t let all the moisture out and the sauce won’t reduce properly)

Pasta with tomato sauce and basil in a pot
Tossing the pasta with the sauce and basil.

Once the sauce is thick enough to your liking, take it off the heat. Toss the pasta with the sauce and basil leaves.

Serve with plenty of nutritional yeast, vegan parmesan (I love Violife) or a regular parmesan (rennet-free if you’re vegetarian), and lashings of freshly ground black pepper.

If you’re not going to eat the sauce straight away, then store it separately to the pasta or it will thicken and make the pasta a little gummy.

What to serve with pasta arrabbiata

This is also absolutely AMAZING with some good quality garlic bread (like this super easy 15-minute vegan garlic bread) on the side.

Although penne arrabbiata is usually served on its own as a main course, I do love having a slightly smaller portion with a nice green side salad.

A closeup of rigatoni with arrabbiata sauce

How many servings does this recipe make?

I absolutely despise not having enough sauce for pasta, so I double-checked and weighed everything out and can tell you that the amount of sauce this recipe produces is the perfect amount for about 14oz (400g) of dried pasta.

This will give you around 6 large platefuls, or 8 smaller platefuls (perfect with a side salad, garlic bread, etc.).

Did you make this recipe? Let me know how much you loved it with a star rating in the recipe box, review, or comment below.

Or take a picture and tag me on Instagram (@the_fiery_vegetarian), I love seeing all your creations!

Yield: 8

The Best Arrabbiata Sauce Recipe EVER

A plate of pasta with arrabbiata sauce and fresh basil on top

Tasty spicy thick tomato sauce laced with garlic, chili, and basil, served over your pasta of choice.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes


  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium finely chopped onions
  • ¼ - ½ tsp chilli flakes
  • 6 garlic cloves chopped finely
  • 32oz (900g) chopped tomatoes - about 9 large tomatoes (not canned)
  • 10.5oz (300g) canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup (240ml) water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Large handful basil leaves, chopped
  • Freshly ground black pepper to serve
  • Parmesan or vegan parmesan to serve (optional)


  1. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and add the chopped onions. Sauté five-eight minutes until soft but not brown, stirring often to prevent sticking.
  2. Add the garlic and chili flakes and cook for one-two minutes, until the raw garlic smell has gone. 1/2 tsp chili flakes is very spicy.
  3. Chop the tomatoes and add to the pan, mix well, maintain the heat at medium-high for five minutes, then add the salt and cook for between five to ten more minutes, until the tomatoes have broken down.
  4. Add the water and canned pureed tomatoes. Turn the heat down to medium and allow the sauce to simmer for another fifteen minutes, stirring every now and then.
  5. Once the sauce is nice and thick, toss with the pasta and basil.
  6. Serve with lots of freshly ground black pepper, and parmesan sprinkled over the top if using.


Store the sauce separately to the pasta, will keep for up to a week in the fridge.

You can substitute the canned pureed tomatoes with passata, or blended chopped canned tomatoes.

Nutrition is calculated before adding pasta!

Nutrition Information



Serving Size


Amount Per Serving Calories 152Total Fat 11gSaturated Fat 2gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 9gCholesterol 1mgSodium 327mgCarbohydrates 13gFiber 3gSugar 7gProtein 3g

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