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International Recipe : Penne All'Arrabbiata

Serves 4 to6

This spicy take on the classic tomato sauce is popular in Rome and central Italy. It literally means “angry” pasta and takes its name from the heat of the chili flakes. Feel free to increase or decrease the amount accordingly to your tolerance. The classic accompaniment to this sauce is penned pasta but it is also good with spaghetti.


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 kg ripe plum tomatoes (or 3 tins Italian tomatoes), peeled
  • and chopped
  • ½ tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 ½ tsp chilli flakes
  • ½ tsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 -1 tsp tomato puree
  • Salt and freshly-ground pepper
  • Fresh basil leaves, shredded
  • 100g penne per person
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese


  1. In a large pan, heat the oil and sauté the onions until soft. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, bay leaf, chili flakes, brown sugar and tomato puree.
  2. Bring to a boil and then immediately turn down the heat. Leave to simmer gently about 45 minutes to an hour or until the tomatoes formed a thick sauce. Tinned tomatoes will cook in less time. Stir occasionally to prevent it from scorching at the bottom.
  3. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the shredded basil.
  4. Bring 4 liters of salted water to a boil. Cook the penne until it is al dente, drain and combine with the sauce.
  5. Serve immediately in deep bowls with the grated Parmesan.

Variation: For a hearty, vegetarian pasta dish, try this classic Sicilian combination. Cut an aubergines into bite-sized chunks and roast in a hot oven with olive oil and oregano until tender and slightly charred at the edges. Stir into the arrabbiata sauce with a handful of 1cm mozzarella cubes just before combining with the cooked pasta. Serve straight away as the cheese is just beginning to melt into soft, gooey strands.

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Last Modified: 11/28/11.