Pasta Arrabbiata

Photo: Romulo Yanes

Photo: Romulo Yanes

4 servings

25 to 30 minutes

Arrabbiata is one of the many sauces I learned from my friend Andrea Graziosi while he was living with me in New Haven in 1984(!) - and it could well be the one I’ve since made most. “Arrabbiata” means “angry,” which everyone (me too) assumes is a reference to the chiles: This should be almost fiery. Be liberal with the black pepper too.  


3 tablespoons olive oil, or more as needed
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1, or 3, or 5 (or up to 10 if you like things really hot) small dried red chiles, or a big pinch of crushed red pepper
One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, including the juice
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound any dried pasta
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves for garnish, optional


1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Put the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the garlic and chiles or crushed red pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is brown—deeply colored, but not burned. Turn off the heat for a minute. Add the tomatoes, sprinkle with salt and plenty of black pepper, and return the heat to medium-high. 

2. Adjust the heat so the sauce bubbles enthusiastically and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down and the mixture begins to thicken and appear more uniform in texture, 10 to 15 minutes. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and adjust the heat so the tomato sauce stays hot but doesn’t boil.

3. When the water boils, cook the pasta until it is tender but not mushy; start tasting after 5 minutes. When it’s done, scoop out and reserve at least 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta.

4. If you used whole chiles, remove them from the sauce. Add the pasta and a splash of the cooking water to the sauce in the skillet and toss to coat, adding a little more oil or cooking water if necessary to create a slightly creamy sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning and add more oil if you’d like; then toss with the cheese and the basil if you’re using it. Serve, passing more cheese at the table.