Penne all’Arrabbiata

THE STORY: Sometimes you get lucky. I was staying in Rome for a few days, in a hotel near the Colosseum, and happened upon Trattoria Pizzeria da Luzzi. It was a sunny day.  I sat outside. What’s special today? I asked the server. Pennette all’arrabbiata. There are those moments at the table when you just think, THIS is the best thing ever. Tomato, garlic, red pepper.

In Italian “arrabbiata” means angry; mad, crazy. Like rabid in English. I’ve made this sauce ever since–hot but not tongue-melting hot. Some years later that trip to Rome a friend visiting from Naples came to dinner. When I served him penne all’arrabbiata, he said, These don’t seem very arrabbiata to me. And asked for more pepper.  So: adjust the heat to your liking.

THE NICHE: where it fits in your cooking/eating practice
PREP TIME: 2 minutes
COOK TIME: 10 minutes
INGREDIENTS: 1-2 cloves garlic, cup of tomato puree, ¼ tsp red pepper flakes, two tbsp olive oil, small penne


Dice and lightly sauté your garlic and pepper flakes in a small sauce pan. Add the tomato puree. Cook covered stirring occasionally. The tomato will thicken. Around the edges of the pan the sauce will darken.

Serve this pasta with cheese on the side. When a dish is cheesed, sometimes all you can taste is cheese. Less can be more. Sometimes none is all you need.