Flavorful and easy-to-make Arrabiata sauce or Sugo all’arrabiata uses only six simple ingredients and comes together in about 30 minutes for a quick delicious dinner. It’s a spicy tomato sauce that’s guaranteed to add a kick to all of your favorite Italian recipes.
My first experience with arrabiata sauce was by accident, I think. My great-grandmother made sauce for Christmas and accidentally added too much crushed red pepper flakes, making the sauce super spicy, like SUPER spicy.
My grandmother was angry that she “ruined” the sauce and demanded that everyone still eat it. Ha! Even though our eyes were watering as we slurped up every last bit of pasta and sauce, we did it with a smile. None of us wanted to be the one to say Grandma’s sauce was too spicy on Christmas.
This is one of my favorite memories of my Great Grandma Josephine.
Years later, I learned that the sauce she made (not knowingly) was Arrabiata sauce; a spicy red sauce originated in Italy in a city near Rome. Arriabiata means angry in Italian and this spicy sauce was named accordingly.
When I discovered this, I became convinced that Arriabiata was created by an Italian grandma who accidentally added too many red pepper flakes to her sauce, which made her angry for “ruining” it! Hence the name! But then because this spicy tomato sauce is delicious she made it again.
That’s my theory on the birth of arrabiata. 😁
Today Arrabiata sauce is one of my favorite Italian sauces!
Reasons you’ll love arrabiata
- Super easy to make. You only need six simple pantry ingredients to throw this spicy arrabiata sauce together.
- Naturally gluten-free. No swaps are needed to remove the gluten from this sauce, and it’s also dairy-free and vegan.
- Versatile. This easy arrabiata sauce goes with everything. Use it in all your favorite Italian recipes; I’ll give more tips below.
- Freezer-friendly. Make a double or triple batch and freeze to have this spicy tomato sauce ready ahead of time.
- Crushed tomatoes. For the best flavor, I strongly suggest using San Marzano canned tomatoes. San Marzano tomatoes are a type of plum tomato that have fewer seeds and are super flavorful. These superior tomatoes can bring a delicious Italian recipe from great to outstanding. Crushed tomatoes give the arrabiata sauce a great texture, but you can also use whole tomatoes and crush them by hand or in your food processor.
- Extra virgin olive oil. Choose a high-quality extra virgin olive oil. Look for olive oil sold in dark glass bottles that are cold-pressed and from one region.
- Garlic cloves. I measure garlic with my heart when making arrabiata; I use around five cloves, but sometimes I use more. My advice is to adjust the garlic cloves based on your taste.
- Crushed red pepper flakes. This is what makes arrabiata sauce spicy. Without the red pepper flakes, it’s just marinara sauce. So, I guess you can say that arrabiata is a spicy marinara sauce. Anyway, I use two teaspoons of crushed red pepper flakes, and I find that the amount is plenty – and I like spicy food. Adding more, I think, will make the sauce too spicy, but adjust the red pepper flakes based on your taste.
- Italian seasoning. Most authentic arrabiata sauce recipes don’t include dried spices. So, you could leave it out, but I love stirring some homemade Italian seasoning mix; it gives this sauce another layer of tasty flavor.
- Fresh basil. If you’re looking for a bite of fresh flavor, stir in 6-8 fresh basil leaves. However, it’s not mandatory, so you can still make it if you don’t have fresh basil available.
How to Make Make Arrabiata Sauce
Arrabiata sauce comes together quickly, so it’s essential to have all ingredients ready beforehand. For example, garlic is peeled and chopped, and the crushed tomato cans are open.
Heat olive oil in a deep sauté pan, Dutch Oven or large pot over medium-high heat.
Add the garlic to olive oil and cook until it’s fragrant and golden. Pay attention at this time because you don’t want the garlic to burn.
Carefully pour in the crushed tomatoes. It’s helpful to hold the can as close to the pan as possible to prevent splashing as you pour the tomatoes into garlic and olive oil.
Stir in crushed red pepper flakes and Italian seasoning
Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce it to a simmer over medium heat, and cook uncovered for about 30 minutes. Stir the sauce consistently to prevent it from sticking and burning on the bottom. The sauce will turn a rich red color and thicken.
Remove the sauce from heat and stir in the fresh basil. Season with salt and black pepper. Add more crushed red pepper flakes if you want to increase the heat.
Serve over pasta or use in your favorite Italian dishes.
You can use arrabiata sauce recipe in any Italian dish you want to give a spicy kick. Here are our favorite ways.
- Over gluten-free pasta. We love it with gluten-free spaghetti, linguine, penne pasta and rigatoni; if you can find gluten-free tortellini or ravioli, that’s tasty too.
- In baked pastas. It’s delicious in this gluten free baked ziti or gluten free lasagna.
- As a pizza sauce for homemade pizza. If you want a spicy pizza, then using arrabiata sauce as the base will do the trick. This is one of my favorite ways to use it.
- As a dipping sauce. These gluten free mozzarella sticks and gluten free garlic bread were made for dipping in this spicy tomato sauce.
- Many arrabiata sauce recipes call for onion, but I feel it adds too much sweetness to the sauce and takes away from the red pepper flakes, so I prefer to leave it out. But if you want onion, use ¼ cup of finely minced onion.
- Start slowly with the crushed red pepper flakes. Two teaspoons are plenty, but that might be too much for someone’s taste. You can always add more red chili flakes, but you can’t take it away once it’s in the sauce.
- You can use fresh oregano, fresh thyme, or other fresh herbs.
- This arrabbiata sauce recipe is on the thicker side but If you want it to be really thick, add a tablespoon of tomato paste.
- Stir in spinach or kale at the end to add veggies. You can even add mushrooms and zucchini when you begin the sauce.
- Sauté the garlic in butter and olive oil for an extra rich flavor.
Arrabiata sauce is the perfect make-ahead sauce. You can make a big batch ahead of time to have ready for dinners throughout the week or month!
To store: After the sauce cools, transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to a week. Reheat it on the stovetop.
To freeze: After the sauce cools, transfer to airtight containers and freeze for up to 6 months. It’s helpful to freeze into portions making it easier to use later in recipes. You can use silicone freezer trays, freezer bags, or small containers to freeze into portions.
These tomato-based sauces are similar in flavor, but there are a couple unique differences. Both have tomatoes, olive oil, and garlic as the base. However, marinara sauce uses onions which gives it a sweeter flavor. It also doesn’t require red pepper flakes, so it’s not a spicy sauce. Arrabiata is a less sweet sauce focusing on spicy flavor from the red pepper flakes. It doesn’t use onions but is heavy on garlic and crushed red pepper flakes.
Bolognese and arrabiata are very different Italian sauces. Bolognese is a meat ragu that includes ground pork, ground beef, and pancetta. It simmers for hours to create a thick meaty, rich sauce. Arrabiata is a quick-cooking spicy tomato sauce that doesn’t include meat. Its base is tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and crushed red pepper flakes.
Arrabiata sauce and Pomodoro sauce are different sauces. Arrabiata sauce uses canned tomatoes and is a spicy sauce. Pomodoro is a warm sauce with chopped fresh tomatoes, garlic, and herbs.
- Cutting board
- Sharp knife
- Deep skillet or pot
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 5 medium garlic cloves
- 2 28 ounce cans of crushed tomatoes preferably San Marzano
- 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes add more or less to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 6-8 leaves of fresh basil torn
- salt and black ground pepper
- Heat olive oil in a deep sauté pan, Dutch Oven or large pot over medium-high heat.
- Add the garlic to olive oil and cook until it's fragrant and golden. Pay attention at this time because you don't want the garlic to burn.
- Carefully pour in the crushed tomatoes. It's helpful to hold the can as close to the pan as possible to prevent splashing as you pour the tomatoes into garlic and olive oil.
- Stir in crushed red pepper flakes and Italian seasoning
- Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce it to a simmer over medium heat, and cook uncovered for about 30 minutes. Stir the sauce consistently to prevent it from sticking and burning on the bottom. The sauce will turn a rich red color and thicken.
- Remove the sauce from heat and stir in the fresh basil. Season with salt and black pepper. Add more crushed red pepper flakes if you want to increase the heat.
- Serve over pasta or use in your favorite Italian dishes.
Did You Make This Recipe?
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