Top view of a pasta arrabbiata dinner served with bread, shredded parmesan cheese, and a side salad.

Is your pasta night getting a little boring? If you’re ready to spice it up—literally—with a burst of savory flavor, you’ve got to try making arrabbiata sauce! This classic Italian sauce takes only five minutes of prep work to cook up from scratch and it’s versatile enough to be used in a wide variety of dishes. If you’re a fan of spicy Italian foods, then this is a must-try for you! The next time you have a craving for pasta or meatballs or you need a dipping sauce for your pizza crust, take some time to whip up this rich arrabbiata.

A wooden spoon lifts up a scoop of spicy arrabbiata sauce from a large bowl.

What is arrabbiata pasta sauce?

Arrabbiata sauce is a classic Italian marinara sauce that literally translates to “angry sauce.” This is because of the hot chili peppers used in the traditional recipe. As with any Italian marinara sauce, it’s incredibly versatile and you can use it in everything from pasta to subs. It also makes an amazing dipping sauce for just about anything!

Is arrabbiata sauce spicy?

Yes! The traditional version of arrabbiata sauce uses only garlic, olive oil, crushed tomatoes, and plenty of red pepper flakes. Modern recipes like this one add in some additional spices, like fresh basil and Italian seasoning. They also tend to be more “spicy” and less “burn your mouth off hot” than the sauce made in Italy.

One thing I love about this arrabbiata sauce recipe is that you can control the level of heat. Because it calls for crushed red pepper, the sauce gets a nice spicy kick without being too hot for the average person to handle. You can always scale back on the level of spice or kick it up a notch based on your family’s heat tolerance.

Wholefully Protip

If you want to make this arrabbiata sauce spicier, you can add more crushed red pepper or even a bit of cayenne pepper.

A fork wrapped in a tangle of spaghetti strands raised over a bowl of pasta arrabbiata.

What is the difference between arrabbiata sauce and marinara sauce?

The main difference between arrabbiata sauce and marinara sauce is the heat. Arrabbiata sauce has all the same rich Italian flavors of crushed tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, and seasonings as marinara, but with a nice spicy kick. In marinara sauce, the sweetness of the tomatoes really shines through, making it a much sweeter sauce overall.

What is in pasta arrabbiata?

Luckily, you can get the rich flavors of arrabbiata sauce without being in Italy. This recipe focuses on using pantry staples you most likely already have, making it easy to whip up a fresh batch of this spicy tomato sauce and noodles whenever you want!

  • Pasta noodles—Spaghetti noodles work, but you can use penne if you’d like.
  • Finely chopped sweet onion.
  • Minced garlic—Both store-bought or freshly minced will work.
  • Extra virgin olive oil.
  • Crushed tomatoes.
  • Petite diced tomatoes.
  • Crushed red pepper flakes.
  • Fresh basil.
  • Italian seasoning.
  • Granulated sugar—A little sweet will balance the heat and round out the sauce’s flavor.
  • Salt and pepper.

Wholefully Protip

If you want a sweeter sauce, feel free to add a bit more sugar to the recipe. The sweetness of the sugar doesn’t eliminate the heat of the red pepper, but it balances it out for a more complex flavor.

Close view of a bowl of spicy italian pasta. A spoon scoops into a bowl of arrabbiata sauce.

How do I make pasta arrabbiata?

You can whip up a batch of this fiery sauce and noodles in half an hour! To make pasta arrabbiata, follow these simple steps.

  1. Cook the noodles as the pasta sauce is cooking. You could also cook the noodles ahead of time and set them aside.
  2. Prepare your saucepan by heating the olive oil over medium-high heat.
  3. Sauté the onion in the hot oil for three minutes, then add the garlic, Italian seasoning, and red chili flakes. Cook for an additional minute.
  4. Add the tomatoes and the remaining spices. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. When the sauce is done, spoon it over your noodles and sprinkle with fresh basil and Parmesan cheese to taste. Your pasta arrabbiata is ready to serve!

How should I serve this sauce?

The classic use of arrabbiata sauce is over noodles in pasta arrabbiata. But the sky’s the limit as to how you can serve it! If you’re making pasta arrabbiata, it’ll pair well with fresh homemade garlic bread and some mild green vegetable sides to help combat the heat of the sauce. If you’re looking for additional ways to use this sauce, try it:

Wholefully Protip

Leftover sauce will store well in the fridge for up to four days and in the freezer for up to three months. Just be sure to keep it in an airtight container.

Tight view of a bowl of arrabbiata pasta topped with shredded parmesan cheese.

Top view of a pasta arrabbiata dinner served with bread, shredded parmesan cheese, and a side salad.

Arrabbiata Sauce (Pasta Arrabiata)

Yield: 4-6 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

If you love spicy Italian food, you’ll love Arrabbiata sauce. We'll show you how to make it in under 30 minutes.


  • 1 pound spaghetti noodles
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning blend
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 14.5-ounce can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped, divided
  • 1 tablespoon white granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Parmesan cheese, for serving


  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside, or prepare sauce while noodles are cooking.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat.
  3. Add the onion and cook until transparent and tender, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, red pepper, and Italian seasoning and cook for 1 additional minute or until the garlic is fragrant.
  4. Add the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, ¼ cup chopped basil, sugar, salt, and pepper and stir until combined.
  5. Cover and bring the mixture to a simmer (medium low heat) and cook for 20 minutes.
  6. Stir in the remaining fresh basil and serve over prepared pasta.
  7. Serve with additional fresh basil and freshly grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.


  • This sauce reheats well and can be kept in the fridge for 4 days.
  • It also freezes well! Stash it in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 234Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 704mgCarbohydrates: 41gFiber: 5gSugar: 12gProtein: 8g

At Wholefully, we believe that good nutrition is about much more than just the numbers on the nutrition facts panel. Please use the above information as only a small part of what helps you decide what foods are nourishing for you.

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