Penne all’Arrabbiata

Penne all’arrabbiata (angry penne) is a classic dish from the Roman cucina povera. A few ingredients, well chosen, make a dish of a incomparable taste. King in this recipe is the chilli pepper.




Ready In:


25 min




Good For:



About this Recipe

By: Silvana Lanzetta

Penne all’ arrabbiata is a very well loved pasta dish around the world, especially by those who appreciate spicy food.
This simple dish is one of the cornerstones of the Roman cucina povera (the other being Spaghetti all’ Amatriciana, Pasta alla Gricia, and Spaghetti alla Carbonara.
Penne all’ arrabbiata is very quick to make: it takes longer to cook the pasta than to make the sauce! To save time, put your big pot of boiling water on before you get cracking with the sauce.

pasta 2819873 1280 e1612305110592


  • 400 gr penne
  • 400 gr canned tomatoes
  • 80 gr of grated Pecorino Romano
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 or 2 dried chilli peppers
  • a small bunch of parsley, chopped
  • 2 tbsps of extravirgin olive oilo
  • salt to taste

There are two traditional versions of the recipes, plus the the most popular one that is somehow the blending of the older recipes. 

The first -and oldest- one is from Civitavecchia, a portal town 60km northwest of Rome. This version is the most commonly known, with just tomatoes, chilli, and parsley. What here is missing is the pecorino cheese.

The second is the gourmet version created by the Roman chef Giovanni Cotellesi in the 1930’s: it is a much richer version, with the addition of cooked ham, chilli, and basil instead of parsley. 

The version today is mostly known, is the Civitavecchia sauce with the addition of pecorino Romano (which is, in my opinion, the most delicious cheese to add to your pasta). And this is the version I’m going to give you today.

If you would like to try the sauce created by Cotellesi, just add the diced ham after the garlic, and saute for a few minutes before adding the tomato sauce. Then sprinkle with chopped basil. Check the notes in the recipe below to see how to go for it.

cayenne pepper 4820423 1920 e1613153749416
garlic 5207282 1280 e1613154285853



Pasta with carbonara sauce is a very rich dish, quite high in fats. Make it every now and then as a delicious treat for you and your family!

  • Proteins 26% 26%
  • Carbs 27% 27%
  • Fats 11% 11%
pasta 2938726 1920 e1613153643345

Step by Step Instructions

Make penne all’arrabbiata

Step 1

To prepare your arrabbiata sauce, start by putting to boil a large casserole filled with water. When the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook according to the instructions

For the best way to cook pasta, check HERE.

Step 2

Meanwhile, crush the garlic cloves and some of the chilli ( I would start with half a chilli, and then topo it up afterwards if necessary). Add the oil in a large pan, and saute at low heat the garlic and the chilli for 2 minutes. Make sure that the garlic doesn’t take any colour, otherwise it turns bitter.

Step 3

Add the canned tomatoes, raise the heat and bring to boil. Then lower the heat to medium low and cook for 10 minutes. Salt to taste (bear in mind that the pecorino romano is a rather salty cheese, so you might want to go conservative when adding salt).

Follow me

Step 4

When the pasta is cooked, save 1 tablespoon (no more) of the cooking water, then drain the pasta properly. Add the pasta to the pan with the sauce, add the tablespoon of cooking water, and the grated pecorino romano. Saute at high heat for a minute. Remove from heat.

Step 5

Stir in the chopped parley and serve with extra grated pecorino cheese and the remaining chilli on the side.


If you want to try the richer version with ham, you will need to add  100 gr of diced cooked ham it in step 2, together with the garlic and chilli. It’s hard to find the same Italian cooked ham outside Italy, but I find a decent substitute is cooked gammon. Follow the recipe as written from step 3. Stir in chopped basil instead of the parsley.

For the vegan readers who want to try  this recipes, go full Civitavecchia’s version and remove the pecorino.


clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon

Penne all’ arrabbiata

  • Author:
    Silvana Lanzetta

  • Total Time:
    25 minutes

  • Yield:
    4 portions 1x


Penne all’arrabbiata (angry penne) is a classic dish from the Roman cucina povera. A few ingredients, well chosen, make a dish of an incomparable taste. King in this recipe is the chilli pepper



400 grams of penne

400 grams of canned tomatoes

80 grams of grated Pecorino Romano

2 garlic cloves, crushed

dried chilli pepper

a small bunch of parsley

2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

Sea salt to taste


  1. Boil salted water in a large casserole. As soon as it boils, add the penne, and let cook at high temperature for 8-10 minutes (if unsure, check the cooking time on the packet)
  2. Meanwhile, Pour the oil in a large pan, and add the crushed garlic and some of the chilli pepper. Let it cook at low heat for 5 minutes
  3. Add the canned tomatoes. Raise the heat and bring to boil. As soon as it boils, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Salt to taste.
  4. Once the pasta is cooked, reserve 2 tablespoons of the cooking water, then drain the pasta. 
  5. Add the pasta to the pan with tomato sauce, add 1 tablespoon of the cooking water (more in cse the sauce is very dense), and the grated pecorino. Saute for 1 minute, until the sauce has well coated the pasta.
  6. take the pan off the heat, add the chopped parsley, and mix carefully.
  7. Serve the penne all’arrabbiata with extra pecorino cheese and chilli on the side.



The oldest version of the penne all’arrabbiata doesn’t include pecorino cheese, so this is a dish that can be easily adapted for vegan tastes.

The Roman version of this dish, created in the 1930’s by the chef Giovanni Cotellesi, is much richer: it includes cubed ham (you can use cubed gammon if not finding prosciutto cotto), that needs to be sauteed with the garlic and the chilli. The recipe is the same from this point on, with the only difference that basil is used instead of parsley.

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Category: Pasta
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: pasta, arrabbiata sauce, italian food, pasta recipe, spicy food, spicy tomato sauce. arrabiata sauce, quick cook, simple recipe

More Roman Recipes


Image 05

Spaghetti all'Amatriciana

recipe image 06

Pasta alla Gricia

Make This

Get your FREE guide "How to match pasta with sauces"

Head to your inbox to download your guide! If you can't find the email, please check your junk folder before contacting me!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This