Penne a la Arrabiata


Have you seen this Eddie Izzard sketch? No? Go watch it. I’ll wait.

Anyone else want some delicious pasta now? Because I sure do. I first heard this sketch years ago, and I had about zero clue what Penne a la Arrabiata was. I figured it was some kind of pasta (nicely done, Jess). Thankfully, this past weekend Mike got the crazy idea to make it. While listening to that sketch. Naturally.

And guess what? Penne a la Arrabiata ROCKS. It is fantastic. It is spicy (thanks, chili pepper flakes), savory (thanks, anchovies), and still weirdly light for a pasta dish (thanks, tomato based sauce). Serve it with some crusty bread to sop up the leftover sauce, and you will be in heaven. And please don’t fear the anchovies – they’ve done nothing to you, all they want to do is make your pasta a little salty and a lot more savory than it really has any right to be.

Penne a la Arrabiata

by The Jess Mess


  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ C flat leaf parsley
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp hot red pepper flakes
  • Small tin of anchovies
  • 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 lb short pasta – penne rigate is recommended
  • Salt


Put salted pasta water on the stove to boil

Mince 4 garlic cloves. Chop flat-leaf parsley. Set aside.

Cut an onion into thin strips. Set aside.

With the stove on low, add a generous glug of olive oil to a large high sided skillet. Add the teaspoon of red pepper flakes and let cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5-10 minutes or until the oil is visibly redder. Watch carefully to ensure that it doesn’t burn.

Once the oil is infused, add the onions and turn the heat up to medium low. Toss to coat, then add ½ tsp salt and the anchovies and stir again. Lid the pan and let onions cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Once the onions are translucent and soft, and the anchovies have dissolved, turn the heat up to medium high. Add the minced garlic and stir. Once garlic is aromatic, add the can of whole peeled tomatoes one at a time, squeezing each one in your hand to crush before adding. Stir to combine.

Allow sauce to come to a boil while stirring, then lower the heat and let it simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.

While sauce is simmering, make pasta. Add pasta to boiling salted pasta water and cook as directed.

When pasta is finished, reserve 1 cup pasta water and drain the rest. Toss the pasta in the pan with the sauce, adding a small amount of pasta water at a time if the sauce is too thick.

To serve, place a portion of the pasta and sauce on a plate. Drizzle with high quality extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with parsley and parmesan, if desired.


Add ½ C red wine to sauce before bringing to a boil.

Omit anchovies

Add 1 lb peeled & deveined raw shrimp to sauce before bringing to boil.

Instead of red pepper flakes, use raw habanero or jalapeno peppers, thinly sliced.

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