How to Make Penne All’ Arrabbiata

Penne all’ arrabbiata is one of Italy’s simplest pasta dishes to make. It also happens to be vegan and is one of the more famous pastas in Italy. It happens also to be one of my favorites.

Penne all’ arrabbiata means “angry penne” in Italian. The name comes from the sauce being spicy – very spicy. As a vegan who loves quick and easy spicy food, this recipe is on speed dial at my house!

blue bowl with penne pasta topped with all' arrabbiata sauce and basil
Pasta all’ arrabbiata

To be completely honest with you, penne is probably my least favorite type of pasta. So instead, I’ll use spaghetti, bowties, shells, or rigatoni pasta. Feel free to use your favorite pasta, but know penne is the traditional choice for this dish. – hence, the name!

How to prepare vegan penne all’ arrabbiata

Start by filling a large pot with water and bring it to a boil over the stove. Follow the directions on the pasta package, and remove and drain the pasta when it’s cooked to your taste. NOTE: be sure to reserve some of the pasta water for the sauce – it helps make it creamier!

While the water for the pasta is heating, begin chopping the garlic and onion.

In a frying pan, add olive oil, garlic, and onion. Be sure the heat is on low, so the oil doesn’t start to smoke. When you see the garlic and onions start to brown at the edges, stir in the hot pepper flakes and continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Add the crushed tomatoes and salt, and turn the heat to medium. Stir until the mixture begins to bubble, then turn the heat down to a gentle simmer. Cook for another 10-15 minutes, then stir in the pasta.

Sprinkle the basil over the pasta, stir and serve.

I like this recipe using pasta cooked al dente – it adds a chewy texture. For perfect al dente pasta, remove from the heat one minute before the recommended cooking time, then drain the water immediately.

A few tips and tricks for making Penne All’ Arrabbiata

Remember the name means angry penne, so if you can handle the heat, follow the recipe. Otherwise, adjust your spice level by starting with half of the recommended amount of pepper flakes. Keep tasting the sauce until you find what’s right for you.

If you want to have an even higher heat level, allow the sauce to simmer an extra 10-20 minutes.

Unless you live in Italy, you’ll probably find many pasta brands in your local supermarkets. I’m fortunate to live close to Corti Brothers, a wonderful gourmet Italian specialty store. They carry Barilla and Garofalo brands, which excel at al dente pasta.

raw penne pasta with two cherry tomatoes on a wood table

Another brilliant tip I learned from a very smart blogger (who learned this from her Italian Grandpa) is never to cut the basil with a knife. Her Grandpa always puts the whole leaves in the sauce or rips them with his hands. He does this because “It keeps the aroma of the basil leaves,” whereas the knife’s metal can impart a metallic flavor to the dish.

How to serve pasta all’ arrabbiata

You can top this dish with vegan Parmesan cheese, like Violife. Or, if you want to skip the cheese but add some extra vitamins and protein, put a teaspoon of nutritional yeast into the sauce and stir well.

I recommend serving this spicy dish of vegan pasta all’arrabbiata with a slice or two of crusty, rustic bread or my delicious quick & easy summer salad recipe. And don’t forget to add a glass of hearty red blend or Zinfandel wine – Bon appetit!

If you want dessert after your meal, try out my delicious vegan banana bread.

Please let me know your favorite way of having pasta all’ arrabbiata in the comments below!

Vegan Penne All’ Arrabbiata

Penne All' Arrabbiata is a spicy vegan pasta. This recipe makes approximately 2 servings of pasta.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: dinner, Side Dish, supper
Cuisine: Italian, Vegan, Vegetarian
Keyword: pasta main, penne pasta, vegan pasta
Servings: 2 people


Penne Pasta

    Penna All'Arrabbiata Sauce

    • 1 clove garlic crushed or finely diced
    • 2 tablespoons chopped onion
    • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    • 1 14 oz can crushed tomatoes
    • 1 pinch salt
    • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 teaspoon chopped or torn fresh basil leaves


    Penne Pasta

    • Measure the penne pasta for 1-2 servings. Cook the pasta in a pan of salted boiling water for 10-11 minutes (for al dente) or per the instructions on the box.
      While the pasta is cooking, assemble the ingredients for the sauce.
      cooked penne pasta in a bowl
    • Press or chop the garlic and onion in small pieces
      Chopped garlic and onion
    • In a frying pan over low heat, add the olive oil, garlic, onion and stir. Add the pepper flakes, and allow the oil mix to cook over low heat for approximately 2-3 minutes.
    • Add the can of crushed tomatoes and salt. Turn the heat to medium and continue stirring until the sauce begins to bubble. Allow the mixture to gently simmer over low heat for approximately 15 minutes, then remove from heat.
    • Add the freshly chopped basil leaves, then stir. Pour over the penne pasta, and garnish with a small sprig of basil and top with vegan Parmesan, if desired.


    The longer you cook your sauce, the more “angry” the heat becomes (ie spicy hot)
    For me, 15 minutes is just enough time for the sauce to simmer without the spice from the peppers becoming too intense. Adjust the cooking time for the sauce according to your taste, and enjoy!

    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: Creamy white wine sauce over ravioli

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    penne pasta with spicy all' arrabbiata sauce topped with basil

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