Angry Pasta, Happy Me

Sometimes simple is best. I’m a happy camper with an uncomplicated spicy sauce over pasta and a side salad. Dinner done. Here, the Penne Arrabbiata from Cook’s Illustrated delivers just the right amount of kick. The word arrabbiata literally means angry in Italian, a reference to the hot chili peppers used in this dish.


To deliver an arrabbiata with complex flavor and not just searing heat, CI looked beyond the tradition of using only red pepper flakes and crafted a recipe that included three different types of pepper. By supplementing pepper flakes with paprika and pickled pepperoncini, they built deep flavor while keeping the spiciness in check.

Pecorino Romano, tomato paste, and anchovies, while difficult to detect in the sauce, add umami notes and richness to this traditionally simple sauce. Finally, using processed canned tomatoes helps bring the sauce to the table quickly and allows you to enjoy it year-round. Woohoo, I’m a fan!

Because we are “saucy” people, we doubled the sauce ingredients, while maintaining the original amount of pasta. To finish, I added a sprinkle of coarsely chopped fresh basil for color and a hint of sweet.


Penne Arrabbiata

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons stemmed, patted dry, and minced pepperoncini
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ½ teaspoon minced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 anchovy fillets, rinsed, patted dry, and minced to paste
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano, plus extra for serving
  • 6 ounces penne


  1. Pulse tomatoes and their juice in food processor (or blender) until finely chopped, about 10 pulses.
  2. Heat oil, pepperoncini, tomato paste, garlic, pepper flakes, anchovies, paprika, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in medium saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until deep red in color, 7 to 8 minutes.
  3. Add tomatoes and Pecorino and bring to simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 15 minutes.
  4. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain pasta and return it to pot. Add sauce and toss to combine, adjusting consistency with reserved cooking water as needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, passing extra Pecorino separately.


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