Ina’s Arrabbiata Sauce Is the Perfect Pandemic Pantry Recipe (2024)

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Lauren Masur

Lauren Masur

Lauren was the Groceries Editor for Kitchn.


updated Jan 13, 2021

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Ina’s Arrabbiata Sauce Is the Perfect Pandemic Pantry Recipe (1)

This spicy sauce has a stunning amount of garlic in it but don’t worry; the flavor mellows as it cooks.


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Ina’s Arrabbiata Sauce Is the Perfect Pandemic Pantry Recipe (2)

Just a few years ago, when Ina Garten got to work on her most recent cookbook, Modern Comfort Food (which pubbed in October 2020), she must have had psychic powers. She was right to assume that we’d all be craving her Barefoot Contessa take on comfort food, particularly during an ugly presidential election year. But what Ina never could have predicted was that we’d also be months into a global pandemic — and we’re not out of the weeds yet.

When I need to drown my sorrows, I turn to an Ina recipe. She never fails me. Upon browsing my brand-new copy of Modern Comfort Food, my thumb stopped on a recipe for Arrabbiata Sauce, a spicy tomato sauce made with what Ina calls “a stunning amount of garlic.”

Growing up, a big pot of tomato sauce meant that a family dinner was on the horizon. Missing those dinners a little extra these days, I knew this recipe would be the pick-me-up I needed. Plus, in the headnotes, Ina credits Missy Robbins, the chef of Misi and Lilia, two of Ina’s favorite restaurants in NYC, as the recipe inspiration. Missing restaurants deeply as well, I added another pro to the “Should I Make This?” list. (There are no cons on this list.)

Being the Millennial that I am, though, I didn’t actually make this perfect-sounding recipe until the universe (aka social media) sent me a reminder. Whilst doom-scrolling, I happened upon a video of Shay Spence (People‘s Food Editor and a general joy to follow on social media) making Ina’s recipe on TikTok.

“Do not be alarmed, this is exactly the right amount of garlic you need to make one of the best pasta sauces I’ve ever had,” he says in an extremely soothing voiceover.

In assessing the ingredient list, I realized I had pretty much everything I needed: good olive oil, garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, canned whole peeled tomatoes, salt, and pepper. I only needed to pick up fresh basil, fennel seeds, and dry red wine (which I would have had, if I hadn’t finished off that bottle the night before, whoops!). Did Ina unknowingly create the perfect pandemic pantry recipe? Yes, yes she did.

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The most labor-intensive part of this recipe is peeling one cup of garlic cloves. (I outsourced this task and have no regrets.) Ina and Shay are not wrong that the one cup seems like an obscene amount of garlic cloves, but my motto is “In Ina We Trust,” so into the Dutch oven, along with a generous amount of good olive oil, they went. Just as Ina said, the garlic flavor mellowed as the cloves cooked.

The softened, golden garlic cloves are then pulsed in a food processor (or in my case, the blender) along with two cans of drained whole peeled tomatoes. Then the mixture goes back into the oil, along with the red wine and seasonings. The sauce simmers for 30 minutes, which gives you time to bring a huge pot of water to a boil for the pasta of your choice.

I tossed this sauce with an entire pound of linguine, topped with fresh basil, and served it with some crusty bread and the rest of the Chianti. A bowl of this is warm-your-whole-body spicy and just what you want to eat on nights that get dark at 4 p.m. Making this recipe from start to finish fulfilled my wildest dreams of the perfect Friday night in, and if I could do it all over again I would. And I will!


Arrabbiata Sauce

This spicy sauce has a stunning amount of garlic in it but don’t worry; the flavor mellows as it cooks.

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


  • 2/3 cup

    good olive oil

  • 1 cup

    whole peeled garlic cloves (2 to 3 heads of garlic)

  • 2 (28-ounce) cans

    whole peeled Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, drained

  • 2 teaspoons

    whole fennel seeds, chopped

  • 1 teaspoon

    crushed red pepper flakes

  • 1/3 cup

    dry Italian red wine, such as Chianti

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/4 cup

    julienned fresh basil leaves


  1. In a medium (10 to 11-inch) pot or Dutch oven, such as Le Creuset, warm the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the garlic has softened and is lightly browned. Watch it closely so it doesn’t burn.

  2. Meanwhile, place the tomatoes in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until roughly chopped. With a slotted spoon, transfer the garlic to the food processor and pulse again just to chop the garlic.

  3. Pour the tomato mixture into the pot with the oil; add the fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, wine, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the basil and taste for seasonings.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: Prepare the arrabbiata sauce and store it covered in the fridge for up to a week.

Recipe courtesy of MODERN COMFORT FOOD. Copyright © 2020 by Ina Garten. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

At Kitchn, our editors develop and debut brand-new recipes on the site every single week. But at home, we also have our own tried-and-true dishes that we make over and over again — because quite simply? We love them.Kitchn Love Lettersis a series that shares our favorite, over-and-over recipes.

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Ina’s Arrabbiata Sauce Is the Perfect Pandemic Pantry Recipe (2024)


Ina’s Arrabbiata Sauce Is the Perfect Pandemic Pantry Recipe? ›

Arrabbiata sauce, AKA sugo all'arrabbiata, is a traditional sauce made from San Marzano tomato paste, garlic, and dried red chili peppers, all cooked to perfection in extra virgin olive oil.

What is all arrabbiata sauce made of? ›

Arrabbiata sauce, AKA sugo all'arrabbiata, is a traditional sauce made from San Marzano tomato paste, garlic, and dried red chili peppers, all cooked to perfection in extra virgin olive oil.

What is the literal translation of arrabbiata a type of pasta sauce? ›

The literal translation from Italian is “angry sauce,” and that name comes from the heat in the sauce from the red pepper flakes.

What is the difference between arrabiata sauce and marinara sauce? ›

Both of these sauces are actually very similar, but the key difference between the two is spice level and sweetness. Arrabiata sauce is meant to be SPICY, while marinara sauce is a mild, sweeter sauce. Besides that key difference, the ingredients are nearly identical.

Why is it called arrabbiata? ›

Origin of the name

Arrabbiata literally means "angry" in Italian; in Romanesco dialect the adjective arabbiato denotes a characteristic (in this case spiciness) pushed to excess.

What does Rao's Arrabbiata sauce taste like? ›

Rao's Arrabbiata

It has all the rich, savory flavor of the marinara with a satisfying burst of heat on the back. It's more balanced than the other sauces on this list, too.

Which pasta goes with arrabiata? ›

Penne is a great shape for medium to heavy sauces such as amatriciana (tomato, bacon and chilli), pasta bake, arrabbiata (tomato, chilli and basil), sausage and cream, and beef ragu.

What does Arrabbiata sauce taste like? ›

The word arrabbiata is “angry” in Italian and references the chili peppers that give the sauce its distinctive flavor. The sauce uses a similar tomato base found in marinara sauce but it's loaded with cayenne chili peppers, often in the form of dried red pepper flakes that you might sprinkle on your pizza.

Is arrabbiata sauce very spicy? ›

My opinion is that arrabbiata has a far lighter spice level than most traditional hot sauces like Frank's Red Hot or Cholula. That's because the chili is not the focal point and is often dampened by the natural acids and sugars of the tomatoes, as well as aromatics like basil and oregano.

What is the taste of arrabiata sauce? ›

Taste of Italy

Arrabiata sauce or sugo all'arrabbiata in Italian is a spicy sauce also known as an angry sauce made from dried chilli pepper and fresh cloves of garlic. It is a native of the flavorful city of Rome.

What does arrabbiata taste like? ›

I am a lover of both marinara and arrabbiata! But they are both slightly different. These two sauces are both prepared with garlic, tomatoes, and fresh herbs. But marinara is sweeter in flavor versus arrabbiata which is meant to be spicier in flavor by using red pepper flakes in the sauce.

What's the difference between puttanesca and arrabiata sauce? ›

Like Puttanesca, Arrabiata Sauce is made with tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, garlic and hot chili pepper flakes. The difference is in the olives and anchovies, which add another dimension to Puttanesca pasta sauce.

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