Pasta Arrabiata is a delicious, classic combination of pasta and bacon with fiery hot red pepper flakes and bright fresh basil. This spicy sauce is perfect when topped with Parmesan cheese and served with bread and a salad. Best of all? You can have this mouthwatering dinner on the table in under 30 minutes.
Pasta Arrabiata…it’s one of BeeBop’s all-time favorites. And, really, what could be bad about a recipe that starts with frying up some bacon!
I’ve been cooking this recipe for more than 25 years and while it may not be truly authentic, it’s darned good. One word of advice: don’t even think about making this dish with dried basil. I’ve tried it. It just doesn’t work.
The following is how I make this simple recipe for the two of us. You could easily double it to serve more, but this really is enough for two adults and two children. Also, if your family doesn’t enjoy spicy food, go lighter on the red pepper flakes. You can always pass it at the table for those who really like it hot!
🥘 About the Ingredients
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- Bacon – My favorite brand of bacon is Smithfield. I suggest the thick cut type for this recipe.
- Onion – Just a regular old yellow onion works every time.
- Garlic Cloves – It would hardly be an Italian pasta sauce with garlic, now would it?
- Diced Tomatoes (with their juice) – Feel free to use any type of tomatoes that you like. I use canned, diced tomatoes for convenience. Fresh tomatoes or canned whole plum tomatoes are also great. You could even use your own home grown canned tomatoes!
- Fresh Basil – For the best flavor and appearance, cut the basil into chiffonade. To create a chiffonade, stack the fresh basil leaves on top of each other and roll them up like a cigar. Use a very sharp knife to cut the roll crosswise into fine shreds.
- Penne Pasta – I prefer penne, but any tube shaped pasta works.
- Crushed Red Pepper Flakes – Also called “chili flakes.” Start with 1/4 teaspoon as suggested in the recipe and adjust according to your taste.
- Salt and Ground Black Pepper
You’ll find detailed measurements for all ingredients in the printable version of the recipe at the bottom of this post.
🔪 How to Make Pasta Arrabiata
Cook the Pasta
Go ahead and start a pot of water for your pasta and cook it according to the package instructions. If the pasta is done before you finish the sauce, remove it from the heat and hold it until the end.
Prep and Cook the Bacon
Slice the bacon crosswise into about 1/4″ pieces. Cook the bacon in a large, deep frying pan over medium to medium-high heat until brown but not too crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain all but about 1 tablespoon of the bacon drippings from the pan. Set aside the bacon for later.
Cook the Onions and Garlic
Add the onions and garlic to the bacon fat in the skillet and saute a few minutes until the onion is wilted.
Add the Tomatoes
Add the tomatoes with their juices to the onions and garlic in the skillet. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes until the sauce has reduced and the tomatoes have cooked down but are still chunky. If the sauce gets too thick, add a little of the pasta cooking water to keep it going.
Add the Seasonings
Add salt and black pepper to taste. Add the crushed red pepper flakes along with the reserved cooked bacon.
Stir in the fresh basil.
About the Fresh Basil
As I said before, I never use dried basil in this recipe. It just isn’t the same. Sorry. Every summer I grow lots of fresh herbs and I always seem to have more basil than I can use. So, I chop it up, pack it into ice cube trays, pour water in to cover, and freeze. When it’s frozen solid, pop it out of the trays and into a plastic bag to keep in the freezer.
The freezing does not seem to change the taste at all and it’s so convenient to have on hand. When you’re cooking something that needs a little fresh basil, like this sauce, pop one of those cubes right in. Yum
Add the Pasta
Drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the sauce. Stir well to coat the pasta with the sauce.
Top servings with grated Parmesan and a little more crushed red pepper if you like.
🍚 Storage and Reheating
Keep any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days. Reheat individual portions in the microwave or over very low heat on the stovetop.
This recipe also freezes well. To freeze, add the completely cooled arrabiata to a freezer container eliminating as much air as possible. Freeze for up to two months. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.
❓ Questions About Arrabiata
The word arrabiata means ‘angry’ and is a reference to the red pepper flakes in the sauce.
Both arrabiata and marinara sauces are classics of Italian cuisine and are prepared with many of the same ingredients. However, marinara tends to have a somewhat sweeter flavor profile where arrabiata is meant to be spicy.
Absolutely! If you’d like a vegetarian version of my arrabiata sauce, simply leave out the bacon and use a little extra virgin olive oil to saute the onions and garlic. As I said in the post, this may not be a truly authentic arrabiata recipe, but it’s totally delicious!
Have you tried this recipe? I’d really appreciate you giving it a star ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating in the recipe card or in the comments section.
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- 4 slices bacon
- ½ large onion roughly chopped
- 2 cloves garlic crushed and chopped
- 29 ounces canned diced tomatoes in juice
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- salt and black pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil cut in chiffonade
- ½ pound short cut pasta penne, corkscrews, ziti
- Cook the pasta according to the package directions.
- While the pasta is cooking, slice the bacon crosswise into about 1/4" pieces.
- Cook the bacon in a large, deep frying pan over medium heat until brown but not too crisp.
- Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain all but about 1 tablespoon of the bacon drippings from the pan.
- Set aside the bacon for later.
- Saute the onions and garlic in the remaining bacon drippings for a few minutes until the onion is wilted.
- Add the tomatoes.
- Cook for 10 to 15 minutes until the sauce is reduced and the tomatoes have cooked down but are still chunky. If the sauce gets too thick, add a little of the pasta cooking water to keep it going.
- Add salt and black pepper to taste.
- Add crushed red pepper flakes.
- Just before you're ready to serve, add the cooked bacon back into the sauce.
- Stir in the fresh basil.
- Drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the sauce.
- Stir well to coat the pasta with the sauce.
- Top servings with grated Parmesan and a little more crushed red pepper if you like.
- Keep any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days. Reheat individual portions in the microwave or over very low heat on the stovetop.
- This recipe also freezes well. To freeze, add the completely cooled arrabiata to a freezer container eliminating as much air as possible. Freeze for up to two months. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.
Nutrition information is calculated by software based on the ingredients in each recipe. It is an estimate only and is provided for informational purposes. You should consult your health care provider or a registered dietitian if precise nutrition calculations are needed for health reasons.