penne arrabbiata – as mad as hell

by Michelle

penne arrabbiata

Penne Arrabbiata translated literally into English is angry penne. I prefer the translation ‘penne mad as hell’. My first forkful of this spicy classic was prepared in a little hole in the wall Italian takeout in Brooklyn. I tried to find a link for you but either they haven’t made the plunge into social media advertising or they’ve closed up shop. It was thirty years ago…

I was living in New York, teaching high impact advanced aerobic exercise classes and carbs were everbody’s friend. It was the best thing about the Eighty’s! Every Tuesday evening after classes, I would pick up some Italian take out then head home to watch Moonlighting. Cheap, delicious handmade food eaten while watching Bruce Willis on television. It was my favorite night of the week.

The takeout offered all the usual New York style Italian favorites like meatball heros, chicken parm heros, baked ziti, zeppolis. I loved them all but my favorite was the penne arribbiata – pronounced ah-raw-bee-aw-ta. I had no idea what it was the first time that I saw it on their menu board. The young still etched in my memory Italian waiter explained in his thick Brooklyn Italian accent that it was “macaroni with hot-as-hell red sauce – my matha makes it”.

How could I refuse?

penne arrabbiata


Serves 4

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
3 dried red chili, crushed
½ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
1-28 ounce tin chopped plum tomatoes in puree
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 lb dried penne

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat
Add garlic and chili and sauté for 30 seconds
Add tomatoes and basil then bring to a boil
Season with salt and pepper
Reduce heat and simmer until thick

Add cooked hot pasta
Toss, plate and serve with lots of grated Reggiano Parmigiano.

THE LOVE: You only have a few ingredients in this sauce so there is no room for error. Be careful not to burn the garlic!

penne arrabbiata

Thanks for reading.