His solution? Dip it in spicy red sauce (Arrabbiata.)
I didn’t have any jarred sauce of that type around, so I set to work. After consulting a number of Arrabbiata recipes, I made my own version. With only five ingredients plus salt and black pepper, mine is simple and easy to prepare. Delicious too.
Although I intended it originally as a dipping sauce, it became pasta sauce (with a few meatballs from the freezer) when we had leftovers.
Use it anyway you like. If you’re like us, you’ll find lots of tempting ways to add spicy red sauce to dishes you already make or have planned.
This sauce will last for about a week, well covered in the refrigerator. You can freeze it too.
Tips for Making Spicy Red Sauce (Arrabbiata)
- Use whole or crushed canned tomatoes. Diced tomatoes and sauce are not right for this recipe. If you use whole canned tomatoes, you will need to break them up with a spoon after you add them to the sauce. They take a bit longer to cook down than crushed tomatoes, but the flavor is purer. I was looking for the quickest option, so I chose crushed tomatoes for this batch. For the different types of canned tomatoes and their uses, I found this article helpful. This one is good too.
- A bit of carrot is essential. I learned this tip from Marcella Hazan. Some cooks use sugar to sweeten tomato sauce, but that isn’t necessary if you use carrot. Mice the carrot (or piece of carrot if the carrot is large) and let it disappear into the sauce as the sauce slowly cooks.
- To let other flavors shine through, slice or mash your garlic. Minced garlic is stronger and more pungent than smashed or sliced garlic. I prefer the subtler taste smashed or sliced imparts.
- The “right” amount of spiciness is what your taste buds tell you. No one but you can decide how much red pepper is the right amount. This sauce does not contain raw eggs or flour, so taste away, and let your taste buds be your guide. Remember, start with a little and add more. You can always add spiciness, but once you’ve gone overboard, it’s difficult to dial it back. I added a pinch of Aleppo pepper, for the complex, slightly spicy flavor it imparts. But no worries if you don’t have it or prefer a “straight” red sauce.
- Cook it long and slow. The best way to get great flavors and texture in this sauce is to cook it long and slow. that means keeping it at the lowest possible simmer, never letting it get to a boil.
Spicy Red Sauce (Arrabbiata)
This easy version of spicy red sauce is cooked low and slow. Use as much (or as little) red pepper as you like. Control the spiciness and make it to your tastebuds.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1-2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes Start with a little and add more after tasting.
- 1-2 pinches Aleppo pepper Optional. See note below
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced 5 oz/143 g
- 1 small carrot, diced/minced 3 oz/90 g
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced or crushed See note below.
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (or canned whole tomatoes)
- 1/2 - 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in the deep pan or pot. Add the crushed red pepper and Aleppo pepper if using. Sauté the pepper in the oil on medium heat for 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the diced onion and continue stirring, cooking for 5-7 minutes until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and continue cooking for another minute.
Add the crushed or canned tomatoes and bring to a low simmer. (If you use whole tomatoes, break them up with a spoon after adding them.) Continue cooking for about 30 minutes, trying to keep the temperature such that the sauce looks like it is burping in the middle, rather than a strong simmer with lots of bubbles around the edges of the pot. After about 20 minutes, add in the salt and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your taste. Continue cooking until the sauce is nice and thick. You can always thin it out if desired with hot pasta water or a bit of red wine.
Aleppo pepper has some heat, but it is better known for its fruity and earthy flavor.
I prefer my garlic subtle rather than harsh, so I slice it or smash the clove, leaving it whole and if it remains intact, fishing it out when the sauce is cooked. If you like "in your face" garlic taste, feel free to mince it.