Penne Arrabiata translates to Angry Penne, which is an apt name for this spicy pasta dish. My father didn’t typically put too much spice into his cooking, but this was one exception. If people wanted the pasta angry they got it angry! If you look at and try different people’s versions of Penne Arrabiata, you might notice some subtle differences. The consistent components are tomatoes some kind of hot pepper, however, when it comes to aromatics a lot of people use garlic, while I prefer onion. I think the sweetness of the onion counteracts the spice somewhat, making for a nice combination.
I had some guanciale that I picked up at Fairway recently and I added it, because lets face it, guanciale makes everything better. It’s totally optional though, you can exclude it completely or use pancetta if you want to get some cured pork goodness into the dish. As far as the heat goes, I used some little calabrian chili peppers, but you can also use red pepper flakes or some small dried chiles. Also, feel free to adjust the spiciness to your own personal preference.
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ⅛ pound of guanciale, chopped
- 3-4 small hot peppers such as calabrian, chopped or 1 tablespoon of hot red pepper flakes
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 1 28 ounce can of imported Italian tomatoes, preferably San Marzano (look for the DOP)
- salt to taste
- 1 pound penne pasta
- freshly grated pecorino-romano cheese for serving
- Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat.
- Add the guanciale and cook, stirring, until the fat starts to render and the guanciale is lightly browned.
- Stir in the hot pepper and cook for about 1 minute, then add the onions and cook, until they are soft and translucent, about 8 minutes.
- Using your hands crush the tomatoes in a bowl, and then add them to the pan. Fill the empty tomato can about halfway with water and pour the water in with the tomatoes, season with salt to taste and stir.
- When the tomatoes come to a boil, turn the heat down to a simmer and let the sauce cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened about 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile bring a pot of generously salted water to a boil and add the pasta, cook until al dente.
- Drain the pasta, add it back into the pot and stir in enough of the sauce to coat the penne well.
- Dish the penne out into serving dishes, top with a little more sauce and serve with freshly grated pecorino-romano for sprinkling on the pasta.
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