Arrabiata Pasta with Shrimp

5 from 97 votes

Pasta Arrabiata is a traditional Italian spicy tomato-based sauce pasta made with garlic, tomatoes and chili peppers, try it with shrimp!

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When you are in need for a quick and easy weeknight meal, pasta is always a good option. This Arrabiata Pasta with Shrimp recipe is ready in less than half an hour and is packed full of flavor. Made with penne pasta and shrimp that is cooked in a delicious garlic sauce that the whole family will love.

Arrabiata pasta with shrimp in a small pasta bowl
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What arrabiata sauce?

Arrabiata is actually an Italian word that means “angry,” which is a reference to the spiciness of the sauce! The basic ingredients to make the spicy pasta sauce are garlic, tomatoes and dried red chili peppers and they are cooked in olive oil. It’s a rich and flavorful sauce for pasta and is quick and easy to make.

Ingredients to make the recipe

  • Pasta: Use any pasta of choice. Penne is really popular but it could work with any kind. Feel free to also use a gluten-free variety.
  • Olive oil: Opt for extra virgin olive oil for a deep peppery taste that works well with the arrabiata sauce.
  • Onions & garlic: These are the only aromatics needed for the recipe, and they add a lot of flavor to the tomato sauce.
  • Tomato sauce: Use canned tomato sauce for convenience. About 3 cups works well for the recipe, but feel free to use a little more or less. You can swap it for diced tomatoes or tomato paste thinned out with water.
  • Crushed red pepper: Traditionally, Arrabiata pasta should be with chili peppers. For convenience though, crushed red pepper flakes work really well.
  • Basil: This adds a hint of sweetness to the spicy sauce which complements it really well. For a more subtle herb taste, opt for parsley in this recipe.
Ingredients to make the recipe laid out on white background

How to make Arrabiata Pasta with Shrimp

  1. Cook the shrimp with salt, pepper and olive oil in a heated skillet.
  2. When the shrimp is opaque in color on both sides, remove the shrimp and set aside, but there’s no need to wipe the pan clean.
  3. Cook the onions and garlic with the remaining olive oil.
  4. Add the tomato sauce and basil on top.
  5. Simmer for 20 minutes until the sauce thickens and all the flavors are incorporated.
  6. Toss in the cooked pasta and stir to combine.
6 image collage to show how to make the recipe in one pan from the shrimp, to the sauce and finally adding in the pasta

Tips for making this recipe well

  1. Don’t overcook the shrimp. They cook quickly and only need 2-3 minutes on each side. If you over cook them, they can become tough and rubbery especially since you’ll be tossing them with the pasta.
  2. Salt the water you will be cooking the penne in generously. This will help to add flavor to the dish right from the start especially since we’re not adding any salt to the sauce.
  3. Use red chili peppers. For a truly authentic taste, use fresh peppers instead of crushed red pepper flakes. This makes the dish more spicy but delivers a robust flavor that’s worth it! Make sure to remove the seeds from the pepper though if you’re using them.
  4. Add sugar for a sweeter taste. Most restaurants add sugar to their pasta sauces to balance the acidity of the tomatoes and tomato sauce. Canned tomato sauce can be acidic but the basil helps to take off some of that edge. Feel free to add a teaspoon of any sugar you’d like though.

Frequently asked questions

What is the best pasta to use?

Penne is a one of the top favorite pasta types to use in arrabiata, but you can try any you like! It’s best to use pasta with a large surface area so that it captures all of the yummy arrabiata sauce.

What’s the difference between arrabiata and marinara?

Arrabiata and marinara are both tomato based sauces, but arrabiata has added chili for an extra spicy hit! And, arrabiata isn’t just for pasta, it’s great on meatballs or as a sauce to spread on your pizza base too!

Can you make it ahead of time?

Yes, you can cook up a big batch of the sauce and just grab it when you need a really quick weeknight meal. Once the sauce is cooked, let it cool and transfer it to an airtight container and store in the fridge and it will be good for about 4 to 5 days. The sauce also freezes well, just thaw it at room temperature and reheat on the stovetop.

Large stainless steel pan of pasta mixed with shrimp to show everything tossed together

This flavorful pasta arrabiata is such a tasty weeknight meal, and will be a hit with the whole family! The sauce is so flavorful, you would never think it wasn’t made with fresh tomatoes!

For more pasta recipes:

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Arrabiata Pasta with Shrimp

Pasta Arrabiata is a traditional Italian spicy tomato-based sauce pasta made with garlic, tomatoes and chili peppers, try it with shrimp!
5 from 97 votes
Servings 6 servings
Calories 235
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes


  • 8 ounces penne pasta
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil divided
  • 1 pound shrimp peeled and deveined
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 3 cups tomato sauce
  • ¼ cup fresh basil roughly chopped, plus more for serving


  • Cook the pasta in a pot of salted water according to package instructions until al dente. Drain, reserving ½ cup of the cooking pasta liquid.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp to the pan, season with salt and black pepper, and cook for 2-3 minutes per side until shrimp is opaque, transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  • Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in the same skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1-2 minutes.
  • Add the tomato sauce and basil and simmer on low for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens.
  • Transfer the cooked pasta on top of the sauce, and add some of the reserved cooking liquid, if desired. Serve with shrimp on top and extra basil, if desired.


Storage: Refrigerate any leftover pasta in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Make Ahead Suggestions: You can make the arrabiata pasta up to 4-5 days in advance and then just add freshly made pasta and warm through.
Freezing Instructions: You can make a big batch of the arrabiata pasta and freeze it for up to 3 months. It’s best to cook it without the shrimp for freezing and it will last for 3 months. 


Calories: 235kcal, Carbohydrates: 36g, Protein: 6g, Fat: 8g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 216mg, Potassium: 369mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 302IU, Vitamin C: 14mg, Calcium: 59mg, Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.

Cuisine Italian
Course: Main Course

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Recipe Rating


  1. This was an excellent recipe. The balance of the flavors are just perfect. Family loved it!!
    Thanks for sharing!

  2. I tried this and love it! I actually added some zucchini to the garlic/red pepper/sauce step for some extra veggies. And I used whole grain rotini. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Yay! So glad to hear that! And I love that you used whole grain rotini and added in the zucchini…sounds delicious with it!