This spicy tomato sauce pasta is guaranteed to kick up your pasta night to a new level. Classic aromatics, like onion and garlic, are slow cooked with a medley of spices (cayenne, smoked paprika, oregano and thyme) and tomato passata to achieve a deeply flavourful, spicy tomato sauce.
One that is balanced out with a dollop of crème fraîche and because I like meals with good-for-you ingredients, I have added baby spinach, roasted sweet potato and toasted almonds. The result, a delicious and satisfying meal.
A spicy alternative to arrabbiata sauce
I guess you could call this spicy marinara sauce an arrabbiata sauce, which in Italian describes the spiciness of the chili peppers. In this case, rather than fresh chilies or chili flakes, I use cayenne pepper, which is made from a moderately hot chili pepper. Slow cooking the tomato sauce mellows out it spiciness, and allows the tomato sauce to deepen in flavour and meld all the other elements of flavor. More olive oil is then added after the tomato sauce has slow-cooked and thickened, this adds that extra “pizzico” (or bite) to a sauce. The result is a rich, flavor-packed sauce, that can only be achieved by adding a little extra olive oil — a high-quality olive oil. So use the good stuff.
More than just for pasta
With this sauce you get a totally different depth of flavor than what you would get from just sprinkling some chili flakes on top. The result is downright delicious. As with any Italian marinara, this spicy arrabbiata-like sauce recipe is versatile and can be used for more than just pasta. You could even use it as a base for pizza. And if you aren’t cooking for four, then simply prepare the sauce, use what you need and store the rest in the fridge for later use!
How to adapt this spice tomato sauce pasta recipe
A spicy marinara sauce is a good base for many pasta dishes. You can enjoy it on it’s own as a simple tomato sauce pasta dish with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese or add some other elements, like grilled chicken or salmon, or roasted pumpkin (just like sweet potatoes, the sweetness compliments this rich and creamy sauce). Looking to make it vegan, then either skip the crème fraîche (also tastes great without) or add a little plant-based creamer.
Spicy Tomato Sauce Pasta
For the tomato sauce:
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt, plus more to taste
- 1 x 700 g jar organic pureed tomatoes (passata)
- 2 tablespoons crème fraîche
- freshly ground pepper, to taste
for the pasta (optional add-ins):
- 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced (300 g)
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 30 g slivered almonds, lightly toasted (1/4 cup)
- 100 g baby spinach
- 500 g dried pasta of choice
In a large pot, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat, add onions, and cook until soft, about 10 minutes.
Add the garlic, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, oregano, thyme and salt. Cook 1 minute, stirring, then add the pureed tomato. Cover, increase heat and bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium and let simmer, without the lid, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
NOTE: The sauce should simmer without spitting, reduce heat slightly, if needed.
The sauce should thicken and reduce somewhat after 20 minutes of slow-cooking. Stir in 3 tablespoons olive oil. Cook it on simmer for another 10 minutes, then stir in the crème fraîche. Season with pepper and more salt, to taste.
As the sauce cooks, prepare the roasted sweet potato. Preheat the oven to 425°F / 220°C and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Toss the sweet potato in 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange in an even layer and roast for 25 minutes, tossing half way through.
Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente, then drain, reserving 1 cup (250 ml) of the pasta cooking water and return the pasta to the pot.
To finish the pasta sauce, stir in the baby spinach, adding a little pasta water to thin, if desired. Stir in the sweet potato and then transfer the sauce to the pot with the cooked pasta. Stir to combine, adding a little more pasta water, if desired.
Serve into bowls, top it with some roasted almonds, (plus parmesan cheese, if desired) and enjoy!
- Make it vegan: skip the crème fraîche or trade it out for a plant-based cream alternative.
- I recommend my favourite allrounder olive oil for this recipe. It’s fantastic for cooking, roasted and for making salad dressings.
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