Every time I visit Italy I come back with another version of this spicy Italian pasta sauce.  I have so many versions that the echoes of each Italian swearing their version was the version seem funny. If only because in some cases the different versions came from adjacent restaurants in Rome. Viva la discrepancy!

I took the most appealing ingredients and proportions and came up with my version, which I’ve always liked but recently a local chef gave me a different preparation. The ingredients are the same however the pasta is pre-treated with a lemon mixture before adding the sauce.

Arra-3_Fotor Arra-1

Lemon Pre-Treatment

  • 1/4 C Chicken Stock
  • 3 T Parsley, chopped
  • 2 T Olive Oil
  • 2 T Lemon Juice
  • 1 t Lemon Zest
  • 1 t Red Chili Flakes
  • 1 t Ground Black Pepper

Whisk together, set aside


  • 28 Oz Chopped Tomatoes
  • 1 Purple Onion, chopped
  • 5 Cloves Garlic, chopped
  • 4 Oz Pancetta, chopped
  • 2 T Olive Oil
  • 1 t Salt
  • 2 t Red Chili Flakes
  • 2 t Ground Black Pepper
  • 16 Oz Pasta (I used Fusili)

Arra-4In a large pan over medium heat, add pancetta and cook until fat is extracted. Remove the pancetta and set aside. Add olive oil and turn heat up to medium high. Add onion and saute for 5-7 minutes or until golden. Add garlic, sautee for 1 minute. Add dry spices, saute for 1 minute. Add tomatoes and reserved pancetta stir, reduce heat to low then cook for 10-15 minutes or until desired consistency.

Boil up some pasta in a pot until its al dente. When its done drain, then return to the pot over low heat. Immediately stir in the lemon pre-treatment. Stir a few times then remove from heat. Let sit for a few minutes for the lemon mixture to absorb.

Add arribiatta sauce to pasta, stir to coat. Garnish with chopped parsley and grated cheese.


What I noticed by omitting the lemon from the arrabiatta sauce but adding it to a pasta pre treatment was this – the flavours are more textured. I’ll explain – first you taste the smoky heat imparted by the pancetta and hot pepper flakes. Then a mid palate acidity from the tomato. Afterwards a distinct bright lemon flavour bursts through. Maybe only a foodie can appreciate the difference but in the future I’ll be preparing my arrabiatta this way.

My taster and I had 3 small sample bowls,  each with a different cheese. The winner from the lot was a Smoked Provolone which beat out Parmesan and Asiago. The Parmesan was too strong and drowned out the lemon undercurrents in the pasta. The Asiago was too subtle, its nutty flavours overwhelmed by the red chili heat.

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