The Speckled Palate
July 25, 2012

Penne Arrabbiata

It should come as no surprise to y’all that, as a runner, I’m a big fan of carbs. However, it will come as a surprise when I say I hardly ever eat pasta.

I know.

Pasta equals a special occasion in my book, which means I’ll go visit one of my favorite Italian restaurants if a pastafest is in order. It’s been this way ever since I came back from Italy and discovered, sadly, that I couldn’t emulate the dishes I loved the most while living in my little Etruscan town.

Don’t get me wrong; I love pasta, and I know how to cook certain dishes with relative ease. I’ll make my mom’s spaghetti and meatballs every other month. I’ll also whip up lasagna for a special dinner with friends. But pasta on a weeknight? It just never happens.

So when my Rouge-Orleans teammate, Katie, lent me her copy of The Athlete’s Palate Cookbook in preparation for our race back in February, I was intrigued by this particular recipe and knew I had to make this dish, which promised sweet, spicy tomato sauce over your favorite kind of noodle.

And let me tell y’all, it didn’t disappoint. This recipe was perfect for carbing up for the ridiculous relay.

Check it out:

How to make Grace Parisi's Penne Arrabbiata, from The Athlete's Palate Cookbook.

Servings 4
Author Adapted by Erin @ The Speckled Palate from Grace Parisi, The Athlete's Palate Cookbook


  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces bacon , finely diced
  • 1/2 small onion , minced
  • 1 clove garlic , minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 28 ounces fresh roma tomatoes , diced (Her recipe calls for canned)
  • Pinch of granulated sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 12 ounces penne pasta


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the bacon, onion and garlic. Cook until the bacon just begins to turn pink and the onion is golden, then add the crushed red pepper flakes. Cook until the bacon starts to brown.
  3. Add the tomatoes with their juices and sugar. Season them with salt and pepper, then bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the sauce has thickened.
  5. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted water until it's al dente. Drain and return the pasta to the pot.
  6. Once the sauce has thickened, add half the pasta to the sauce and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
  7. Spoon the penne into bowls, serving the remaining sauce and sprinkling cheese over top.

Here are my thoughts:

Was this recipe simple to make? Definitely. It took a little time, but it was worth it. And, since it feeds 4, I got several meals out of it.

Would I make this again? Yes.

Other thoughts/ideas about the recipe? I would consider making this again with some fresh homegrown tomatoes. If I didn’t have those, I’d stick with the canned tomatoes. While the recipe turned out tasty, I felt it was missing something, and I think that something was the freshness that homegrown tomatoes embody.

What meal signifies a special occasion to you? Cake? Pasta? Something else? I’d love to know!


  1. Alli

    Looks yummy. I love simple pastas like this.

    • Erin

      I completely agree. There’s something freeing in a simple dish like this one, and it definitely packs a punch with the heat! … Or maybe I’m just a wimp…

  2. Jessica

    That looks amazing. I love that it uses fresh tomatoes and not a ton of sauce. The lightness of that is so refreshing.

  3. Heather Luczak

    I love that it doesn’t use sauce! Pasta is special occasion food in my house too, usually because I have a hard time seeing it as a healthy option with all the sauce that usually goes with it to give it some flavor, but I think I could do this one!

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