HDL COOKS: Chicken Arrabbiata Pasta

Chicken Arrabbiata Pasta

I promise that one of these days I’ll do a recipe for something that’s not pasta. Maybe.

It’s just that I love pasta so much (well, most pasta anyway – don’t get me started on spaghetti). It’s quick, cheap, versatile, and most importantly, it’s delicious. I’d happily kiss the person who first thought that boiling strips of dough was a good idea. They really changed the game.

If there’s one thing I enjoy more than I enjoy pasta, it’s spicy food. I have been known to add hot sauce or crushed chillies to just about everything, from eggs to shepherd’s pie, and I am of the firm belief that adding a little heat is almost always an improvement.

That’s why, when I saw that all we had in our cupboard one evening last week was dried rigatoni, I decided to do something a little different to my simple staple pasta sauce and, quite literally, spice it up.

Arrabbiata means ‘angry’ in Italian, which I think is adorable, because it makes me envisage a tiny little red man thumping his fists on the side of a plate and stomping around the dinner table in a huff. What I love about this recipe is the sweetness that manages to perfectly offset the spice. It has a balance to it that means you’re not just getting punched in the mouth with the angriness of the chillies, but soothed with the mouthful of tangy red pepper and tomato.

Also, the ingredients couldn’t be simpler. I am not usually one to try and simplify recipes very much, because I enjoy the depth that many extra ingredients can add, but I also recognise that when the flavours you’re working with are so unsubtle, it’s important to stand back and let them take centre stage.

Chicken Arrabbiata Pasta (Serves 4)

– 500g chicken, cut into bitesize pieces 
– 5 large tomatoes on the vine, chopped or blended
– 2 red peppers, chopped
– 1 red onion, sliced
– 5 cloves garlic, crushed
– 2 red chillies, chopped
– 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
– 1 tbsp sugar
– handful fresh basil
– 300g dried rigatoni pasta – you can use penne if you prefer
– garlic bread, to serve

1. In a saucepan or frying pan, cook your chicken in a tiny bit of oil until cooked and golden. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
2. Put your pasta on to cook in well-salted water that’s on a rolling boil – follow cooking instructions on the packet or do what I do and throw the instructions away, cook until the pasta is almost how you like it (I enjoy a pretty firm bite to my pasta), and drain. The residual heat from the sauce will cook the rest of it!
3. Make your sauce while your pasta is cooking. Sauté your onions until aromatic (around a minute and a half for red onions), and add your garlic and chillies. Cook for around a minute before adding the tomatoes, sugar, balsamic vinegar and red peppers. Allow this to reduce, add chillies and seasoning to taste.
4. Add your chicken and pasta to the sauce and mix thoroughly. Toss in a handful of torn basil and serve with garlic bread and your favourite Italian wine.

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