FOOD! Cheat’s “arrabiata” sauce

I think this post is sponsored by the rage I felt at seeing a bottle of Dolmio on sale at a WH Smith’s at the local hospital for a whopping £2.99. Why do people buy this stuff? It’s awful and doesn’t taste like any of the ingredients that are purported to be in it. Apologies if you very much enjoy a ‘Dolmio Day’ but any pre-made sauce, of any brand or supermarket origin, just feels like a waste because it’s very easy to make your own sauce.

So this is my fall-back sauce. I very much enjoy whipping up my bolognaise, a Nigella spaghetti with lemon and garlic breadcrumbs, or a walnut and parsley pesto, but when I’m hungover and/or starving, this “arrabiata” hits the spot.

An arrabiata is a tomato and chilli sauce, which this definitely is, but without any of the skill that it probably should be made with. But then again it’s very simple, and I’ve whipped it up several times when my head should be firmly on a pillow in a darkened room. Add a few more fancy ingredients and extra cooking time and this could probably be a dinner party dish….. or, y’know, a Tuesday lunch when working from home. Whatevs.

Anyway, you need the stuff below.

Extra virgin olive oil; chillies; white onion; garlic; tin of chopped toms
Extra virgin olive oil; chillies; white onion; garlic; tin of chopped toms

These are store cupboard essentials for me. If you don’t have fresh chillies then crushed chilli flakes will serve you just as well. I sometimes add some for an extra kick anyway.

Crushed chilli flakes
Crushed chilli flakes

The one thing you definitely need is a food processor. This is the key ingredient, so-to-speak, of this sauce because it excludes the need for proper chopping and produces a smooth-ish sauce. A stick blender would probably assist and achieve a similar effect but you would need to chop the veg much finer.


Speaking of which, the chopping is very easy. Top and tail the onion, remove the skin and then chop into rough wedges. Top and tail the garlic and peel, then remove the stalks from the chillies and cut each in half. I use two red chillies but if you wanted an element of freshness then a green one would probably be tasty. Go mad if you dare! Just bear in the mind that the heat comes from the seeds of the chilli, which I don’t remove. If you’re chillis are small then you might want to think about removing the seeds but this is supposed to be a hot sauce.


Pour the chopped toms into the processor and start whizzing on a slow speed. Now add the veg using the feeder at the top and carry on whizzing until you have a slightly bitty looking sauce.


To cook the sauce, add a glug (roughly a tablespoon) of extra virgin olive oil to a pan – I use a frying pan just for a larger surface area so the sauce reduces slightly – heat the oil and add the sauce. A decent oil is good in this case because it’s going to contribute to the flavour as opposed to being just for frying purposes, so I use my supremely poncy organic Palestinian olive oil from Whole Foods. Oooooh, pretentious and pricey! But also tasty!

Morals taste good!
Morals taste good!

Now it’s just a case of heating the sauce through. I like it to thicken so just keep it on a low heat until I can see where the level has lowered on the side of the pan. Or until my pasta is ready. The point is that it doesn’t need to cook per se so keep an eye on it and don’t have the heat too high. Feel free to season to taste.

I like this with white pasta spaghetti. I cook the pasta in a big pan, drain, pour back in the pan and then pour in the sauce to combine (you should always add pasta to sauce, not the other way around – Ed/Loz). Oh yeah, that’s the stuff right there.


Dinner/lunch/tea/supper/snack is served. My lunch today was particularly satisfying with a sneaky can of diet cola and some sautéed kale to up my iron intake and relieve some of the carb guilt.


Do let me know if you attempt this and how you fare – I would love to see snaps and your modifications. Samples of your own cheat’s arrabiata are always gratefully received!



Category: Life