(a.k.a. ANGRY BIRDS) I got an email a while back from a reader who wanted to know how to make arrabbiata sauce, so I set out to find out how to do so. I found that it’s actually pretty much the same as the red sauce in my Spicy Tomato & Shrimp Pasta, which is super easy and delish. The concept is simple: tomatoes + garlic + spicy red peppers = YUM. I wanted to do a chicken version to give the sauce more flavor and depth, but I also can’t wait to try a vegetarian version with sautéed eggplant.
What is Arrabbiata Sauce?
Arrabbiata is a spicy red Italian sauce, usually served with pasta. I decided to serve my arrabbiata sauce with chicken, which definitely isn’t traditional, but when a sauce is this good you kind of want to put it on everything. Arrabbiata translates to “angry,” so this is angry chicken… or angry birds! Ha! Anyway, I digress. If you want to check out an authentic arrabbiata sauce, take a look at this authentic arrabbiata sauce recipe from Ciao Florentina.
What Kind of Chicken Should You Use?
I used bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, but you could probably use chicken breasts instead (they will provide slightly less depth of flavor than the bone-in kind, but still be yum). If using breasts, I would suggest pounding them out which will make this whole dish cook much faster. The bone-in thighs that I used require more cooking time because they are thick and take longer to heat through.
So, let’s play some angry birds, shall we?
- 2 Tbsp olive oil ($0.32)
- 6 bone-in chicken thighs (about 2.5 lbs. total) ($3.99)
- 1 pinch salt and pepper ($0.05)
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour ($0.08)
- 4 cloves garlic ($0.32)
- 1 15oz. can diced tomatoes ($0.69)
- 1 15oz. can crushed tomatoes ($0.69)
- 1/2 tsp dried basil ($0.05)
- 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper ($0.03)
- 1/2 cup chicken broth ($0.07)
- 1 handful fresh parsley (optional) ($0.14)
- 12 oz. pasta for serving ($1.41)
- Season the chicken thighs with a pinch of salt and pepper, then dredge each piece in flour until they are lightly coated.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot (it will sizzle if a pinch of flour is dropped into the oil), add the chicken. Brown the chicken on both sides (5-7 minutes each side), then remove the chicken from the skillet. While the chicken is browning, mince the garlic.
- After the chicken is removed from the skillet, add the minced garlic and sauté briefly (1-2 minutes, or just until the garlic is soft, but not brown). Add both cans of tomatoes with juices, basil, crushed red pepper, and chicken broth to the skillet. Stir to combine.
- Return the chicken to the skillet with the sauce, and spoon some sauce over top of each piece. Allow the sauce to come up to a simmer. Simmer the chicken in the sauce for 30 minutes, turning the chicken over half way through to make sure both sides receive adequate heat.
- Serve the chicken and sauce over cooked pasta and garnish with roughly chopped parsley.
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Step by Step Photos
I made six chicken thighs, which may have been a bit ambitious. I had to use my largest skillet. If you don’t have a skillet large enough to hold six chicken thighs at once, just make four, but keep the sauce ingredients the same. This type of skillet would be great for this dish.
Season each piece of chicken with a little salt and pepper, then dip the chicken into a shallow bowl of flour to coat it lightly. The light coating of flour will caramelize in the skillet and give a lot of flavor to the sauce and help keep it thick and rich.
Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the chicken. You can test to see if the oil is hot enough by dropping a pinch of the flour into the skillet. If it sizzles, it’s ready. Brown the chicken on both sides (5-7 minutes on each side). If the chicken sticks to the bottom of the skillet, it’s okay. When it gets to the right stage of “brown” it usually loosens and releases from the skillet. If little pieces stick, it’s okay because that will just add more flavor to the sauce. After the chicken is browned, remove it from the skillet onto a clean plate.
While the chicken is browning, mince four cloves of garlic. After the chicken is browned and removed from the skillet, add the minced garlic, and sauté it just for a minute or so to soften it up.
Next, add the two cans of tomatoes. I used one can of crushed and one can of diced for a little more texture. Crushed tomatoes are fairly smooth in texture (not quite as smooth as sauce, but no large chunks).
Also add 1/2 tsp dried basil, 1/4 tsp (or more) of crushed red pepper, and a half cup of chicken broth. I only added the chicken broth because I knew the sauce would be simmering for a while and it would need just a touch more moisture to keep from drying up too much. If you don’t have chicken broth, don’t fret. You can use water or even white wine if you have it (I used Better Than Bouillon brand broth base to mix up just 1/2 cup).
After you stir the sauce together, add the chicken back to the skillet and spoon some sauce over top. Let the sauce come up to a simmer. Simmer the chicken in the sauce for about 30 minutes, flipping the chicken half way through. If you have a lid for your skillet, you can probably cook for a shorter amount of time and not have to flip the chicken because the heat will be well contained in the skillet and come from all sides. You probably also will not need that extra 1/2 cup of liquid/broth.
When it’s finished, the sauce will be thick and rich (I couldn’t stop eating the sauce off the spoon!). You can garnish with a handful of chopped parsley, if desired.
This can be served over pasta or rice – anything to soak up that wonderful, angry, sauce!