Shrimp arrabbiata packs amazing spicy flavor from the addition of Italian cherry peppers.
That cherry pepper heat is what makes the dish so distinctive.
I want to add right from the beginning that I will be making this arrabbiata sauce the way it’s made in my home of Long Island, NY. Here in the land of a thousand Italian restaurants most of them make it with cherry peppers. La Parma, Piccola Bussola, Mannino’s and Matteos are a few of the places where it’s done this way.
Lidia Bastianich who is basically the Queen of Italian-American cuisine in the NY metro makes it very similar to the way I will show you. She uses pancetta as well in her Salsa Arrabbiata Recipe.
I also have a similar Shrimp Fra Diavolo Recipe. In that one I use crushed red chilis as the heat source and of course brandy and/or lemon can be used for the acid in that dish. Again, I mostly make Italian-American cuisine, not necessarily the cuisine of Italy.
Anyway, Let’s Get To Why Arrabbiata Sauce Is So Good…
It’s all about the pickled cherry peppers and their vinegar. Many restaurants will fry calamari and quickly toss them in this spicy sauce. The sauce is made with a lot of tomato paste, garlic and cherry peppers. The thick vinegary sauce is so good when tossed with the calamari.
But, for this shrimp recipe, there will be no frying as I feel the results are still amazing and way easier forgoing that step. A quick saute of the shrimp and a toss with the sauce is all that’s required. This whole recipe can be made in under 30 minutes. I timed myself the other night!
A Note About Pickled Cherry Peppers:
There’s 2 options I recommend when making this shrimp or prawn arrabbiata.
Hot or sweet cherry peppers: I use the Cento brand of hot pickled cherry peppers and they are quite spicy. The sweet ones, as noted on the jar, will not be nearly as spicy but still have the exact same vinegary delicious taste.
I do not recommend Trader Joe’s cherry peppers as they are in a sugar syrup and taste nothing like the distinct standard pickled cherry peppers. They are still delicious, but not the right ingredient for this dish.
When I lived in Minnesota I did not have access to the many brands of Italian ingredients that I now have again after returning to New York. Mezzetta was carried in most Minnesota grocery stores and were my primary go-to Italian brand. Mezzetta should be available in many parts of America.
Easy Shrimp Arrabbiata Ingredients:
- 1 pound extra large shrimp – The Costco 21-25 cleaned, tail on, are a great size for this dish, but any large shrimp will do.
- One 28 ounce can San Marzano plum tomatoes – One can will be more than enough. In fact, enough sauce will be left over for about ½ pound of pasta.
- 6 ounce can tomato paste – I love the Costco tomato paste 12 pack. It’s a great value!
- 10 cloves garlic – Chopped in half. I love a ton of garlic in this dish.
- 2 hot pickled cherry peppers – 2 is a great starting point.
- 1 Tbsp cherry pepper vinegar
- 6 Tbsp olive oil
- 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil – for finishing
- salt, pepper, chili flakes, dried oregano
- ½ tsp baking soda – Very important to keep the shrimp nice and plump.
- fresh basil – for finishing
Arrabbiata Sauce Step By Step Instructions:
- Picture of San Marzano tomatoes, tomato paste, pickled cherry peppers, garlic, basil and crushed red pepper.
- Pat the thawed shrimp dry and place in a bowl with the ½ tsp baking soda, ¼ tsp crushed pepper flakes, and ½ tsp kosher salt. Mix to coat.
- Chop the cherry peppers into smaller pieces – about 8 pieces per pepper. Chop the garlic in half – I prefer the pieces of garlic left larger in this recipe.
- Place the San Marzano tomatoes into a glass bowl and break with hands in the sink. Use one hand to shield the splatter and the other to squeeze the tomatoes. The tomatoes could also be pulsed gently in a blender.
- Heat ¼ cup of olive oil in sauce pan over medium heat and saute the garlic until golden. Get the garlic right to the browning point to impart so much flavor! If it seems like it will burn, take the pan off the heat – go slow and if necessary, saute at lower heat. This will only take 3 minutes or so but is a crucial step and makes the garlic so delicious when eaten whole.
- Add the pickled cherry peppers and the 1 Tbsp of vinegar. Saute for 1-2 minutes.
- Add the paste and saute for 5 minutes. Turn the heat to medium-low.
- The paste will start to break down and you will have a red oily mixture.
- Add the plum tomatoes, ¼ tsp kosher salt and ½ tsp dried oregano. Stir to incorporate the paste and the plum tomatoes. Cook the sauce on medium- low for 10-15 minutes lightly covered to avoid splattering, stirring occasionally.
- Remove the sauce from the heat and it should look like picture number 10 above. Taste the sauce and adjust salt if necessary. Set the sauce aside and move onto the shrimp.
- In a clean pan, add 1-2 Tbsp of olive oil and turn heat to medium-high. Add the shrimp and saute for 3-4 minutes until lightly pink. Just turn over any that have only cooked on one side – it’s simple! They will be nice and firm to the touch and light pink when cooked through.
- Add 1 cup of the arrabbiata sauce to the pan with the shrimp and cook for 1 more minute. Thoroughly coat the shrimp with the sauce. Add a touch of lightly chopped basil and a swirl of extra virgin olive oil and serve. There will definitely be enough sauce for some pasta, or do like my family does, and serve the bowl of sauce at the table with a loaf of good quality Italian bread. Enjoy!
So that’s My Shrimp Arrabbiata Recipe
Love the flavor that the cherry peppers give to this spicy sauce. I hope you enjoy it too! Let me know if you like the process shots. Supposedly, Google loves them. Also it lets you know that I’m actually cooking the dish and not just showing some finished images.
I cook all the food pictured on this site. I do this mostly during the week and love the whole process, especially making videos, which I plan to have a lot of soon. Check me out on Instagram to see a lot more food related content and more of who I am through my stories.
Some Common Questions Or Concerns:
What Is Arrabbiata Sauce:
Sugo all’arrabbiata means angry sauce or gravy in Italian. Traditional arrabbiata sauce in Italy is made with plum tomatoes, lots of spicy fresh or crushed pepper, garlic, olive oil and basil. It sometimes has meat, onions, wine, and/or uses pickled spicy peppers.
I prefer the unique spice of hot pickled cherry peppers. My New York version uses the spicy peppers and their vinegar to give it that special taste.
This spicy arrabbiata sauce works so well with other seafood, especially fried calamari. If you have the time, use the extra sauce on a batch of homemade fried calamari. I’ll soon have a recipe out for a beautiful fritto misto.
Any type of seafood arrabbiata would be nice – lobster, scungilli, clams and mussels would all be great!
Arrabbiata sauce on pasta?
The extra sauce would be nice with penne or any type of pasta you like. A little pecorino and some fresh torn basil is perfect and is all that’s needed for a great meal. Don’t forget the Italian bread!
Another great use for the extra sauce would be on a pizza. Check out our Margherita Pizza Recipe and substitute with this sauce.
I love anchovies with this dish. Anchovies just impart the best umami flavor. Start with 2 or 3 from a small can and chop them up. Saute them in the olive oil with the garlic. They will break down and dissolve and make the dish even better.
I use anchovies in a lot of my Italian seafood dishes. Don’t tell my kids though!
Shrimp Arrabbiata Difficulty Level:
On a 1-5 scale with 1 being easy, this recipe is a 2. There’s only a few issues that might arise:
- Make sure the shrimp are completely thawed and dried well before cooking and don’t forget the baking soda step. It makes perfect plump shrimp every time. I go over this in my Tequila Lime Shrimp Taco Recipe.
- Make sure to test the sauce for the correct spiciness level. I recommend starting with 1-2 hot cherry peppers. Taste a piece after you chop them up and make sure it’s not too spicy for you and your guests.
I love super spicy food so will often add more peppers on the side for myself since my kids can’t handle real spicy food yet. And, just so we’re clear, these hot cherry peppers are not “really” spicy. I consider a serrano chili spicy territory, but realize we all have different tolerance levels – these are probably 1/10 the spice level of a serrano pepper.
Other Great Italian Seafood Recipes:
I recommend white wines such as Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc as good matches for this spicy arrabbiata sauce.
DID YOU TRY THIS RECIPE?
Give it a star rating.
- 1 pound extra large shrimp
- 1 28 ounce can plum tomatoes
- 1 6 ounce can tomato paste
- 10 cloves garlic
- 2 medium pickled hot cherry peppers
- 1 Tbsp cherry pepper vinegar
- 6 Tbsp olive oil
- 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ¾ tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp crushed red pepper
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- 10 leaves fresh basil
- Pat dry thawed shrimp and place in a bowl with ½ tsp baking soda, ¼ tsp crushed pepper and ½ tsp kosher salt. Place in fridge.
- Chop garlic cloves in half. Chop cherry peppers into bite size pieces. Julienne the basil. Break the plum tomatoes apart with hands or pulse in a blender for 2-3 seconds.
- In a sauce pan heat 4 Tbsp olive oil on medium heat and saute the garlic for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Add the cherry peppers and saute for 1 more minute. Add the tomato paste and break it up with a wooden spoon.
- After about 5 minutes the paste will start to break down, add the plum tomatoes, ¼ tsp salt and ½ tsp of oregano. Mix thoroughly and let the sauce cook partially covered for 10-15 minutes stirring occasionally.
- In a clean pan heat 1-2 Tbsp of olive oil on medium high heat and saute the shrimp for 3-4 minutes until pink and cooked through. Add 1 cup of the sauce to the shrimp and cook for 1 more minute mixing well.
- Remove the shrimp arrabbiata from the heat and add the basil and a swirl of extra virgin olive oil. Serve the extra sauce on the side with crusty Italian bread and for anyone who would like more sauce on the shrimp. Enjoy!
- There will be extra sauce for either a little bit of pasta or bread dipping.
- 2 hot cherry peppers is a good starting point but use more if you like it real spicy. Alternatively use sweet cherry peppers to retain the flavor if too spicy.
- Salt is kept to a minimum, adjust to personal taste.
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