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Monday, March 11, 2013

Arrabiata and Fra Diavolo Sauce

Ciao Fellow Foodies!
I have decided to move my blog over to a new home. While I will still maintain "The Enlightened Chef", any and all new recipes, and thoughts will be found at "Low Country Larder" www.lowcountrylarder.blogspot.com

The other day, some one I have known all of my life (a cousin in fact) asked me the difference between Arrabita sauce and Fra Diavolo sauce. Well... I thought about both sauces, and how they were similar and how they were different. I told him that essentially there was very little difference, and it simply came down to regional preferences.

After spending a day and a half thinking about these two sauces, I realized that not everyone out there knows what either of them are to begin with. So here is the skinny on Arrabiata and Fra Diavolo:

Arrabiata:Means angry in Italian —the name of the sauce is due to the heat of the chili peppers and is a sauce for pasta made from garlic, ( sometimes onions), tomatoes, and red chili peppers cooked in olive oil. Some versions from the south of Italy contain capers and basil as well. The dish is usually served with penne, or other short pasta, and may have chopped fresh parsley and/or Parmesan Reggiano sprinkled on top.

Fra Diavolo: Means Brother Devil in Italian-the name given to a spicy sauce for pasta or seafood. Most versions are tomato-based and use chili peppers for spice, but the term is also used for sauces that include no tomato, or that use cayenne or other forms of pepper. According to some American chefs the spicy sauce is an Italian-American creation and is rarely served in Italy, but having never been to Italy I cannot say for sure.

You can see that there are more similarities than differences. Which is why my amazing cousin (he HAS to be amazing if he related to me), who lived for several years in Italy himself needed the advice of a Chef (that would be me). I will say, though, that I have most often eaten Fra Diavolo  with shellfish, and have only eaten Arrabiata as a vegetarian dish. Basically this is the only REAL difference in the two sauces.

I love both sauces and have had several versions of each, and since I have put so much effort into thinking about this topic, I began craving my recipe for Arrabiata sauce....or is it Fra Diavolo??? I'll leave it up to you, dear reader, to decided!

Julie's Chunky Arrabiata (or could be Fra Diavolo) Sauce

2, 28oz cans (or 4, 14oz cans) of either whole-peeled or diced tomatoes
1 onion diced
6-8 cloves of freshly minced garlic
1/2 cup roughly chopped basil
2 Tbs. Olive oil
3 Tbs. capers
4 dried red chilies-crushed in a mortar and pestle (or 1 Tbs. dried red chili flakes)


1 Lb. of your pasta of choice
Parmesan Reggiano  ( PLEASE don't use the crap in the can...you KNOW who you are!)

In a wide bottomed pot, saute the onions, garlic, and basil in the oil.

 Add the tomatoes-breaking up the whole tomatoes into rough bits with your fingers if you are using the whole variety-with their canning liquid.

 Sprinkle in the capers and chili flakes, and allow to simmer on medium heat-stirring often to prevent burning-under a "pot screen" until the sauce is nearly dried up.

Taste and add a little sea salt if you like. (DO NOT SALT YOUR SAUCE UNTIL THIS POINT! AS THE WATER DRIES UP FROM THE SAUCE THE SALT BECOMES CONCENTRATED-THUS IT TASTS FINE WHEN YOU START BUT IS UNIMAGINABLY SALTLY WHEN DONE.) Keep the sauce warm and cook your pasta according to the directions or even one minute less. (Do not over cook your noodles or the noodle gods will weep!) Drain your pasta and place in 8 very pretty bowls, top with your sauce, and add a few shavings of Parmesan Reggiano. Serve, and be happy!
* A word about Parmasan Cheese: Instead of grating it, which I not only find tediuous, but also a little out-dated, simply pull out your trusty veggie peeler and 'shave' it. This step adds texture, dimention, and visual appeal to your already stunningly gorgeous dish of pasta!