Spaghetti Arrabiata with Turkey

Spaghetti Arrabiata with Turkey is a spicy tomato sauce made with lean ground turkey and the perfect amount of heat. This homemade sauce comes together in just thirty minutes and makes for the most delicious dinner.

418 CAL 53g CARBS 7g FAT 36g PROTEIN

This spicy Arrabiata sauce with lean ground turkey and spaghetti makes pasta night something special. Arrabiata, which literally translates to "angry" is a spicy marinara sauce that packs just the right amount of heat. It's one of our favorite pasta dishes along with this Chicken Mushroom Pasta and Spinach Artichoke Pasta.

The way to my husband's heart is through a big bowl of pasta bolognese or anything spicy. So Spaghetti Arrabiata is the perfect meal for him as long as I add some meat to the mix as well. He will also request a mountain of garlic bread on the side, but usually I opt for a big green salad instead. 

The Arrabiata sauce is a quick and easy recipe that comes together with canned San Marzano tomatoes, onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes.  The red pepper flakes, garlic, and onion cook in some olive oil first. This helps to deepen the flavor. At this point, I add in some meat. Ground beef, turkey, chicken, pork, or sausage would all work. You can also leave out the meat entirely and just opt to make a traditional meatless Arrabiata sauce. Then everything simmers together so the flavor can build. If you have time, I would make this a day in advance, but it is still really delicious right out of the pan. 

I like to finish the sauce with some fresh basil and then always top my pasta with some fresh Parmesan cheese. When it comes to the pasta, this dish is normally made as Penne All'Arrabiata but we prefer it with spaghetti. Any pasta will work and I always opt for fresh spaghetti when I can find it. It has so much more flavor than the dry stuff in opinion. 

Spaghetti Arrabiata on a white plate with Parmesan cheese and basil.

How do you make Arrabiata sauce?

Traditional Arrabiata sauce is made with a simple combination of olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes or Italian red chili peppers, tomatoes, and basil.  Some people add onion as well and some people leave it out. I think it adds a nice layer of flavor, so I include it.

To start the sauce, the onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes are cooked in the olive oil. This deepens the flavor and infuses the olive oil with tons of flavor. Then the tomatoes are added. San Marzano tomatoes are the best option, in my opinion, because they tend to be sweeter and less acidic than standard tomatoes. The tomatoes simmer with the infused oil and need at least 20-30 minutes to cook so that the flavors are able to combine. Then the sauce is finished with fresh basil. Some recipes call for parsley, but basil is more traditional. 

What does Arrabiata mean?

Arrabiata translates as "angry" and is the Italian name give to this spicy tomatoes sauce since the chili peppers make the sauce spicy or "angry." 

Can you freeze spaghetti sauce with meat?

Absolutely! This is one of those recipes that you will want to double or triple. Spaghetti sauce with meat freezes really well and then you have a meal ready to go in your freezer. It's best to freeze it in meal sized portions, so you don't end up defrosting more sauce than you need. The best way to defrost it is by placing it in the fridge the night before and letting it defrost overnight. If you forget to do this or don't have time, you can reheat it on low power in the microwave or over low heat on the stove.

Arrabiata sauce with pasta on a plate with red pepper flakes and cheese.

Recipe Ideas for Spaghetti Arrabiata

Depending on what you are in the mood for and what you have in the fridge, there are lots of ways to adjust this recipe to make all different Arrabiata style meals.

Shrimp Arrabiata

One of my favorite spins on this recipe is to make it with shrimp. It reminds me of a Seafood Fra'Diavolo dish with spicy tomato sauce and seafood. To make this with shrimp, first season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Then simply add the shrimp to the olive oil in place of the turkey. Cook it for 1-2 minute on each side until just cooked through. Remove and set aside. The add the tomatoes and continue with the recipe as written. Add the shrimp back right before serving or serve it on top of the sauce.

Vegetarian Arrabiata Pasta

There are three different ways I like to make a meatless version of this dish. The simplest is simply making the sauce and leaving out the turkey. The sauce comes out delicious and spicy and you won't even miss the meat. This is how is it is traditionally prepared. More often, I like to make a veggie packed version of this sauce. Normally I will add cubed eggplant and spinach in place of the turkey. The eggplant is adds a nice texture to the sauce and has a "meaty" feel. Mushrooms work really well too if eggplant isn't your favorite. Lastly, I sometimes make this with Italian white beans. Just drain and rinse a can of white beans and add it to the sauce in place of the turkey. Delish. 

Can I use other proteins?

This Arrabiata sauce recipe will work with all kinds of proteins. If you want to stick with ground meat, you can use beef, chicken, pork, or ground sausage. Sausage links also work well, just slice them up and add them to the sauce in the same way you would the turkey. You can also use chicken thighs or breasts. Chicken thighs can cook in the sauce the entire time. For chicken breasts, I would cook them in the oil and then add them back before serving to make sure they don't dry out. For seafood, you will want to cook it in the oil and then add it back before serving so it doesn't overcook.

Side Dish Ideas for Arrabiata 

Since this dish on its own doesn't contain too any greens, I almost always serve it with a big green salad. If I am not in the mood for a salad, I will usually roast some veggies on the side. Garlic broccoli or asparagus are the ones I make most often. Sauteed spinach is another good choice.

The Recipe
Spaghetti arrabiata with spicy tomato sauce served over a plate of pasta.

Spaghetti Arrabiata with Turkey

418 CAL 53g CARBS 7g FAT 36g PROTEIN
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  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 tsp red pepper flakes (adjust to taste)
  • 1 lb 99% lean ground turkey (or beef, turkey sausage, chicken)
  • 28 oz. canned San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil
  • 8 oz spaghetti

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Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat.


Add the onion and cook for 4-5 minutes until it begins to become translucent. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook for 1 minutes until it is fragrant.


Add the turkey and cook for 5-7 minutes until it is browned and cooked through, stirring occasionally.


Add the tomatoes, oregano, salt, and pepper. Turn down to a simmer. Simmer for at leats 25 minutes, breaking up the tomatoes as it cooks.


Meanwhile cook the pasta according to package directions.


When ready to serve, add the basil to the Arrabiata sauce and season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve over spaghetti.

Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 1.5 cups
Amount Per Serving
Calories 418
Calories from Fat 59
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 7g
Saturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 62mg
Sodium 389mg
Total Carbohydrate 53g
Dietary Fiber 5g
Sugars 9g
Protein 36g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.

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About the author Meet Kristen McCaffrey
Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans. Learn More
On Spaghetti Arrabiata with Turkey
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August 29, 2018 - 08:59
Add a Rating:
Do you think if you sub the noodles with veggie spirals that this would basically be 0 Freestyle Points? :)
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January 10, 2023 - 14:02
This would taste great with veggie spirals!
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