April 20, 2018 | Rome, Italy | °C

Gangs of Rome

By Germano Zaini
Published: 2016-06-20

"The truth is that the bully era didn't really end until the advent of World War I and then fascism. For better or worse, they were persecuted relentlessly, with most ending up in jail for long stretches. After a while the bullies were gone, annihilated."

Penne all'arrabbiata

To me, there's no better "bully" dish than spicy penne all'arrabbiata, which dates to about 1900. It screams, "Eat these and you'll see red!" (you'll also need red wine to douse its heat). Rome's bullies loved it. Here's my version. The recipe serves four.


  • 400 grams of penne or penne rigate.

  • 400 grams of raw or peeled tomatoes.

  • 80 grams of pecorino romano.

  • 2 garlic cloves.

  • 2 fresh chili peppers.

  • Parsley.

  • Salt.

  • Extra-virgin olive oil.

Making the sauce

— Wash the tomatoes. Remove the green stalk and mark the spot where you took it out with an "X" (this will help later when you need to peel the skin). Fill a large pan with water. Bring the water to a boil and add the tomatoes, immersing them and letting them boil for a few seconds.

— Drain the tomatoes (keep the pasta water!) and put them in a bowl with water and ice. Remove the skin and seeds, and cut them into halves, quarters and finally small cubes. Set the cubes aside.

— Slice a red pepper in half, removing the seeds and making some strips. Pour oil (a fine stream) into the same pan and sauté a clove of garlic (whole or crushed) along with the pepper seeds. Stir them well, using a wooden spoon to avoid burning.

— Add the diced tomatoes and cook for a few seconds, again using the wooden spoon to ensure even cooking. For thicker sauce, add a few tablespoons of tomato sauce. Season the mixture with salt.

— When it's cooked, remove the garlic. Meanwhile, boil the pasta using the same water you used to boil the tomatoes. When the pasta's ready, drain it and add it to the pan containing the sauce.

— Add finely chopped fresh parsley and mix well. Sprinkle crushed, grated pecorino romano on each serving.

Consider yourself a bully.

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