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TV Dinners: Penne Arrabiata from AMC's The Killing

*Post by Angela.

I know I've mentioned it before, but I LOVE television. Probably as much as I love food. And often, I find my two loves intersecting in a way that impacts what we eat at home. However, I didn't think AMC's The Killing would yield any culinary inspiration, seeing as the only food eaten on the show comes out of a fast food restaurant or a vending machine. I was wrong.

The Killing has a lot of flaws. A LOT. But it also has one of my absolute favorite TV characters of the past 2 years, ex-tweaker, mumbly, vulnerable Detective Stephen Holder. He is a complete mess of a person, and initially it seemed as though his parter, Sarah Linden, would have her hands full taking care of him.  


Image Courtesy AMC

However, as time revealed that Linden is actually a crazy person, the character of Holder became more competent, reliable, and even menacing, at least in one particular scene:

Holder breaks into the apartment of his ex-mentor to search for missing files that the guy stole about that Killing that Holder and Linden are investigating. Holder doesn’t find the files, but he does find a container of leftover pasta in the fridge, so he settles down at the dining room table with the pasta (and a gun!) to eat and wait for the bad guy to return home. And when the guy finally comes home, it's time for a showdown...

“You know what arrabiata means in Italian?  Angry.  Although in my case, it would be more like ‘pissed off.’”

I may have cheered. For the next two weeks, the word “arrabiata” kept echoing through my mind, until finally I broke down and made it at home. I used this recipe for a base, although I adapted it quite a lot. So much so, actually, that it is more like a spicy meat sauce than a true arrabiata. I still think Holder would approve.




  • 2 lbs hot Italian sausage (not in casing)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 red bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 small head garlic, cloves peeled and minced
  • ½ cup red wine
  • About 1 cup water
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • ½ tbsp oregano
  • 2 tbsp crushed red pepper (or to taste, I used 3, whee!)
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 lb penne
  • ½ cup fresh chopped basil
  • Parmesan to taste

First, I browned the sausage in a large pot over medium low heat. I removed the meat to a bowl, leaving about a tbsp of fat in the pot.



I added a tbsp of olive oil to the pot, then added the onions and cooked over medium heat for about 8 minutes, until starting to soften, then added the bell peppers and cooked an additional 5 minutes. I threw the garlic in and cooked just a couple more minutes, until fragrant.



I added the red wine, deglazing the pot, and cooked for about 2 minutes, then added the water, tomato sauce, fennel seeds, oregano and crushed red pepper. I brought the sauce to a boil, then reduced the heat and let simmer on medium low heat for about 30 minutes.



After half an hour, I added the sausage back into the pot using a slotted spoon (so the fat didn’t creep back in) and simmered another 10 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper (and more crushed red pepper, if you like!) to taste. I also started cooking the penne according to the package instructions.



Finally, I took the pot of sauce off the heat and stirred in the basil. I served the spicy, meaty sauce over the hot penne and topped with a sprinkling of Parmesan. Really good. And you know what? It did taste angry. In a delicious way.


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Reader Comments (4)

Ang, this is awesome. Also, if you've already seen the season finale, you should read this recap from New York Magazine:

June 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterYour sister

Heh, thanks, Pam!

June 20, 2012 | Registered CommenterAngela

Thanks! I too love this show, and had no clue what Holder was eating. Now i will try the recipe. I think did a blog on Holder's breakfast burritos after that episode.

Vulture hates the show, by the way. I like Television without Pity recaps myself. Very funny, but then they they throw in some brilliant insights and show that they 'get' what the show is trying to accomplish. They are not simply writing to be mean.

I hope the show comes back. People who love it love it intensely, and Holder is one of those rare great TV characters.

June 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKatherineM

Katherine, I may just have to make Holder's breakfast burrito now.

Also, I LOVE that you love the TWOP recaps. Jacob is my all-time favorite recapper, and I agree, he gets the show. You should read his Pretty Little Liars recaps, they are equally awesome.

I don't know if I hope the show comes back, but if it does, I will watch for Holder.

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

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