Masala Pasta, Indian Street Style

Masala pasta is an irresistibly delicious Indian street-style food. If you love pasta, and if you love Indian food, you need to try this recipe. A bright red tomato sauce seasoned with cumin and garlic and mellowed with cashew cream makes every bite one to remember. A vegan, soy-free recipe, can be nut-free.

Indo-Italian fusion food may be a newer concept than Indo-Chinese, but it’s arrived and it’s here to stay, with recipes like this Masala Pasta which has become popular, in all its brilliant glory, on the streets of cities like New Delhi and Bombay.

We Indians — and Indian born — are the ultimate snobs when it comes to food. Even when we actually admit to liking a foreign cuisine (and it’s not often that we do so, at least not collectively), we don’t just adopt it as is. Operating with an implicit but unshakable belief that we can make anything taste better, we set out to adapt it to our spice-loving tastebuds.

In other words, we smother it in masala, sprinkle on a liberal quantity of chili pepper, and then, if possible, top it off with a tadka of more spices. (We even made McDonald’s, which resisted vegetarian offerings here in the United States long after other fast food chains had jumped on the wagon, cook up McAloo Tikki Burgers and Aloo Naans for us before they could set up shop in India).

If you want to learn how to make Indian style masala pasta, and if you think you know all there is to know about the Italian kind, you’ve got a huge surprise — and lots of education — coming your way.

Ingredients for Masala Pasta

  • Penne rigate pasta. While smooth penne pasta is usually used on the streets, penne rigate holds on better to the sauce, so use this.
  • Tomatoes. Any kind are fine.
  • Tomato paste
  • Garlic
  • Roasted cumin. You can pop the cumin in the microwave for half a minute, stir, and then zap for another 30 seconds. Or toast it lightly in a saucepan.
  • Dry red chili peppers, like Kashmiri peppers or guajillo peppers
  • Green bell peppers. This color pepper is best in Indian recipes because of the savory flavor.
  • Oregano
  • Maggi Masala Magic seasoning. You can buy this online or at an Indian store.
  • Curry powder, Use any you have access to.
  • Vegetable oil. Any flavorless oil is fine, do not use olive oil here because of the high temperature you’ll be cooking the food at.

Instructions

  • Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain before using.
  • Place the cashews in a blender with ½ cup water and blend into a very smooth paste. Set aside.
  • Place the tomatoes or puree in a blender along with the tomato paste, paprika, peppers and roasted cumin. Blend into a coarse paste.
  • Heat the oil in a large wok or skillet. Working on a medium-high flame, add the garlic, stir-fry for a few seconds, then add the blended tomato masala and saute fora couple of minutes. Add the pasta, diced green bell peppers, oregano, vegetable oil, and the powdered spices–the masala magic and the curry powder. Season with salt and, if you like even more spice, some ground black pepper.
  • Stir-fry the cooked pasta, moving it constantly, to ensure the sauce cooks evenly and the pasta doesn’t stick to the pan. You can do this for about five to 10 minutes.
  • Finish off by adding half the cashew cream, and mixing the pasta one last time. Serve with more cashew cream drizzled on top. You can also garnish with scallions or with vegan cheese, like cashew parmesan (I’ll link that recipe in the notes)

Nutrition

Calories: 377kcal | Carbohydrates: 64g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Sodium: 13mg | Potassium: 430mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 858IU | Vitamin C: 14mg | Calcium: 42mg | Iron: 2mg

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