I’m here to petition that pasta should have its own day of the week. We have taco Tuesday and pizza Friday, and some of us even do a meatless Monday, so why shouldn’t pasta get in that rotation, too? At my house, Sunday night is pasta night. Whether you’re a lasagna kind of person or classic spaghetti and meatballs is your jam, I think the best part of noodles is the endless pasta-bilities. Too cheesy? In my winter quest to infuse my Pasta Sundays with fresh combinations and flavors, I turned to an unexpected but surprisingly perfect combination that might make an appearance more than once during the week. Enter the ultimate fusion recipe: tikka masala pasta.
There are some people who are purists when it comes to food–this is not the recipe for those people (hi, Dad.) When we hit up an Indian-fusion restaurants, he’s always thoroughly unimpressed. My brother and I, however, love to dissect why certain ingredients and methods that are familiar to one cuisine actually work really well when mixed together with another. It’s magic when two culinary worlds come together to create something entirely new and wonderful.
Most of the food we eat today is in fact the result of fusing cultures together. Even the stories from Aunties in my own community speak often of this cross-pollination in food. Without access to certain ingredients when they first came to the US, they learned to adapt and use what they had to recreate familiar flavors or to come up with something entirely new—the end result is the best of both worlds. (Priya Krishna’s Roti Pizza is one of my favorite examples of this.)
When I started cooking this up, I realized there was no way this couldn’t work. While the origins of everyone’s favorite chicken tikka masala are disputed, my introduction to the dish was via weddings I attended growing up. My brother and I would scoop up the sauce around the chicken in the buffet line trays and pour it generously over the rice on our plates. My mom didn’t cook it at home, but tikka masala was always on the order at our favorite Indian restaurants. There’s a reason why people love tikka masala. It’s funky and tangy and slightly sweet and savory all at the same time. It’s basically good on anything. And when you think about it, this tikka masala pasta is almost like Indian pasta alla vodka.
So let’s chat about the recipe and answer some questions. Everyone’s recipe for the gravy is slightly different, but that’s also the best part. Once you get the formula down, you can edit and adjust the spices to match your own preferences. If you like a little more heat, throw a chili pepper in or add more chili powder. Like something a bit more savory? Add a little more garam masala. Use what I list below in the recipe as a guide, but as always, trust your gut!
Can I make the sauce ahead of time?
Yes! I highly encourage it. When you make the sauce, let it cool completely, then store it in an airtight container in the fridge. When you’re ready to eat, pour the sauce into a large pan and reheat on low while you cook the pasta. You can add an extra pat of butter or splash of heavy cream when you reheat if you need to loosen up the sauce a bit.
Can I use a different kind of pasta?
Absolutely. While this is delicious over rigatoni and fettuccine, I also think using ravioli or another filled pasta really takes this to the next level of indulgence. You could also use spaghetti squash, gluten-free pasta, or even gnocchi. The options are endless.
Can I make this vegan?
Also yes. Use coconut milk instead of the heavy cream and vegan butter instead of the butter to make this sauce completely vegan.
I like to serve this pasta piping hot, topped with shaved parmesan, and with a healthy drizzle of olive oil. Add a tangy caesar dressing salad on the side and you’ve got a complete meal that you might just have on repeat every night. This is one of those cozy and warming dishes that are perfect for these chilly months. Give it a try, and let me know if you make this recipe! Cheers to pasta Sunday!