For those who have been following my recipes & work for a while, or have attended any of my dining experiences, know that I love to create. Using everyday Indian ingredients and traditional home style cooking, I explore new dishes that are healthy, out of the ordinary and fun!
This is one such creation. Using Indian cottage cheese or paneer, I created a pasta sauce that resembles a meatless ragu and carries the familiar flavors of the staple Matar Paneer or Peas & Paneer curry. Who knew a curry usually lapped up with roti or rice would work so well with pasta! Hello fusion!
Above is the traditional curry, and below is the pasta that became of it. Quite the transformation eh?!
For the curry
1 cup paneer, cubed or crumbled (available at most Indian grocery stores). You can also make your own fresh paneer and use that instead - definitely the preferred option but I was a bit lazy here and used store bought.
3 plum tomatoes, blended or grated
1 small red onion, diced
1 small red pepper, diced (optional)
1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
2 green chiles, sliced
1 dried red chili
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon hing or asafoetida (optional)
2 tablespoons coriander powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
6-8 tablespoons light olive oil (or any other tasteless oil)
Bunch of cilantro, finely chopped
Salt to taste
Your choice of pasta. Any kind of tubular pasta usually works well. I used Gemelli
Grated parmesan to sprinkle
Chili flakes (optional)
Heat oil in a non stick pan. Add the cumin seeds and cook till they start to splutter. Add the ginger, garlic, green chili, dried chili and onions, along with a little salt to help them sweat. Cook till the onions turn translucent. Now stir in the grated/blended tomatoes along with all the dry spices and 1/2 cup water. Cover and cook on medium heat till the tomatoes have cooked through (i.e. the raw taste has gone) and oil begins to separate from the sides. At this stage, add the crumbled or cubed paneer, red pepper, peas and cilantro, and continue to cook - let the curry simmer for at least 15 minutes on medium heat till the paneer is soft and mushy (enough to break it down with a spatula) and most excess liquid has been absorbed. (This sauce/curry tastes even better the next day!)
While the curry is cooking, boil your pasta in salted water with a teaspoon of oil. Drain and keep aside, reserving some of the starchy water.
Once the sauce/curry is ready, add the drained pasta and a little of the starchy water to it, and give it a good toss on high heat till all excess liquid has been absorbed - you don't want much water in this pasta as the sauce has to coat the shells well.
Garnish with chili flakes and fresh parmesan and enjoy fresh!