Pastas are fun and very easy to make. If you get the hang of it the first time around, you would want to make it almost every day. It is a light, delightfully tasty meal that is welcome to experimentation, and trust me, it will be amazing each time!
This version of spaghetti is one of my favourites, because it has Indian elements. Yes, it’s veg (meat lovers don’t frown. I’ll give some tips to modify). Of course, all the frantic pasta lovers in Italy will be raising their eyebrows at my twist, but in the age of globalization, why not add a little zing to any cuisine. I would love to see an Italian rendition of the biryani or tandoori chicken.
Ingredients to serve two people:
- 2 fistfuls of any spaghetti (go for whole wheat ones if you are health conscious)
- 5 ripe firm tomatoes, quartered
- Half each of a red, green and yellow bell pepper, chopped into small bits
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 tsp garlic paste
- 1 tsp garam masala
- ¾ tsp cardamom powder
- ½ tsp coriander powder
- ¼ tsp cinnamon powder (you can use a small cinnamon stick as well)
- 2 cloves
- 4-5 black peppercorns
- 4-5 olives
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce
- Half cup of unsweetened coconut milk
- Handful of fresh mint, chopped finely
- Grated black pepper for garnishing
- Grated nutmeg for garnishing
- Salt as per taste
Fill a large saucepan halfway with water and let it boil. Once bubbles emerge, add the spaghetti and twirl once the lower strings are soft till the pasta immerses into the water completely. Let it boil for about 7 minutes and then check to see if the spaghetti is al dente (Soft on the outside with the inside a little firm). Remove from heat and drain, keeping about half a cup of the starchy liquid. Replace the pasta in the pan and sprinkle with a little olive oil. Shake the pan to coat each strand if possible. This will stop the pasta from sticking with each other.
In a frying pan, heat the olive oil and add the garlic paste. Add the chopped onion and bell peppers. Next, add all cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, black peppercorns and cloves. Fry till the onions begin to turn slightly brownish. Add the chopped tomatoes with a little salt so that they release their water. Sprinkle the Worcestershire sauce over them, reduce heat and cover with a lid for 2-3 minutes while stirring.
The tomatoes would have begun to release water by now, but it isn’t enough to make the sauce. Add the leftover water from the spaghetti to the pan and bring to a boil. Check for seasoning and add salt as necessary. Reduce the sauce to about ¾th of its original state when water was added. Remove from heat and place in a blending jug.
If you have a hand-held blender, you can begin blending right away. If you are blending in a food processor or any other machine that required you to close the lid, let the sauce cool down and then blend. This is necessary because the sauce will release heat and a closed lid is not recommended.
After blending, pour the sauce back in the pan. If you think it is a lot, you can save some of it for later too. Bring to a steady boil and stir in the coconut milk. Taste for seasoning again. Sprinkle with half of the mint and grate the nutmeg in.
Remove from heat and add the spaghetti. Use two forks to mix and coat each strand with the sauce. Grate some more nutmeg to garnish as well as sprinkle some mint too. Toast two slices of brown bread cut from a loaf on the same pan after sprinkling them with olive oil.
If you want to make this a non-veg dish, just add some roasted chicken or fish as garnish. I love it as it is, no meat required, especially because then I can enjoy it with a very special veggie!