Transform pasta night with an irresistible sauce aromatic with warming Indian spices. This 30-minute dish is a welcome twist from the usual spaghetti dinner.
There is nothing more comforting than a big bowl of pasta or noodles at the end of the day. This Indian twist on Italian spaghetti bolognese is one of those recipes that will become a family favorite. You will especially love the hints of the South Indian spicing of cinnamon and cloves.
Of course, bolognese is good to eat any time of the year, but as the weather becomes chilly, my cravings turn to pasta or noodles. Originally from the city of Bologna, I am giving this beloved dish a heady veer towards India. Starting with my weeknight beef keema curry, and making it a little bit saucier with more tomato purée.
You now have a quick, irresistible, and comforting meal. Indian-style bolognese goes well with spaghetti, but feel free to use your favorite pasta shape. And make it gluten-free with an alternative flour pasta, or serve it over a lovely bowl of basmati rice.
What is to Love:
- A recipe that is quick enough to make on a weeknight
- It is even healthier and tastier if you add some favorite vegetables
- Have fun playing with your spice combo
- It is endlessly customizable. Make a spicy bolognese by adding green chili.
- Double the recipe and pop it into the freezer for better than takeout meal!
Build a simple sauce with spices, aromatics, and some tomato.
- Spices: A lovely combinatination of cinnamon, cloves, coriander, turmeric, and some chili powder.
- Aromatics: The Indian trio of onion, ginger, and garlic.
- Tomato: Canned sauce, crushed, or puréed fresh tomatoes.
- Pasta: Any pasta of your choice.
While you build your sauce, heat a large pot of water for the pasta. In a pan over medium heat add oil and the ground meat or poultry. Brown until it is completely cooked, then remove from the pan.
Using the same pan add onion and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook until the onions are beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Add the ginger garlic paste to the onions. Stir for 1 to 2 minutes until the paste no longer smells raw.
Add the chili powder, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, and turmeric. Stir, cooking the spices for another minute, then add the tomato.
Cover and simmer for 6 minutes. When the water is boiling, cook the pasta. Return the meat or tofu (or add cooked lentils) to the pan with the onions and tomato mixture.
When the pasta is finished cooking, stir it into the meat sauce. Add the pasta cooking water as needed so that the sauce coats the pasta well.
Questions and Answers
Keema (kheema) if ground meat. Turkey or chicken keema is an especially healthy choice for this Indian pasta recipe.
Yes! Use a short pasta shape and stir in 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella or some other melting cheese. Top with another 1/4 cup of cheese and bake at 350°F (180°C) until heated through and the cheese on top is melted.
Cooked peas, carrots, mushrooms, and corn are good options. If you need to hide the veggies from a child, purée them and stir them into the sauce.
Streamline your cooking by using canned tomato sauce or purée, and use store-bought or homemade ginger garlic paste.
Serve the Pasta With
My favorite go-to with pasta is some crusty bread and a big salad. This meal is an easy no-fuss weeknight treat.
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Did you try this recipe? I’d love to hear about it! Please rate by clicking stars ⭐️ on the recipe card and/or let me know in the comments below. Thank you! ~Alonna
Recipe Card 📖
Indian-Style Pasta ~ Spaghetti Bolognese
- 1 pound ground meat ~ See Notes below for ideas
- 1 pound spaghetti ~ Or pasta of your choice
- 3/4 teaspoon sea or table salt ~ Or to taste
- 1 tablespoon neutral oil ~ Divided
- 1 cup onion ~ Finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon sea or table salt ~ Substitutions
- 2 tablespoons ginger garlic paste ~ 50/50 ginger & garlic purée; make or buy
- 1/4 teaspoon Kashmiri ground red chili ~ Or 1/8 teaspoon cayenne, more to your taste. Substitutions
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 cup tomato purée or sauce ~ Or 3 plum tomatoes finely chopped; substitutions
- 1/2 cup reserved pasta water
- 2 tablespoons plain yogurt ~ Optional. Or heavy cream. See Notes
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan ~ Optional, or romano cheese
- 2 tablespoons cilantro ~ Optional, chopped
- In a large pot over high heat, add at least 2 quarts of water and 1 tablespoon of kosher salt (or 1 1/2 teaspoons of sea or table salt), and bring to a boil. The salt will ensure your pasta is well flavored.
- Meanwhile, In a medium pan over medium heat, add 1 1/2 teaspoons oil. When hot, add the ground meat or poultry (or extra-firm tofu crumbles). Mash the meat into crumbles and stir occasionally for about 7 to 9 minutes or until completely browned. Remove it with a slotted spoon and discard any remaining fat.
- Using the same pan, heat the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of oil over medium-high heat and add onion and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook until the onions are begining to brown, about 8 minutes. Reduce heat if necessary to keep the onions from sticking, and/or add a tablespoon of water.
- Turn down the heat to medium and add the ginger garlic paste to the onions. Stir for 1 to 2 minutes until the paste no longer smells raw. Add the chili powder, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, and turmeric. Stir, cooking the spices for another minute, then add the tomato.
- Cover and simmer for 6 minutes if using the puree or sauce. If using fresh tomatoes, add another 5 minutes to the cooking time, or until the tomatoes are completely broken down.
- When the water is boiling add your pasta, give it a good stir. Cook until al dente (while it still has some firmness) or to your preference.
- Return the meat or tofu (or add cooked lentils) to the pan with the onions and tomato mixture. Cook for 7 more minutes stirring several times, continuing to break down the meat.
- When the pasta is finished cooking, reserve a 1/2 cup of pasta water and add the pasta to the sauce. Cook together over medium heat, adding pasta water as needed so the sauce coats the pasta well. Simmer together for a few minutes so that the pasta is flavored with the sauce, adding cooking water as needed if the sauce is too dry.
- Add about 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese for more flavor and richness, if you wish. See Notes below about adding some additional dairy or coconut milk.
- Taste for salt and chili pepper, adjusting the seasonings as needed. Garnish as you wish with parmesan cheese or cilantro and serve with flatbread.
- For a vegetarian version of Indian spaghetti bolognese, use roughly 14 ounces of extra-firm tofu or a 1 1/2 cups of cooked green or brown lentils (that hold their shape) instead of ground meat or poultry.
- Skip the cheese for a vegan twist. If you are eating gluten-free, swap out the regular pasta for a gluten-free flour one or serve over rice.
- To up the vegetable quotient, add 1 cup cooked carrots, peas, corn, or mushrooms when you return the meat or tofu to the onion and tomato mixture.
- If you find the flavors of this sauce need mellowing out or it needs some added richness, stir in some yogurt, coconut milk, or heavy cream.
- If you want to play with other spicing ideas, here is a good place to start:
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric