What is better than the spicing of India combined with the comfort of pasta? And use whatever ground meat or poultry you have on hand. Speaking of ground meat, if you love this recipe you will love my Indian-style spaghetti bolognese, and try my other Indianish pasta and noodle dishes!
What Makes This Recipe so Special?
- Only requires common spices for more pizzaz
- Tender, juicy meatballs
- You can go spicy or mild; big or small
- Pair with a well-balanced sauce
According to the website Taste Atlas, spaghetti and meatballs are the third most popular Italian-American dish. Of course, Italians, like other immigrant groups, adapt their food to ingredients they can afford and find in the new country.
And the size of the meatballs is one of those evolutions. Americans tend to eat a lot of meat, though that is changing. Speaking of evolutions, let's talk about curried meatballs.
Keema or ground meat
My Indian spaghetti bolognese has been such a popular recipe that I wanted to post another Indian-spiced Italian-American favorite. Wow, these meatballs have certainly made their trip around the world, and if I may say so, they are all the better for it.
Curried meatballs can be made with any ground meat you prefer. I started with ground chicken, and my initial concern was that they would be dry. However, with added fresh aromatics, herbs, and yogurt, these curried meatballs are moist and tender.
Besides ground meat or poultry, the meatballs are made with:
- Finely minced onion
- Fresh ginger and garlic
- Yogurt or milk
- Fresh herbs
- Panko crumbs
- An egg OR more yogurt
- Cumin, coriander, cloves, black and red ground chili
If you are an Indian cook, I am pretty sure you probably use fresh tomatoes. Our tomato season is pretty short so I’ve gone the canned tomato route. Whole blended or crushed tomatoes have the advantage of being oh so convenient. And I have even started the tomato base using a favorite spaghetti or pasta sauce.
- Fresh onion, ginger, and garlic
- Ground spices: coriander, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, turmeric, and red chili to taste.
- Some optional butter at the end to round out all the flavors and add richness
Use the pasta of your choice. While spaghetti is more traditional in this Italian-American dish, your favorite long pasta will do. And I wouldn't say no to curried meatballs with a short pasta either.
How to Make Indian-Style Spaghetti with Curried Meatballs
In a large bowl mix together all the meatball ingredients except for the meat. Thoroughly blend in the ground beef and shape it into balls.
Meatball mixture ready for shaping.
Shaped into balls.
Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and brush with oil. Place the meatballs on the baking sheet and bake until they are cooked through.
Sauce & Pasta
While the meatballs are baking make the sauce. In a saucepan cook the onion and the ginger garlic paste. Add the spices and cook for 2 minutes.
- Stir in the tomato. Cook for 10 minutes to thicken the sauce and bring the flavors together.
- Cook the pasta and stir into the tomato sauce. Cook for 4 minutes to allow the sauce to flavor the pasta.
- Either stir in the meatballs and place them on top, as you wish. Serve.
Tips and Tricks
- Baked meatballs tend to flatten a bit. For rounder ones, you can sauté them on the stovetop
- If you want to make them gluten-free use gluten-free panko crumbs. Trader Joe's has rice-based panko crumbs, for example. Or use dried or day-old gluten-free bread blended into crumbs
- To play with spicing, instead of the coriander, cinnamon, and clove combination, you might start with a teaspoon of your favorite spice mix, adding more as needed.
- Canned tomatoes work very well in this recipe but don't be tempted to use diced tomatoes. Most brands use a chemical that prevents diced tomatoes from breaking down easily.
Make-Ahead and Store
This is a great make-ahead meal. The curried meatballs and the sauce keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or in the freezer for up to 2 months. When you are ready to serve warm the meatballs in a saucepan or microwave, then add them to the sauced pasta.
More Ground Meat Recipes to Make
Did you tryDid 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 section below. Thank you! ~Alonna
Recipe Card 📖
Pasta Indian Style with Curried Meatballs
Spice Mix--Half for the meatballs and 1/2 for the sauce
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 pound ground meat ~ Any meat you prefer, see Notes below
- 1 tablespoon oil ~ For frying, and if using very lean poultry add another tablespoon into the mix
- 2/3 cup panko crumbs ~ Or day-old crustless bread finely chopped or crumbled
- 1/4 cup plain yogurt ~ Or milk, ricotta, kefir, or buttermilk
- 1/2 cup onion ~ Finely chopped, another cup for the sauce
- 2 tablespoons ginger garlic paste ~ 1 tablespoon each garlic and ginger grated or pureed. You will need 2 more tablespoons for the sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon Kashmiri ground red chili ~ Or 1/4 cayenne, or to taste
- 1 1/2 teaspoons spice mix from above ~ Half of it
- 1 teaspoon sea or table salt ~ Or to taste, substitutions
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce ~ Optional, OR 2 teaspoons lime juice
- 1 large egg ~ Or another 2 tablespoons of yogurt
- 1/4 cup cilantro ~ Chopped, or mint with ground lamb
- 1 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes ~ Or 2 15-ounce cans, see Notes below
- 1 cup onion ~ Chopped
- 2 tablespoons ginger garlic paste ~ 1 tablespoon each ginger and garlic grated or pureed
- 1 1/2 teaspoons spice mix above
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon Kashmiri ground red chili ~ Or 1/4 cayenne or to taste
- sea or table salt ~ To taste
- 1 to 2 teaspoons sugar ~ If needed
- 1 to 2 tablespoons butter ~ Or whole cream, if needed
- 1/2 cup reserved pasta water ~ As needed
- 1 pound spaghetti ~ Or pasta of your choice
Gather your meatball ingredients and turn the oven to 425°F (220°C).
- In a bowl large enough to hold all the ingredients, first thoroughly mix together everything except the ground meat. If using ground poultry I recommend adding 1 tablespoon oil. Then using a fork or your hands, mix in the meat until well combined.
- (See note below if you want to cook on the stovetop.) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil and evenly spread a tablespoon oil. Portion out the meatballs into 2-inch balls for 16 to 18 meatballs, or make 8 larger ones.
- Bake the smaller ones for 12 to 14 minutes or the larger one for 15 minutes. Turn the meatballs made from beef or lamb halfway through. I find that the turkey or chicken meatballs cook best without this step.
- While the meatballs are baking, make your sauce. Gather the sauce ingredients.
- In a medium saucepan or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt. Stirring frequently cook the onions to translucent, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium and stir in the ginger garlic paste. Sauté for a minute of 2 until it smells cooked.
- Add the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of the spice mix, turmeric, cumin, and chili powder. Stir constantly until the spices are toasted. If they are sticking to the bottom of the pan, add a tablespoon of water. This step will take 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes on medium-low heat uncovered. The sauce will reduce a bit and the flavors will marry.
- While the sauce is cooking, heat generously salted water for the pasta. Cook the pasta undercooking it slightly. Drain, and reserve a 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water.
- Using the reserved pasta water, thin your tomato sauce as needed. Taste the sauce for salt, sugar, and butter or cream. If you feel the sauce needs mellowing or enriching, add butter or whole cream. Yogurt would also be a good choice.
- Combine the pasta into the tomato sauce and allow to cook for 4 minutes. Stir in the meatballs (or you can perch them on top as you wish.
- This is a great make-ahead meal. The curried meatballs and the sauce keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
- Meat: It is worth mentioning that if you are using either ground turkey or chicken, your meatballs will be slightly softer and more tender.
- Tomatoes: You need to start with about 3 cups of tomatoes:
- Canned crushed tomatoes are my preference
- Canned whole tomatoes chopped
- I do NOT recommend diced tomatoes as they may have an ingredient to prevent them from breaking down.
- Jarred pasta sauce, though this will be thicker and will need more pasta water to dilute it.
- Fresh tomatoes, either regular if in season, or Italian Roma or plum tomatoes chopped.
- Binder: I have played with chickpea flour as a binder but the meatballs came out quite dense. If you are needing a gluten-free solution, take your favorite gluten-free bread and allow it to dry out overnight, then crumble on chop to use instead of the panko crumbs. Trader Joe's has rice flour panko crumbs that are an option as well.
- Instead of spaghetti: Polenta would be a perfect foundation for these meatballs and it has the advantage of being gluten-free. You can also cook up any gluten-free pasta you love.
- Stovetop: If you want to keep all your cooking to the stovetop, simply sauté the meatballs in a frying pan.
- Nutrition: Please note that the nutrition information is for the meatballs, sauce, and pasta for 6 people. Depending on the appetite of your diners and what else you are serving, these amounts for curry meatballs might be for 4 hungry people.
Gil Garduno says
Wow, Alonna, this has mash-up of Italian, Indian and American flavors and ingredients really sounds intriguing. I love that the spice mix is used on both the meatballs and the sauce.
Alonna Smith says
Thanks for your kind words Gil! I am really pleased with the final dish. It is full of Indian flavors and can be as hot, or not, as you like. ~ Alonna