Pasta in a Desi Arrabbiata Sauce

Has anyone ever counted the numbers of Italian restaurants in a 5 miles radius ???? I tried to and found myself at an astronomical number !!! Why is Italian food so popular ??? I think it is a combination of factors. The first being that Italy has this mystic shimmer around it that suggests the good life ….a life we all dream about and which other countries don’t seem to possess !!! It is a fact that has been given prominence by Hollywood too. What does a person, in a movie, who wants to live a simple but good life do….they move to Italy !!! The other fact, which I think is the real reason for its popularity, is that to the rest of the world its cuisine revolves around pasta and lets face it with pasta you get a cheap but fulfilling meal. It is also simple to make and goes with almost every sauce you throw at it !!!

I love pasta…not with the fervor that I love Indian food but that is to be expected. I love experimenting with different varieties and different sauces but I need the heat that chilli provides but not all sauces in the recipe books have those kind of recipes !!! Its not to say that I pour hot sauce over my pasta when we go to an Italian restaurant !!! I can’t go without too often. My family is not as fond of it as I am. D will eat just plain pasta seasoned with salt and pepper and as for the small guy he will taste everything before saying no. As for N he will eat only spaghetti or angel hair , seasoned, ‘coz I tell him its noodles !!! V does not like cream , white or cheesy sauces so when I am cooking for the family I am limited to tomato based sauces.

I found this recipe in Raghavan Iyer’s “660 Curries” and I was instantly intrigued. It is a spin on pasta in an arrabbiata sauce ……..an Indo-Italian dish if you will !! Its got some spice, some heat from Indian spices and uses your basic tomato sauce as a vehicle to deliver them. The recipe here is for a sauce  made from scratch but I have made it from a bottled sauce as well. I will give you the pointers further on…..it certainly is easier but have to say in summer when vine ripe tomatoes are at their peak, the sauce made from scratch is well worth the effort !!!


1 lb Pasta , I used wheels and veggie fusilli

1 tsp Cumin Seeds2-3 dried Red Chillies½ cup Red Onions, chopped finely

¼ cup Tomato Paste

1 tbsp Ginger Paste

1 tbsp Garlic paste

1 1/4 tsp Deggi Mirch powder ( chilli powder )

1 tsp Sugar

Salt to taste

½ tsp Garam Masala

4 cups Tomatoes, chopped

¼ cup Cilantro, chopped

grated Paneer

Heat oil in a saucepan. Add the cumin seeds and dried chillies. Sauté till the seeds crackle.

Add the tomato paste, ginger and garlic pastes, chilli powder, sugar , salt and garam masala.

Simmer over medium heat till there is a oily sheen on the surface , about 2-4 minutes.

Pour in 2 cups of water and scrape the bottom to deglaze.

Bring to a boil , then lower the heat and simmer till it starts to thicken , about 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and cilantro. Cook till the tomatoes become soft. Lower the heat and keep warm.

Cook the pasta in boiling water that has been salted. It has to be tender but still have a bite.

Drain and then add to the sauce.

Sprinkle with  grated paneer and serve.

Pasta in a Desi Arrabbiata sauce

Taste Test

It is true …pasta truly has global appeal. This dish has subtle flavours with the cumin providing a smokiness while the deggi chilli powder provides a mild heat. The sugar adds to the sweetness of the tomatoes. The garam masala gives it that Indian punch. Yes, I would make this often.

As I said earlier , I have made this with bottled sauce too. Just add all the spices , ginger and garlic to the oil, sauté for a few seconds and then add the sauce and let it simmer for 3-5 minutes. I used Deggi Mirch powder, if you do not have it just substitute it with equal parts cayenne and sweet paprika. Straight up cayeene will give too much heat and overwhelm the other subtle flavours. The original recipe called for Parmesan cheese but I had only paneer and thats what I used. I have also used basil in place of the cilantro to increase the Italian flavours in Indo-Italian.