A big fan of spicy vegetarian pasta recipes but stuck in a rut with making just one or two? Check out this list featuring the best, the spiciest, and the easiest pasta meals for a quick lunch or easy midweek dinner.
Over here at The Fiery Vegetarian, spicy is my middle name. So who better than me to bring you this list of fiery carby deliciousness? I’ve got a few notes on how to tweak spice to your preference, how to ensure your pasta is truly vegetarian (hint – check your cheese), and then let’s get straight into our list of delicious vegetarian spicy pasta dishes.
Tweaking spice levels
We all love some spice (well most of us) but nobody likes getting a tantalizing plate of hot pasta goodness, only to find out when they try it, that it’s literally too spicy to eat.
If like me, you love a bit of spice, then the biggest, best, and the most useful rule is to know your spice level.
Most recipes usually include a guide as to how spicy that recipe is and how to tweak that level up or down. First off, it’s best to identify which level you can comfortably eat at.
Mild: If you’re the kind of person that enjoys a korma or a mild salsa, but any dish that you can visibly see red hot pepper flakes in is too hot for you, and you pick off the pickled jalapeños on ordered items, then you’re squarely in the mild zone.
Medium: If you love a good Tikka masala or Jalfrezi, and you’re comfortable with anything you can order at Taco Bell (apart from the fire nachos), and a bit of sliced chili or jalapeño is a pleasant surprise, then this is your level.
Hot: If you’re a madras or jalfrezi kind of person, who has been known to eat pickled jalapeños or peperoncino all on their own, can identify at least three types of hot sauce (and you have each one in your cupboard) then this is where you belong.
NB: Always err on the milder side of what you think you can tolerate because you can always add more spice in, but you can’t take it out. If you do make something too spicy for you to eat, try adding cream, creme fraiche, or more cheese to the sauce to cool it down a little.
For a dish for four people, depending on what you add, this is roughly where the amounts of hot sauce, cayenne pepper, and chili flakes should be. Note that these levels will be milder if anything creamy (cream, creme fraiche, coconut milk, cream cheese) is added, in which case you’ll have to test between 1.5 to 2 times more the amount depending on how much of the creamy element is added.
A good rule of thumb is to test the sauce as soon as the spicy element has been added and then take into account whether a creamy element will be added later (in which case it will be slightly milder) or whether the sauce is going to be cooked down (in which case the spice level will increase slightly).
|Level||Fresh chili pepper|
|Ground cayenne||Chili flakes||Sriracha||Harissa||Hot sauce|
(vinegar-based e.g. Tabasco)
|Mild||1/2 seeded pepper||1/4 teaspoon||1/8 teaspoon||1 tablespoon||1 tablespoon||1 teaspoon|
|Medium||1 seeded pepper||1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon||1/4 teaspoon||1.5-2 tablespoons||1.5 tablespoons||1.5 teaspoons|
|Hot||1 pepper and up||1/2 teaspoon and up||1/2 teaspoon and up||2.5 tablespoons and up||2 tablespoons and up||2 teaspoons and up|
A lot of spicy vegetarian pasta dishes feature some cheesy goodness or call for some cheese to be sprinkled on top to finish off the dish. Just be careful that the cheese you are using is actually vegetarian.
For example, in Europe, no cheese labeled Parmesan or Parmigiano Reggiano can be vegetarian, instead vegetarian alternatives must be labeled Italian-style hard cheese or Parmesan-style cheese. In other countries, such as the US, Canada, and Australia, vegetarian “parmesan” does exist (it doesn’t use rennet extracted from calves) but you will need to double-check the label.
Other cheeses which can oftentimes contain animal-produced rennet and as such, not be considered vegetarian (although there are vegetarian-friendly alternative versions available so do check the labels) include (but are not limited to):
- Grana Padano
- Pecorino Romano
Readers in the UK and Ireland should be able to check for a vegetarian or “V” stamp on their cheese, those in the USA can refer to this handy list of vegetarian cheeses.
Now that I’ve laid the groundwork, onto our list of delicious spicy vegetarian pasta recipes! We have a huge selection, ranging from Thai and Indian-inspired recipes to more classic Italian ones, as well as pasta salads and bakes, and even vegan dishes.
Tip – Salt your water!
As many serious pasta enthusiasts know by know, to truly produce a good pasta dish, you need to liberally salt the cooking water. No matter how tasty the sauce, you’re in for some pretty bland pasta if you don’t salt that water enough that it tastes like seawater.
Salting the pasta water liberally from the beginning allows the pasta to be evenly seasoned from the inside out, and creates a great foundation for your meal. About a tablespoon per pound of pasta should suffice, and don’t worry, the pasta won’t absorb all the salt. You can use any type of salt, even low-sodium, although iodized salt is discouraged because of the strange flavor it imparts.
Lastly, don’t throw out all the starchy cloudy cooking water. It’s ideal for loosening overly thick pasta sauces and a tablespoon or two added to even the most perfect sauce helps ensure that the sauce clings perfectly to the pasta. I usually dip in a cup into the pot (as it has a handle so I don’t burn my hand) when the pasta has finished cooking, set it to one side whole I drain the pasta and toss with the sauce, and then add in a little or as needed.
Did you make any of these spicy vegetarian pasta recipes? Let me know how much you loved them in the comments below. or which ones you’d love to try.