This tikka masala pasta recipe is such an easy recipe and so tasty. You simply blend up the sauce, simmer it for 15-20 minutes, and mix it with cooked pasta. Done!
It’s creamy, warm, fragrant, indulgent, and oh so moreish. The spice level is mild (you can dial it up with some cayenne pepper if you prefer) and it’s versatile enough that you can add in whatever veggies you wish for a satisfying quick well-rounded fusion pasta meal.
It’s dairy-free and egg-free so perfect for vegans and vegetarians as well, and those who are sensitive to gluten can swap out the pasta for a gluten-free version as the sauce itself is also gluten-free.
If you love tikka masala you might like to check out my one-pot vegan tikka masala recipe as well. If spicy or unusual pasta dishes are also your thing I highly recommend my creamy Sriracha pasta, easy harissa pasta or check out this list of 35 spicy vegetarian pasta recipes.
Ingredients and substitutions
Tikka masala pasta at first glance looks like it needs a lot of ingredients, but really it’s because as with most Indian-influenced dishes, you need to have plenty of spices to hand.
Let’s take a look at what ingredients you’ll need (see the image below) and whether any can be substituted or omitted should you find yourself lacking any of them.
- If you don’t have garam masala you can easily make it, just try this garam masala recipe.
- if you don’t have vegetable stock you can make some up with bouillon or a stock cube, just check the package instructions for the correct ratio to water. Alternatively you can substitute with water, although this should be a last resort as stock really imparts a lot of flavor.
- I use canned crushed tomatoes, but as you’re going to be blending everything up anyway, you could use chopped instead – I do find blended canned chopped tomatoes to be more watery than crushed tomatoes though, so you may have to cook down the sauce a little longer.
- For the pasta, any short textured one will do.
The tikka masala pasta is totally tasty as is, but there’s no denying that adding some vegetables and/or pulses would balance it out for a healthier meal, and also make it stretch to more portions.
These are what I commonly add to it when I make it:
- Cooked chickpeas, pinto or kidney beans
- Sliced peppers, small broccoli florets, fresh spinach
- Frozen peas
- Sliced onions
- Extra coconut milk or greek yoghurt or onion raita to drizzle across the top.
The legumes and fresh spinach can be added a few minutes before the sauce finishes cooking. The peppers, broccoli, and frozen peas should be added when the sauce is first poured into the pot. Finally, the onions should be cooked before adding to the sauce – I’d suggest frying in the pot and then adding the sauce.
You can mix and match these suggested additions whichever way you prefer. I would point out though that I wouldn’t add both the peas and the legumes together, it’s just a combination I don’t think works very well, either one or the other but not both!
How to make it
As I mentioned before, tikka masala pasta is really easy to make, but in case you have any doubts or are a less experienced cook, you might want to check out the images in this section to avoid going astray.
First, prep your ingredients. Peel and quarter or roughly chop the onion, peel the garlic, peel the ginger, and juice half the lemon. I recommend finely grating the ginger as well because it’s a good way to get rid of the more woody stringy fibers (they’ll be leftover in your hand after grating).
Next, pop the first eight ingredients into a blender or a food processor (onion, garlic, ginger, cumin, turmeric, ground coriander, paprika, curry powder – see image one below).
Blend until as fine as possible (it will still be a bit chunky). Add the tin of crushed tomatoes and blend again until as it’s as smooth as it’s going to get (image two below)
If you don’t have any canned crushed tomatoes, you can use canned chopped tomatoes instead or the equivalent weight of very ripe fresh seeded tomatoes. Just be aware that using canned chopped tomatoes will add another two minutes to cooking down the sauce, and adding fresh tomatoes could add another ten.
Next, add in the coconut milk and blend again until perfectly smooth (see image three below). Blending the chunkier ingredients first before adding the tomatoes and then the coconut milk will ensure the final result is as smooth and silky as possible.
Transfer the sauce to a medium-sized non-stick pot or pan (image four), and heat on high. This would also be a good time to cook the pasta according to the package instructions.
When the sauce has just begun to boil, lower the heat to medium-high, and leave the sauce to reduce for between fifteen to twenty minutes or until thickened to your satisfaction. The sauce will thicken slightly as it cooks and when the pasta is added (because of the starch from the pasta) so I recommend leaving the consistency a little looser than you think it needs to be.
I usually cook it for around sixteen to seventeen minutes for the consistency you can see in image five. When it’s done, take the sauce off the heat and immediately add the sugar (yes, tikka masala is a slightly sweet sauce), lemon juice, garam masala, and most of the chopped cilantro.
Stir for about a minute or until the sugar has dissolved. Add your drained cooked hot pasta (never rinsed) to the sauce, toss everything well (as in image six), plate, sprinkle the remaining cilantro over and serve immediately.
Optionally you can also drizzle something creamy over the plated pasta, such as extra coconut milk for vegans, or creme fraiche, natural yogurt, greek yogurt, raita etc. for vegetarians. It looks really pretty and is a nice added kick of tangy creaminess.
This tikka masala pasta recipe makes quite a lot of pasta, enough for six servings. If you’re serving fewer people I recommend cutting the ingredient amounts in half, or using the original amounts but less pasta and then storing the extra sauce in the fridge for up to five days, or freezing it.
Where at all possible, try to store any extra cooked pasta and sauce separately. If you have leftovers where the pasta and sauce have already been mixed together that’s okay.
You will need to reheat leftovers in the microwave or on the stovetop with enough extra water or coconut milk to loosen the sauce (a few tablespoons, depending on the amount of tikka masala pasta you’re reheating) until piping hot.
I do not recommend freezing the dish either when the pasta and sauce have been mixed.
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- 1 large onion
- 4 large cloves garlic
- 1 ½ inch ginger
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
- ½ tablespoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 14.5oz canned crushed tomatoes (400g)
- 1 cup vegetable stock (240ml)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 14.5oz can coconut milk (400g)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon garam masala
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro to serve (optional)
- 15oz dried short pasta (425g)
- Peel the onion and quarter, and peel and roughly chop the garlic and ginger. Juice half of the lemon or enough to yield two tablespoons of juice.
- Add the first eight ingredients to a blender or food processor and blitz until as smooth as possible.
- Add the crushed canned tomatoes and blitz again until nearly smooth.
- Add the coconut milk and blitz until perfectly smooth. Transfer the sauce to a medium-sized saucepan and heat on high. Now would be a good time to begin cooking the pasta, following the package instructions.
- When just beginning to boil, reduce the heat to medium-high and allow to cook between 15-20 minutes until thickened to your satisfaction.
- Remove the pot from the heat and add the sugar, garam masala, lemon juice, and most of the chopped cilantro (reserve a little to sprinkle over when the pasta is plated). Stir for one minute until the sugar is dissolved. Toss with hot drained pasta and serve immediately.
You can substitute the ginger and garlic with 1.5 tablespoons of ginger garlic paste if you wish.
Canned crushed tomatoes can be substituted with canned chopped tomatoes (add two minutes more cooking time) or fresh seeded ripe tomatoes (add ten minutes more cooking time).
Optionally, a little natural yogurt, greek yogurt, extra coconut milk or creme fraiche drizzled over the finished dish tastes great and looks pretty!