Five years ago, before I began research for my book Tiffin: 500 Authentic Recipes Celebrating India’s Regional Cuisine, I had no idea that there was something like an Indian “pasta”. The dictionary describes pasta as “food made from flour, water and sometimes eggs, formed into different shapes”, and by that definition, I was effortlessly able to put many traditional recipes into this description. While in some cases the dough has hints of spices such as turmeric and is rolled at home from scratch, store-bought pasta is often tipped straight into gravies and curries. Each Indian region has its own version of “pasta”, ranging from kev in Ladakh to saravle on the Konkan coast and dal dhokli in the west of India. Here, I’ve picked two recipes that showcase pasta-based Indian regional cooking at its best.
Ladakhi skyu (potato, pea and pasta stew; pictured top)
A hearty dish to fill you up on cold nights in the mountains, skyu is one of the many pastas that are common in Ladakh, northern India. Traditionally, a mixture of onions, peas and turnips is tipped into it, but you can add leafy greens and any root vegetable you like.
Prep 10 min
Cook 45 min
120g wholewheat flour
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp mustard oil
2 tsp minced ginger
1 tbsp minced garlic
½ tbsp minced green chilli
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 medium tomato, finely chopped
1 tsp red chilli powder
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 medium boiled potato, peeled and cut into cubes
100g shelled fresh green peas
In a bowl, mix the flour and vegetable oil, add enough cold water to bring everything together, then knead to a semi-soft dough.
Divide the dough into six to eight portions, and roll each one into a small, 2½cm-wide circle, using your fingers to pat them flat. Use your thumb to press a dimple into the centre of each circle, so they look like large orecchiette, then set aside.
In a pan, heat the mustard oil on a medium flame, then add the ginger, garlic and chilli, and saute for 30 seconds. Add the onions and fry, stirring often, until golden brown. Add the tomato, cook for four to six minutes, then stir in the chilli powder, turmeric and garam masala, season with salt and cook for 30 seconds more.
Add the potatoes, peas and 200ml water, tip in the pasta and season again. Leave to bubble for between three and five minutes, until the pasta pieces start to float to the top; if the mix seems dry, add 50ml water and cook for a minute or two longer. Serve hot.
Dabba gosht (lamb, pasta and potato hotpot)
A hot casserole that’s often made by Indian Muslims during Ramadan, and on family nights in. Dabba gosht uses elbow macaroni spiked with traditional spices and mellowed with a cashew nut-based sauce. The dish is so called because, before the advent of ovens in Indian kitchens, you had to bake it in a dabba (a square-shaped tin) directly on the stove.
Prep 15 min
Cook 1 hr
2 small potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced (use a mandoline, if you have one)
2 tbsp vegetable oil, plus a little extra for frying the potatoes
2 tsp ginger paste
1 tbsp garlic paste
2 tsp green chilli paste
½ onion, sliced
2 medium tomatoes, 1 grated, 1 sliced
300g boneless mutton, cut into 1cm cubes
Salt and pepper
100g elbow macaroni, cooked until just al dente
1 tbsp cumin seeds
200g cashew nuts, ground to a paste
200ml meat stock
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 egg, whisked
6 tbsp shredded mozzarella (optional)
2 tbsp coriander leaves, finely chopped
Heat a little vegetable oil in a pan. Once it’s hot, semi-fry the sliced potato for two to three minutes, until just cooked through but not crisp, then drain. In the same pan, heat another tablespoon of oil, then add the ginger, garlic and chilli pastes, and saute, stirring, for a minute. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until golden brown.
Add the grated tomato and cook on a medium heat for three to four minutes. Add the mutton, stir well, then season and cook, stirring, for 15 minutes. Add 100ml water and simmer until the meat is cooked through.
Stir in the cooked pasta, then take off the heat and set aside.
In a second pan, heat the remaining oil on a medium heat, add the cumin seeds and, once they begin to crackle, add the cashew paste and stir for two minutes. Add the stock, season and cook for three to four minutes more, until you have a smooth sauce; add a little water to loosen, if need be.
Stir the sauce into the mutton-pasta mix, then transfer the lot to an oven tray. Top with the fried potato slices and the sliced tomato, then pour the beaten egg on top; if you’re using cheese, sprinkle it over at this stage, too.
Bake at 220C (200C fan)/425F/gas 7 for 10-13 minutes, until the egg is set and the cheese has melted. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot.