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This Butter Chicken Pasta is my twist on an Indian classic. The pasta is tossed in a rich spiced tomato cream sauce and is loaded with tender chicken thighs. Everything you love about a classic butter chicken, but swap the rice for pasta. It all comes together in only about 30 minutes too!
Indian dishes are some of my favorite comfort foods. Butter chicken and tikka masala are high on the list. But to be honest I have not had many indian dishes I did not like. They have so many warm spices and rich sauces. And I love a little heat. What are some of your favorite indian dishes?
Neither my husband, nor I grew up eating Indian food, but I sure wish we would have! I just started eating it probably a few years ago. I quickly fell in love, but my husband was a different story. He was very skeptical and had it ingrained in his head that he hated curry.
But fast forward a few years and we are married. So naturally I throw some Indian dishes into our dinner rotation and to both of our surprises he does not hate it. This might sound like a low bar, but I took it!
I started to think you know the butter chicken gravy is not too different from an Italian creamy tomato sauce. Of course the spices are wildly different, but they both have tomatoes and cream. So I experimented with serving the butter chicken tossed with pasta, instead of over rice.
And it was a complete hit. My husband absolutely loved it. In fact, it has become one of his favorite dishes. And I couldn't agree more! It is so good.
So I consider this pasta my gateway into Indian food. If you are on the fence about giving Indian cuisine a try, this is the recipe for you. It is by no means traditional, but it might be a good way to introduce some Indian flavors to your palette.
You will probably recognize most of the spices, as I chose ones you can easily find at your grocery store. The base of the sauce is heavy cream and tomato paste. It gives it such a rich flavor. Hope you enjoy!! xx
- Rich & creamy tomato sauce
- Tons of warm Indian spices
- Beautiful red orange color
- Ready in 30 minutes or less
- Perfect hearty dinner recipe
- Everything you love about butter chicken served with pasta instead of rice
- Chicken Thighs: Swap for chicken breast. It dries out more and is not traditionally used in Indian cuisine so I prefer thighs for the recipe.
- Garam Masala: This spice is crucial for the sauce. It should not be too hard to find.
- Honey: Swap for white or brown sugar.
- Heavy Cream: Swap for half and half or full fat canned coconut milk. The sauce will not be as rich, but it is a lighter option.
- Short Cut Pasta: Any short cut pasta will work like rotini, penne, or fusilli. I like a shape that has lots of nook and crannies for the sauce. I used radiatori.
before you start . . .
- Cut the chicken. Slice the chicken thighs into bite size pieces. I like to err on the side of larger pieces because they shrink up when they cook. I find it somewhat difficult to cut the chicken so I never worry about having perfectly uniform pieces.
- Press the garlic. I love pressing garlic for sauces. It brings out the flavor. Plus this garlic press makes it quick and easy.
Step 1: In a large pot, melt the butter over medium high heat. Add the chicken, salt, pepper, garam masala, chili powder, cumin, turmeric, and cayenne. Sauté until the chicken is mostly cooked through. Turn the heat to medium low.
Step 2: Add the onion and sauté for 1-2 minutes.
Step 3: Add the tomato, honey, ginger, and garlic. Sauté for another minute.
Step 4: Add cream. Scrape any brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer. Cover and cook on low for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Step 5: While the sauce simmer, boil the pasta according to the instructions on the package. Reserve about 1-2 cups of pasta water.
Step 6: Toss the pasta with sauce. Add about ½ cup of pasta water to start. Thin the sauce with more as needed.
Expert Tips & Recipe Notes
- Use chicken thighs. Chicken thighs have more fat making them moist when cooked. They hold up well simmering the tomato cream sauce.
- Do not skip the garam masala. This spice is so important to achieving the traditional flavor of butter chicken. It adds a depth and warmth that cannot be replaced with anything else.
- Keep any eye on the sauce. While the sauce simmers, be sure to uncover it and stir. Since it is cream based, it will thicken up quickly, which makes it prone to burning on the bottom.
- Do not overcook the pasta. When cooking pasta, ALWAYS set a timer. If the package suggests a range of time, set your timer for the shortest time. I find this is normally plenty.
- Thin the sauce with the pasta water. Right before your pasta is done, ladle some water into a glass liquid measuring cup or bowl. This ensures you have plenty to work with.
- Serve with naan. I mean what’s a big hearty bowl of pasta without a side of warm bread? You can make it homemade or just buy some from the store. I recommend warming it and brushing it with garlic butter.
Butter Chicken Pasta
- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs*
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 2 teaspoons garam masala*
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 6 ounce can tomato paste
- 1 Tablespoon honey*
- 1 teaspoon ginger paste
- 5 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- 1 cup heavy cream*
- 12 ounces short cut pasta, pasta water resevred*
- Review all recipe notes and instructions before beginning.
- In a large pot, melt the butter over medium high heat. Add the chicken, salt, pepper, garam masala, chili powder, cumin, turmeric, and cayenne. Sauté until the chicken is mostly cooked through. Turn the heat to medium low.
- Add the onion and sauté for 1-2 minutes.
- Add the tomato, honey, ginger, and garlic. Sauté for another minute.
- Add cream. Scrape any brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer. Cover and cook on low for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- While the sauce simmer, boil the pasta according to the instructions on the package. Reserve about 1-2 cups of pasta water.
- Toss the pasta with sauce. Add about ½ cup of pasta water to start. Thin the sauce with more as needed.