An instant classic at chef Preeti Mistry’s latest Oakland restaurant, Navi Kitchen, this tikka masala mac & cheese is the embodiment of the chef’s style: Cali-cool mashed up with traditional Indian flavors. To really capture the chef’s super fresh results, toast and grind whole spices with a mortar and pestle or in a coffee grinder.
8 green cardamom pods
2 black cardamom pods
1 (3-in.) cinnamon stick
8 whole cloves
1 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 tablespoon Indian red chile powder (Kashmiri chile powder)
Place cardamom, cinnamon stick, cloves, and fenugreek in a small skillet over medium. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Transfer toasted spices to a clean coffee grinder, and pulse until finely ground (or use a mortar and pestle). Stir in the chile powder; set aside.
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium. Add ginger and garlic; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add reserved spice mixture, tomato paste, cream, and water to saucepan, and cook, whisking constantly, until tomato paste dissolves. Simmer until bubbles form around the edge, about 5 minutes. Whisk in sour cream, Cheddar, and 4 ounces of the Gouda. Cook, stirring often, until cheeses melt and sauce is smooth, about 3 minutes. Stir in 2 teaspoons of the salt. Reduce heat to low, and keep warm.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, and season with remaining 1/4 cup salt. Add macaroni; cook according to package directions. Drain pasta and return to pot. Add the cheese sauce, and stir well to combine. Transfer mixture to a broiler-safe baking dish.
Preheat broiler. Top pasta mixture with remaining 2 ounces Gouda; broil 3 minutes or until cheese melts. Serve immediately.