Why It Works
- Fresh produce and a relatively moderate amount of butter and cream make this dish taste lighter and more lively than restaurant versions.
- Blanching and draining spinach before adding it to the sauce prevents the dish from getting watered down.
- With only minimal spices, this is an easy entry to Indian home cooking.
Paneer makhani, or butter paneer, is a staple in America's Indian restaurants for a reason: it's hard to beat chunks of fresh cheese in a creamy, buttery tomato sauce. It's also drop-dead simple to make at home, and a little spinach makes it more of a one-dish meal with some rice or poofy flatbread on the side.
The only spice you need for the tomato sauce is cinnamon, but dried fenugreek leaves make a wonderful addition to the sauce, adding a subtle bitter-herbal flavor to balance out all the sweet tomato and cream. But you can skip 'em if you have to; this recipe is plenty satisfying as-is.
Recipe adapted from Floyd Cardoz.
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 medium onion, sliced (about 1 cup)
- 1 (3-inch) knob ginger, chopped (about 3 tablespoons)
- 1 jalapeno pepper, sliced
- Kosher salt
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, preferably "fire roasted"
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream, to taste
- 2 tablespoons crushed fenugreek leaves, toasted (optional)
- 1 bunch spinach blanched, drained, and chopped (or 10 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and drained)
- 1 pound paneer, diced into small cubes
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat, then stir in onions, ginger, and jalapeno. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions soften and just begin to take on color, 5 to 7 minutes.
Add canned tomatoes, cinnamon, and honey. Press on tomatoes with a wooden spoon to break them apart and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened with only a little liquid poking through the tomatoes and onions, 10 to 15 minutes.
Transfer sauce to blender (or use an immersion blender) and carefully
puree on high speed until very smooth, about 1 minute. Wipe saucepan clean and pour sauce through a fine mesh strainer back into pot. Add salt and cream to taste, and fenugreek if using.
Stir spinach into sauce, then fold in paneer, taking care not to break up the cubes of cheese. Let spinach and paneer warm through for 5 minutes. Stir in half of cilantro, sprinkle with remaining cilantro, and serve.