Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Harissa Spaghetti

I never would have thought to combine harissa and pasta until I ran into this recipe on the 101 Cookbooks website. The combination of Mediterranean ingredients and harissa in this recipe is ingenious -- it is light and healthy, but also hearty and extremely tasty. Although I admit that I don't like making practical weeknight food, I think this recipe qualifies but still keeps things interesting.

Harissa is one of my favorite ingredients though but, for some reason, I don't use it nearly often enough. The harissa I used for this recipe wasn't too spicy so I was able to use quite a bit for the sauce. I echo Heidi's advice to taste the harissa you intend to use first as pre-made harissa can vary greatly and many are extremely spicy. I also think whole wheat pasta works great for this recipe as it can stand up to bold flavors. I am a late convert to whole wheat pasta and still don't use it for every pasta recipe. However, I have been pleased with the taste and consistency of Trader Joe's Organic Whole Wheat Spaghetti. As usual, I have reproduced the recipe below with a few of my own alterations.

Harissa Spaghetti


4 - 5 medium cloves garlic, peeled
a big pinch of fine grain sea salt
1/4 cup plus 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp harissa (paste)
8-10 ounces (or a little more than 1/2 pound) whole wheat spaghetti
1 small bunch kale, well-washed, deveined, and torn into smaller pieces
1/2 cup oil-cured black olives pitted
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
zest of 1 lemon
squeeze of lemon


1. Bring a big pot of water to a boil. Whisk together the harissa and 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil with a big pinch of salt and set aside.

2. Heat remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and saute until fragrant. Add kale and a small pinch of salt and saute until softened. Add half the harissa/olive oil sauce and heat.

3. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente. Add the cooked spaghetti with a touch of pasta water to the heated sauce. Add the olives, lemon zest, and the remaining sauce and toss to combine. Add a squeeze of lemon and scatter the pine nuts.

Makes 4 servings.

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