Harissa Spaghettini Recipe

A unique and flavor-packed pasta recipe. Whole wheat pasta noodles, olives, kale, pine nuts tossed in a pan for a tangle with a garlic-charged harissa and olive oil sauce.

Harissa Spaghettini

One of the condiments that survived my recent refrigerator scouring was a three-quarters full tube of harissa - the brick red, earthy, and sometimes potent North African spice paste. I had it earmarked for a pasta dish I had in mind - long, thin whole wheat pasta noodles, olives, kale, pine nuts tossed in a pan for a tangle with a garlic-charged harissa and olive oil sauce. I'm packing my bags for a quick trip to Chile and Argentina, and thought this would be an easy send-off supper - with leftovers I can bring on the flight.

Keep in mind as you head into this recipe that the range of harissas available for purchase is vast - trust your taste buds, and if any of you have favorite brands, give a shout in the comments. One tube might be tastelessly tomato-y, the next tongue-torchingly hot. That being said, the best road to a great harissa is to make your own, but I'd be lying if I said I'm religious about it - hence, the tube of red in my refrigerator door.

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Harissa Spaghettini Recipe

A few quick notes - you can substitute any whole whole pasta, really. Cut the kale into big bite-sized pieces. Harissa can be found in many ethic food sections, or you can make it yourself.

3 medium cloves garlic, peeled
a big pinch of fine grain sea salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons harissa (paste)

8 ounces (1/2 pound) whole wheat spaghettini
1 small bunch kale, well-washed and deveined
1/2 cup oil-cured black olives, pitted
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
zest of 1 lemon

Bring a big pot of water to a boil. In the meantime, place the cloves of garlic on a cutting board and sprinkle then with a big pinch of salt. Crush with the flat side of a knife. Now crush and chop, crush and chop until you have a garlic paste. Alternately, you can use a mortar and pestle. In a small bowl whisk together the garlic paste, harissa, and olive oil. Set aside.

Generously salt the boiling water, add the pasta, and cook per package instructions. Just before the pasta is done add the kale to the pasta water, count to six, drain and set aside.

Heat half of the harissa dressing in the now empty pasta pot Add the pasta and kale, black olives, pine nuts, and lemon zest. Stir over the heat for a minute or so, then turn everything out onto a platter and drizzle with the remaining harissa olive oil.

Serves about 4 - 6.

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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aww, you're bringing me back to when I worked at a great little Moroccan restaurant in Santa Barbara... am remembering the harissa as a dip for bread with the carrot salad and super delicious with the whitefish (cilantro city!). a tip for softening the chiles - keep a jar in the fridge with water and add dry chiles, that way whenever the urge to make harissa occurs you're prepared. Can also be softened in olive oil. am dreaming now of a polenta dish with a cherry tomato-harrisa sauce and chestnuts. would be great with roasted chicken

Moshe David

Heidi, I've been religiously reading your bolg for several months, and I look forward to every post. You have such a refreshing angle, it almost makes we want to give up meat! I live in Santiago, Chile so if you need any reccomendations or just a friendly tourguide, please drop me a line. ([email protected]) Just one place you cannot miss is "El Huerto" restaurant, the best vegetarian restaurant in Santiago. (http://www.elhuerto.cl/index/) They've been at it for over 25 years, and it shows. (a "huerto" is a veggie garden in Chilean). It's true it's winter here, but we've had all kinds of days, ranging from chilly and rainy to sunny and bright. Most homes aren't very well heated, so dress in layers. Have a great trip!!


Heidi - Thanks for the ideas and the great website. Thanks also to funkylamb and Janice. I ordered 2 bottles of Harissa from D&D.


made this tonight and it was so easy! added italian tuna packed in olive oil and used spinach instead of kale. Also one tbs of harissa and one of Israeli schug. i will definitely make this again!


i swear by the Zuni cookbook recipe for harissa. it's totally labor intensive but totally worth it. plus, it's a great excuse to finally use up a significant number of spices from the pantry. it's full flavored, well balanced, a little spicy, and the recipe makes a ton. perfect for freezing.


Made this tonight and it was fabulous. I have always made pasta alia e olio with greens, garlic and hot pepper, but this just upped the ante. Thanks. Now dreaming of doing it with white beans and/or sausage as well.


I love how you always are using up ingredients you have on hand. The best way to come up with recipes. ;-) This sounds delicious, as well as a simple dinner to make.

Kimi @ The Nourishing Gourmet

I will definitely have to try this, and try making harissa since I never see it around where I live. Just wanted to add my favorite way to make a garlic paste: use a zester/fine grater. This works well for ginger too, and is how I make garlic/ginger paste for curry.


Other countries seem way more advanced in using spice pastes than we are here in the US. Maybe that's the next step for the local foods movement: tubes. www.teaandfood.blogspot.com

Aaron Kagan

Heidi, thanks for the link to the Harissa. Thiis one is much better then the one i have seen on FoodTV. Out of respect for all the chefs, that TV show will go unnamed. I will be making this one of these days, as I have bene looking for an inspiration to get me back into the kitchen and harissa will absolutely get me there. On a side note, do you have any issues cooking Quinoha(sp?). Mine turn out to be the consistency as the Tapioca balls.


Oh, YUM. Harissa is one of my favorite things. I learned to eat it (on everything) during a brief trip I took to Tunisia in the 1990's. And I brought back a dried spice mixture to make my own when I got home. I've been lucky enough to get "refills" from generous friends who have visited Africa in recent years... but I'm going to be very sad when my supply runs low. I've found none of the premade mixtures to be quite the same -- though I'd be delighted for recommendations, since at some point I might need them!!


Wow! This sounds awesome. I can't wait to make my own harissa, using the LA Times recipe. I've never heard of it, but from the recipe you posted and the article in the Times, I know its going to be a fast favorite! Thanks heidi! You're the best!


I've heard so much about harissa but have yet to try it. The spaghettini above just looks stunning!

[eatingclub] vancouver || js

oh this looks so so good. I'm such a sucker for pine nuts yum!


Hello Heidi: I enjoy your newsletter each week. I wanted to add my two cents' worth about harissa--a condiment I am intimately familiar with since I was born in Casablanca (though Moroccans adopted it from the Tunisians). There are many kinds of harissa, and many degrees of "heat" for the paste. I would recommend purchasing a jarred harissas rather than the one in the tube. I have always found the latter to have a metallic after taste. In my cookbooks, Cooking at the Kasbah: recipes from my Moroccan Kitchen and others, I give several variations for making your own, from hot to mild. If you can't find harissa, I recommend using Thai hot sauce, and adding a little cumin for a "true" North African taste! I envy your "quick trip" to Chile and Argentina. Hasta luego and Bon voyage! Kitty http://www.kittymorse.com

Kitty Morse

I love harissa and pasta is one of my favorite ways to use it. Have a safe trip, lucky lady!


I am looking forward to your comments on the great products you can find in Chile and Argentina. It does not seem to be a great moment in the year to be there, though --- we are going through a dark and bleak winter! Come back in September.


You can find it in any upscale grocers or a well stocked farmer's market. I have a friend in Atlanta who sends me some (Harissa du Cap bon) from the Farmers Market in Atlanta. Be safe on your journey!


I've been meaning to try harissa but havent had any luck finding one in the stores. Could anyone tell me where can I find it in the East Coast?


Another quick and delicious meal from you. Thanks! I have never seen harissa in a pasta dish before. Very original. Have fun in Chile and Argentina. I used to live in Argentina and loved it. Enjoy the wonderful medialunas (sin grasa!) and fantastic salads and pastas. Such great, fresh food, oh, and sites!


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