Harissa Spaghetti

A unique and flavor-packed spaghetti recipe. Whole wheat pasta noodles, olives, kale, and toasted nuts are tossed in a pan for a tangle with a garlic-charged harissa and olive oil sauce. This one is an easy weeknight win!

Harissa Spaghetti

Earmark this harissa spaghetti for an easy weeknight meal. You won’t be sad about it! The inspiration? One of the condiments that survived my recent refrigerator scouring was a three-quarters full tube of harissa. It’s the beautiful brick red, earthy, and often potent North African spice paste. I earmarked it for a spaghetti dish I had in mind. Whole wheat spaghetti, inky black olives, kale, and toasted nuts tossed in a pan to tangle with a garlic-charged harissa and olive oil sauce. Little flecks of lemon zest brighten each bite. I did it, and it’s wonderful.

spaghetti tossed with harissa oil, kale, and walnuts served on a platter

Choose your Spaghetti

You can use whatever spaghetti you love here, of course. Keep in mind, there are many interesting pastas to explore these days. They’re made with everything from red lentils or chickpeas, whole wheat to quinoa. I love the added nutritional punch you get from using some of these. The spaghetti below is made from farro and add wonderful dimension to the overall dish (this one).

harissa spaghetti ingredients arranged in bowls on counter

Let's Talk Harissa

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.
spaghetti dinner tossed with harissa oil, kale, and walnuts on a table being served

Make Your Own Harissa

I don’t have a homemade harissa on 101 Cookbooks at the moment. But a number of people have mentioned favorite recipes in the comments.

  • ValHalla: "I use Deborah Madison’s recipe from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. (There’s also an amazing stew with harissa in that book."
  • Bryan: "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."
  • I've also had good results with this recipe.
  • Kitty also mentioned the following about buying harissa in jars instead of tubes. “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 aftertaste.”

If you have a favorite harissa, give a shout in the comments!
spaghetti tossed with harissa oil, kale, black olives and walnuts served on a platter

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Harissa Spaghetti

4.84 from 6 votes

A few quick notes - you can substitute any spaghetti pasta, really. I love to use this farro spaghetti pasta for this recipe. It has 8g of protein and 3g fiber per serving, and it made from organic emmer wheat, also known as farro. It’s a bit spendy, but really delivers. Not sponsored, just a big fan. Other details - cut the kale into bite-sized pieces.

  • 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) spaghetti
  • 1 small bunch kale, washed, deveined, torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 cup oil-cured black olives, pitted
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts or walnuts, toasted
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/3 cup goat cheese, crumbled optional
  1. 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. In a small bowl whisk together the garlic paste, harissa, and olive oil. Set aside.

  2. 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.

  3. Heat half of the harissa dressing in the now empty pasta pot Add the pasta and kale, black olives, 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. Finish with the crumbled goat cheese and enjoy!


Serves about 4.

Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
10 mins
Total Time
25 mins
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Recipe Rating


My go-to harissa recipe is in Suzanne Goin’s book, Sunday Supper at Lucques. I always make extra to give away as gifts.

    Love this tip!

    Heidi Swanson

I made this tonight and it was superb! I think that the goats cheese is a must – it adds a lovely creamy texture to the dish. I used pine nuts rather than walnuts and I think I’ll stick with that choice. I was a bit lazy with making the garlic paste, but I don’t think it mattered. Thanks for the recipe!5 stars


Thank you! This sounds fabulous, and I will be making it soon to brighten and enliven my Seattle rain-soaked soul. My personal favorite harissas are Villa Jerada, and Les Moulins Mahjoub. They are two different styles. Villa Jerada’s is smooth and a complex mix of peppers and spices, while the Mahjoub is chunky, with beautiful pepper flavors. I love them both!5 stars


    This is great Kate, thanks for your insight!

    Heidi Swanson

I never tried harissa, but it sounds and looks wonderful!


I encourage everyone to try making harissa–it is easy and so good. The only tricky part is that I have to strain it to get out the bits of dried pepper skin that my husband dislikes (yes I spoil him). The one time I tried a store bought jar it was too spicy and generally not good.
I use Deborah Madison’s recipe from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. (There’s also an amazing stew with harissa in that book.)


Just a thought:
I was thinking that soba (Japanese buckwheat noodles) would be specific delicious variation. The heartiness of the buckwheat would offset the harissa spice and I always find that sauces “cling” much better to buckwheat noodles in general.
PS Don’t post often but read daily! Love your writing style and recipes. Did a modified version of your peanut noodle salad – instead of blanching the asparagus I flash-sauteed along with leeks (I’m on a leek kick right now) and edamame. YUMMY!!!! The peanut sauce was perfect – not too spicy – not too bland (I used crunchy and nixed the peanuts).


Wow, harissa and spaghetti are two of my favourite things. I can’t believe I haven’t tried this combination before, thanks for alerting me !


I once got a wedge of chedder cheese with harissa cheese from trader joes, that was some delicious. This pasta dish looks awesome.


This looks delicious! I have just made my own harissa for the first time and I’m just cooking up some chicken now…I might use the leftover paste for some spaghettini though!


I saw this recipe, knew I HAD to make it, and did. I followed the recipe to the letter, and it came out brilliantly.
My husband was very pleased, and I’ll be serving at our next dinner party. Delicious!


I have never tasted Harissa before – it looks absolutely delicious and I think, I have to taste it soon!


Wow. I am really eager to make harissa now; this is just gorgeous and I adore spicy food. The LA Times references New Mexico chiles. Does anyone have a good source for these? I see some references online that sub them for Anaheims, but it seems they are not quite the same thing.


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


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

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

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.


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!!


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’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!


Kitty Morse

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.


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?


This photo really made me sit up and take notice!
What a wonderful idea to help use up the tub of harissa I have. Thanks and have a fantastic trip.


My favorite brand is Cap du Bon, but it’s getting hard to find in my local markets. I’ve also used DEA with good results. Always, if you have the choice, buy in a tube rather than a tin. If you can only find the tin, remember to transfer the contents to a glass jar after you’ve opened it, as you’ll only use a small bit of harissa at a time.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)

This pasta dish looks rich and full of flavors. It’s funny how I’ve never tried harissa before, even though I’m coming from Israel and here it’s pretty common.
I’m used to ‘lighter in taste’ and minimal ingredients with my pasta, so this dish is definitely something new I’d like to try. 🙂


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!


In reference to funkylamb’s recommendation of Charmaine Solomon’s Harissa, I found that it is available in the US at Dean and Deluca and can be ordered online. Thanks for the info, funkylamb! And thanks for the recipe, Heidi! Can’t wait to try it.


Harissa sounds really good. I was thinking of making some sort of tapanades with hummus and black olives with this mixed in somehow.


Oooh! This recipe sounds lovely.
I make my own harissa–I have no store-bought supplies where I live.
Carnivore Husband loves it mixed with orange juice and slathered on chicken breasts, then grilled.
I love the big bold flavors.


Harissa is one of those things I have been intrigued by for awhile but have not gotten around to making or cooking with. Thanks for the inspiration!
Have a great trip to South America!


After an amazing North African meal in the suburbs of Paris, I became obsessed with harissa! After an extensive search, I confidently say that the best ready-made paste I’ve found is Charmaine Solomon’s Harissa. It’s almost exactly the paste I had in Paris, full of flavour but with a hearty kick. Fabulous! I have no idea if it’s available in the U.S. but you can get it from delis and dj’s in Australia.


I’ve never tried harissa before… sounds wonderfully delicious and intriguing!!


Lately your recipes are so easy I can make them on a weekday. Much appreciated!


I adore harissa. If you need anybody to carry your bags on your idyllic sounding trip, you know my address. Have a wonderful time and hurry back as you’ll be much missed.


To my mind, the best harissa combination is with lamb sausage – either the kind a good market sells, or the Moroccan ones that one could no doubt find on the web. This article caused me to think of a grilled lamb tenderloin topped with harissa with some cous cous on the side. Sounds like tomorrow :).

Robert Yesselman

Gah! It’s been years since I’ve had harissa! I had a boss who made an amazing pasta dish with olives, capers, and elephant garlic – and tons of harissa.
I’m going to have to check back for recommendations of brands. I’m jonesing for some now!


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