If you are looking for an easy and quick pasta meal, this spicy harissa pasta is packed full of flavors, and if you enjoy spicy food, this can easily become a favorite. The harissa sauce is creamy, spicy, smoky and so delicious. We serve this vegan pasta dish with some crushed pistachios and finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes.
What is Harissa?
Harissa is a chili paste that is commonly used in North African and Middle-eastern countries to add heat to stews, curries, sauces, tagines, and more. This ingredient finds its origin in Tunisia and is now widely used in many countries.
Similar to the Asian chili paste Sambal, Harissa is made with a blend of chilis, olive oil, spices such as cumin and coriander, lemon, and garlic.
Where can you get Harissa Paste?
We buy our Harissa paste in an Arabic supermarket we have nearby. You can sometimes find Harissa paste in big supermarkets or Asian shops. Another option is to buy it online, where you can find great brands such as Casablanca Harissa Paste or maybe even make your own at home!
If you want to try making your own Harissa paste, we recommend you check this Homemade Harissa Recipe from The Mediterranean dish.
Our Harissa Pasta is:
- Easy to make
- A main dish
- A Quick meal
- Perfect for busy weekday meals
- Great for making it ahead
How to make Harissa Pasta
Ingredients and substitutions
Our Spicy Harissa Spaghetti is made using just a few simple ingredients that combined together make this dish absolutely delicious.
Harissa Paste. To make Harissa Pasta you will need Harissa Paste. You can buy it or make your own. If you really want to make this dish and don't have Harissa Paste or cannot make it, you can use Sambal Oelek, or another type of chili paste.
Pasta. What type of pasta is best for this dish? I would say any! This sauce goes well with different pasta shapes. Our favorite is Spaghetti pasta as it soaks all the sauce easily while eating it and you won't have sauce leftover on your plate. We tried serving this with short pasta such as fusilli, and it was lovely. Use any pasta type you like. If you want to make this dish healthier, you can use whole wheat pasta or legume pasta such as lentil or chickpea pasta.
Onion and garlic. For our Vegan Harissa Pasta, we like starting the dish with some sautée onion and garlic. We blend these with the rest of the sauce ingredients once they have been cooked and it gives the sauce a delicious touch. We use yellow onion or shallots which tend to be sweeter.
Red Bell pepper. Roasted bell pepper gives the sauce a delicate smoky flavor and adds sweetness. You can use fresh bell pepper baked in the oven or use jarred roasted red pepper.
Cashews. To add creaminess to our Spicy Harissa Pasta we soak cashews to blend them after with the rest of the ingredients. They add a creamy and nutty touch to the pasta sauce. Other ingredients you can use instead of cashews are vegan creams such as soy cream or coconut cream. You can use regular heavy cream for a vegetarian Harissa sauce.
Lemon juice. We use fresh lemon juice for this recipe.
Optional ingredients to finish your Harissa Pasta
Before serving this vegan pasta meal, we add some crushed pistachios, finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes, and some fresh oregano.
You can use other ingredients such as pine nuts, fresh parsley, fresh chopped basil, preserved lemons, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, etc. Just twist the recipe to your taste and using what you already have at home.
- Soak the cashews. While you prepare the rest of the ingredients, leave the cashews soaking in hot water. They need to be soaked for at least 20 minutes.
- Roast the red pepper. Place the red pepper in a baking dish or casserole dish, using a fork or knife make some holes and bake for about 30 minutes or until the skin is charred. Leave to cool.
- While the red pepper is roasting and the cashews are soaking, you can bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta following the package instructions. Use salted water to cook the pasta al dente and before draining the pasta, save a cup of pasta water for later. Drain the cooked spaghetti, add some olive oil so it doesn't stick easily, and reserve.
- Sautée the onion and garlic using a frying pan. Heat some olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat, and add the onion finely chopped. Stir and cook until it softens. Then add the garlic, finely sliced, cook for another 3-4 minutes, and turn the heat off. If you want to skip this step, you can add garlic and onion powder while blending the sauce.
- Make the sauce. For this part, you will need to use a high-speed or immersion blender. We use our Ninja blender to make the Harissa sauce. Add to the blender jug the soaked cashews (drained and rinsed), the roasted red pepper (skin and seeds removed), the sautéed garlic and onion, harissa paste, lemon juice, and vegetable stock or water. Blend until the cashews are perfectly blended and you have a smooth sauce.
- Using a large sauté pan, large skillet, or pot, combine de sauce with the cooked pasta, and add crushed pistachios, finely chopped sundried tomatoes, and fresh oregano or parsley. Mix well, add some reserved pasta water if needed, and serve. We like using some of the pasta water if we need to reheat the dish after a few hours of making it to get that creamy sauce again.
Spice level. You can easily change the spice level by reducing or increasing the quantity of Harissa Paste. Harissa is the ingredient that adds heat to this dish. If you enjoy just a little heat, consider reducing the amount of Harissa paste. If you follow our recipe, the dish comes out quite spicy, perfect for spice lovers.
If you want to make a recipe similar to this Harissa Pasta but for kids or toddlers, you can try our Roasted Red Pepper and Sun-dried Tomato pasta. Similar in flavors but unspicy for those little ones.
Add veggies. This pasta dish pairs amazingly with some roasted veggies such as bell peppers, eggplant, or zucchini. You can add them to the pasta sauce or simply serve them on the side. If you prefer to add some fresh veggies, you can add cherry tomatoes or another type of sweet tomatoes, sweet peppers such as red peppers, spinach, or rocket salad.
Add some more protein. If you want to add more protein to this vegan pasta dish, you can add some crumbled tofu on top. We like crumbling and marinating the tofu with soy sauce and sweet paprika. Then pan-frying the tofu and add it to our pasta sauces. It gives the dish a nice touch and adds protein. Other options could be adding some crumbled vegan feta or regular feta for a vegetarian option.
Our Creamy Harissa Pasta recipe is a hearty, filling, and comforting pasta meal. Perfect to serve for a quick and delicious lunch with some black olives such as Kalamata olives, or crusty Vegan Garlic Bread.
If you want to serve it with something to cool down the heat, you can add a dollop of plain vegan yogurt to the pasta. We do this when we have other spicy meals such as chili beans.
A side green salad can as well help to balance out the spiciness of the harissa and add some freshness to the meal.
FAQ and Tips
Store and Reheat
To reheat the pasta after cooking it, you can add ½ cup of the pasta cooking water to get that creamy texture back. If you want to reheat the leftover pasta after a day or two, use a pan or a microwave and add some water or cream if needed to get that creamy consistency again. If you are using a pan or pot, reheat over low heat. You can store the pasta using an airtight container in the fridge for about 2-3 days.
What other recipes can I make with Harissa paste?
You can add Harissa paste to your Shakshuka, Arabic-style soups, Tagines, Falafel Sandwich, Hummus, rice dishes, and even make spicy butter with it! You won't run out of ideas to use this delicious chili paste.
Is Harissa gluten-free?
Harissa is naturally gluten-free and it should not contain gluten. If you have a gluten intolerance or allergy, it is best to check the label of the jar you are using to make sure it is 100% gluten-free. You can make this recipe gluten-free by choosing gluten-free pasta.
How can I make this recipe nut-free?
We use cashews for this recipe but we know that nuts present an allergen problem for many people.
To make this Spicy Harissa Pasta nut-free, substitute the cashew cream for oat cream or coconut milk. We use them in many of our recipes and they work really well when making this sauce too.
Spicy Harissa Pasta
- ¾ cups cashews
- 1 red bell pepper
- 400 g spaghetti pasta
- 1 onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 ½ tablespoon harissa paste
- lemon juice from ½ lemon
- 200 ml vegetable stock or water
- A handful pistachios
- 3-4 sun-dried tomatoes preserved in oil
- A handful fresh oregano
- Preheat the oven to 200C (400F)
- Place the cashews in a small bowl and add some boiling water. Leave soaking for about 20 minutes. Drain, rinse and set aside.
- While the cashews are soaking, wash the red pepper, place it on a small casserole or baking dish, make some small holes with a knife or fork, and bake for about 30 minutes or until the skin is charred.
- Leave to cool and remove the skin and seeds.
- While the red pepper is roasting and the cashews are soaking, you can cook the pasta following the package instructions. Use salted water to cook the pasta al-dente and before draining the pasta, save some pasta water for later.
- Drain the pasta, add some olive oil so it doesn't stick easily, and reserve.
- Heat some olive oil in a small pan over medium heat, and add the onion finely chopped.
- Stir and cook until it softens. Then add the garlic, finely sliced, cook for another 3-4 minutes, and turn the heat off.
- Add to a blender jug the soaked cashews, the roasted red pepper, sautéed garlic and onion, harissa paste, lemon juice, and vegetable stock or water.
- Blend until the cashews are perfectly blended and you have a smooth sauce.
- Combine in a pan the pasta and sauce, and add crushed pistachios, finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes, and fresh oregano or parsley.
- Mix well, add some reserved pasta water if needed, and serve.
- We like using some of the pasta water if we need to reheat the dish after a few hours of making it to get that creamy sauce again.
- To make this dish milder, use half of the Harissa paste listed. If you want the dish to be spicier, add more Harissa paste.
- Serve with some crusty bread, a fresh salad, or some roasted veggies.
|If you tried our recipe, please leave a comment or tag us on Instagram @Sixhungryfeet. We are always happy to see your creations!|
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