This spicy harissa pasta recipe is an easy-to-make and unique pasta dish. The spice of the Moroccan chili paste is offset by the tang of capers and black olives to make a Mediterranean fusion of flavors.
** This post contains compensated links. Find more info in my DISCLAIMER. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Using Harissa In Non-Moroccan Recipes
Pasta and harissa go hand-in-hand even if not traditionally Moroccan. It’s an easy way to spice up what would otherwise be a classic Italian pasta recipe.
One of our favorite go-to pasta dishes is pasta Aglio e Olio. Normally we make ours with olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper, making it a spicy spaghetti dish. I figured if we were already using crushed red pepper to spice up a pasta dish, why not use a Moroccan harissa paste sauce?
Check out some of our more traditional Moroccan recipes:
Cooking With Harissa Paste And Sauce
We started looking for unique recipes to make with harissa because once I open a jar or a bottle, I want to find ways to use it. Once you open a jar, it normally should be used in less than a month. So, I got creative and harissa pasta was born.
There are two types of harissa I use when cooking Moroccan recipes. Mina is one of my favorite harissa sauces. It comes in a glass jar and is found in a lot of supermarkets in the US. I also like Le Phare du Cap Bon, which comes in a tube. This is commonly found in our Irish supermarkets and in the UK. Both can be found on Amazon:
Ingredients For Spicy Harissa Paste Pasta
Really, any pasta you have at home would work for this recipe. It’s best though with a wider pasta, that holds up to the sauce well. This means a spaghetti works, but a pappardelle or tagliatelle works better.
Also, fresh, refrigerated pasta works better than dry pasta. It’s just that much more soft. If you are not vegan, I would also recommend looking for an egg pasta.
Harissa Pasta Sauce And Other Ingredients
The base of the sauce is made with olive oil and tomato paste, just like so many pasta recipes. Add minced or pressed garlic. I prefer pressing garlic because it means there aren’t large chunks of garlic in pasta at the end. It just cooks more evenly.
To offset the spiciness of the harissa paste, add capers and pitted kalamata olives. Drain the capers from the brine that they come in. And, slice the kalamata olives into smaller pieces to blend them into the sauce well.
Fresh spinach adds both color and fiber to this harissa pasta recipe. Baby spinach works well, or regular spinach but roughly chopped so it wilts better into the pasta. A touch of freshly chopped parsley serves as a garnish before serving.
Check out some of our other Moroccan-inspired recipes with harissa:
How To Make This Harissa Pasta Recipe
Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, garlic, and capers and coat in the oil. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the garlic starts to yellow but before it turns brown.
Add the harissa paste, tomato paste, and kalamata olives. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Start with one tablespoon of the harissa paste and then taste the sauce. You can always add more to give it an extra kick, but it’s hard to remove spice once it’s there. Cook the sauce for 5-7 minutes to allow the flavors to infuse the tomato sauce.
How To Cook The Pasta
Cook the pasta according to the package directions in salted water. When it’s ready, reserve about a cup of pasta water to add to the pasta sauce if need be. You can do this two ways. Sometimes I just dunk a mug into the pasta water before draining.
Or, in a dish like this, I will use tongs to lift the pasta from the pasta water and add it right into the sauce. This sort of brings a bit of the water into the sauce to make the sauce more liquid.
Finishing The Harissa Pasta Sauce
Returning to the sauce, fold in the spinach and allow it to wilt, about 2-3 minutes. Add the pasta to the saute pan and coat in the sauce.
If it seems a bit dry, add a bit of the pasta water to stretch the sauce. Serve with chopped parsley as a garnish.
- 2 cups pasta (pappardelle or tagliatelle)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
- 1 tablespoon capers, drained
- 2-3 tablespoons harissa paste
- 1 8 ounce can of tomato paste
- 3 tablespoons pitted kalamata olives, sliced
- 2 cups roughly chopped spinach or baby spinach
- Parsley for garnish
- Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat.
- Add the olive oil, garlic, and capers. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the garlic starts to yellow but before it turns brown.
- Add the harissa paste, tomato paste, and kalamata olives. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Cook for 5-7 minutes to allow the flavors to infuse the tomato sauce.
- Cook the pasta according to the package directions in salted water.
- Returning to the sauce, fold in the spinach and allow to wilt, about 2-3 minutes.
- Drain the pasta, retaining one cup of pasta water.
- Add the drained pasta to the frying pan and coat it in the sauce.
- If it seems a bit dry, add a bit of the pasta water to stretch the sauce.
- Serve with chopped parsley as a garnish.
For the pasta, use about 2 cups of dried pasta for 2 people. This recipe is best with fresh pasta, which you can buy at the grocery store and cooks in only 3-4 minutes. Look for a pappardelle or tagliatelle egg pasta.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 499Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 737mgCarbohydrates: 76gFiber: 16gSugar: 16gProtein: 20g
This nutritional data is provided by a third-party source and should not be relied on if you are on a strict diet.
FAQs – Spicy Harissa Pasta
Yes, harissa is a spicy sauce. The main ingredient in harissa is chili peppers. While not as spicy as sauces made with jalapenos or Scotch bonnet peppers, harissa does have some kick to it.
Harissa is a highly versatile sauce. It can be used with meats, especially beef and lamb as well as vegetables and fish. While spicy, harissa isn’t an over-powering sauce, allow it to complement a wide range of ingredients.