Roasted Veg & Harissa Pasta

One of the welders at the shop I work at is from Tunisia.  He sent me home with a generous sample of his Mother’s home-made Harissa Paste.  I get him when he says that the stuff out here just isn’t the same.  Most of the commercial pastes here are roasted pepper (of some kind) with lemon, oil, lots of coriander and a bit of caraway.  What he gave me was much deeper and denser.  It was a very smoky and heavily roasted Aleppo pepper paste, thick with oil, bitter with a very toasted and dominant caraway flavor and very little coriander – no lemon nor garlic at all.

Now why use it on pasta?  Well, this same colleague mentioned that his favourite way to dress pasta was with Harissa.  Not a combo that I would have naturally thought of myself, but when you think about it, it makes good sense!  No different than pesto really, just with very different ingredients.  This is my twist on his idea, taking advantage of the last of the garden’s goods along with the treasure he gifted to the kitchen.

Yield: 4 servings

What you need:

  • 4 shallots, halved and sliced into wedges
  • 1 cup of baby carrots, quartered lengthwise (or a cup of carrot sticks)
  • 4 small parsnips, roll-cut, 1 cup (if you don’t know how to roll-cut, this is a great tutorial)
  • 2-1/2 cups roll-cut Japanese eggplant (the thin ones, quantity will vary from 4 to 8 units depending on length)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons dry white whine (optional)
  • 4-6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Harissa paste (or more, to taste)
  • 1/3 cup Moroccan olives, pitted and halved
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice from 1/2 the lemon (if there’s no lemon in your Harissa)
  • 8 to 10 oz dry pasta, gluten-free if desired or necessary
  • chopped pistachios for garnish (optional)

What you do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F while you cut all the vegetables.
  2. Mix the parsnip, shallot, carrot and eggplant with the oil and wine (if using), in a 9″x13″ baking dish.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and then toss again to distribute the spice evenly amongst the vegetables.  Add the sprigs of thyme to the dish.
  3. Roast the vegetables 30-35 minutes until browning and tender.                                     IMG_0799.JPG
  4. While the vegetables are roasting, bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat, liberally salting the water.
  5. While the water heats, mix together the olives, Harissa, lemon zest and lemon juice in a large bowl.                                                                                                     IMG_0798.JPG
  6. When the water is boiling, cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Try and time it so it’s ready at pretty much the same time as the vegetables.  When cooked, drain.
  7. When the vegetables are ready, remove the thyme sprigs and transfer them to the bowl with the olives and Harissa.  Add the pasta.  Mix well.
  8. Serve, garnished with chopped pistachios if desired.

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