This spicy harissa pasta with onions and cherry tomatoes is perfect for a quick and easy meal. The spicy sauce is made with harissa sauce, and tastes absolutely amazing!
This vegan harissa pasta recipe is one of my favorite ways to use up leftover harissa paste. It's a creamy vegan pasta dish that you can prepare in just 15 minutes, making it a great choice for weeknight dinners.
Why you'll love it
- Quick and easy: this dish is made in less than 15 minutes!
- Use your favorite type of pasta, like spaghetti or penne
- Easily adjust the recipe to suit your preferences
- The spice paste adds a lovely flavor and allows you to easily adjust the spice levels if needed
- Vegan, dairy-free, nut-free and allergy-friendly
- Easily make it gluten-free by using gluten-free pasta
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Pasta: You can use any type of pasta in this recipe. Use your favorite pasta shape, like penne, fusilli, rotini, or spaghetti. You can also use whole wheat pasta or specialty pasta types like chickpea pasta.
Harissa paste: I like to keep things simple by using store-bought paste from my local supermarket. You can also find this in stores that specialize in North African ingredients. You will need several tablespoons harissa paste, I often just use an entire small jar.
Cherry tomatoes: Tomatoes compliment the harissa sauce well. You can alternatively use diced large tomatoes or plum tomatoes.
Onion: Any onion will work well in this recipe. I tend to use red onion, white onion, or yellow onion, depending on what I have available.
Garlic: Adds a fantastic flavor. Can be omitted if you prefer.
Olive oil: The oil is used to sautee the ingredients. You can also use coconut oil, vegetable oil, canola oil, or any cooking oil that you like.
Lemon juice: This brightens the flavors and elevates the dish. You can substitute it with some white vinegar if you prefer.
Seasoning: A combination of salt, pepper, and parsley add a little more flavor to the pasta sauce. The spicy chili paste is so flavorful that we don't need to add a lot of spices.
Harissa paste is a spicy North African paste made from flavorful ingredients like chili, garlic, oil, and spices. It's commonly used as a dip, as a condiment, or as an ingredient in various recipes.
You can now find harissa paste in most grocery stores, or you can attempt to make your own if you prefer. Harissa paste is a key ingredient in this recipe, and I don't recommend substituting it.
You can find full instructions + ingredient measurements in the recipe card at the bottom of this page
One: In a skillet, heat up olive oil over medium heat until it's warm. Add peel and sliced onions, washed cherry tomatoes, and finely chopped garlic. Sautee for a few minutes, until the onion is soft and translucent.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Check the estimated cooking time for your pasta of choice, as the cooking times can vary, especially if you use whole wheat pasta.
Two: Add harissa paste, lemon juice, and seasoning to the skillet with the onions and tomatoes, and stir to combine. Sautee for about a minute or two, or until the sauce becomes fragrant.
Turn the temperature down to low, and allow the sauce to rest while you stir occasionally until the pasta is boiled. If the sauce becomes dry, you can add a spoonful of pasta water to make it more creamy.
Three: When the pasta is cooked, drain off most of the excess water. Transfer the drained pasta to the skillet with the sauce, along with a spoonful of leftover pasta water. Use tongs to coat the pasta evenly in the sauce.
- The sauce takes approximately 10 minutes to make. Check how much cooking time your pasta requires, and use this to determine when you should start to prepare the sauce.
- Stir the sauce occasionally to prevent it from sticking to your pan.
- You can adjust the amount of spice in the dish by using more or less harissa paste.
- If the sauce is left to cook for a while, it might become really thick and a little dry. If this happens, you can simply add a little pasta water to the sauce.
This creamy harissa pasta is perfect to serve as an easy weeknight dinner, or even as a quick lunch. The dish is a complete meal on its own, but I often prefer to serve it with some crusty bread or garlic bread.
Pasta also pairs perfectly with a side salad. For this recipe, I recommend a simple olive salad or lemon kale salad. You can check out my collection of healthy salad recipes if you're interested in more side salad ideas.
Added vegetables: This dish tastes great with added roasted vegetables such as roasted red peppers, zucchini, eggplant, asparagus, or cauliflower. Feel free to add more veggies to make the dish more filling.
Added protein: Fill out the meal by adding shredded cooked chicken, drained canned chickpeas, or drained canned tuna to the pasta. If using meat, make sure that it's cooked throughout before you serve it.
Creamy harissa pasta: Add some creme fraiche or heavy cream to the sauce towards the end of the cooking time to make the sauce creamier. You can also add some grated Parmesan cheese if you want.
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No special equipment is required to make this recipe. All you need is a pot to boil the pasta in, and a skillet or frying pan for the sauce. I recommend using a non-stick skillet if you have it, as it helps you to prevent the sauce from sticking to the pan.
You can store leftover pasta with harissa paste in a sealed container in a fridge for up to 3 days. You can also freeze it for up to 3 months, but keep in mind that the texture of the pasta might be a little dry after you thaw it.
Reheat the leftovers in a microwave for about 2 minutes, or on the stove for a couple of minutes until it's warm throughout. The dish is also safe to serve cold, although it tastes best warm.
This harissa pasta recipe is perfect for make ahead meals and meal prep, as you can easily make a big batch and enjoy it throughout the week.
Frequently asked questions
No, harissa paste is completely safe to eat uncooked.
Harissa paste can be used as a condiment, dip, or as an ingredient in for example pasta sauce, soups, or marinade.
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Spicy Harissa Pasta
- Boil the pasta according to the package instructions.1 pound dried pasta
- In a skillet, heat up olive oil over medium heat until it's warm.1 teaspoon olive oil
- Add peel and sliced onions, washed cherry tomatoes, and finely chopped garlic. Sautee for a few minutes, until the onion is soft and translucent.3 cloves garlic, 1 onion, 1 pound cherry tomatoes
- Add harissa paste, lemon juice, and seasoning to the skillet with the onions and tomatoes, and stir to combine. Sautee for about a minute or two, or until the sauce becomes fragrant.⅓ cup harissa paste, ½ lemon, ¼ teaspoon black pepper, ¼ teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- Turn the temperature down to low, and allow the sauce to rest while you stir occasionally until the pasta is boiled. If the sauce becomes dry, you can add a spoonful of pasta water to make it more creamy.
- When the pasta is cooked, drain off most of the excess water. Transfer the drained pasta to the skillet with the sauce, along with a spoonful of leftover pasta water. Use tongs to coat the pasta evenly in the sauce.
- Store leftover spicy harissa pasta in a fridge for up to 3 days.
- Feel free to add other ingredients, like roasted vegetables, canned chickpeas or leftover shredded meat to the dish.
Food safety tips
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove