Harissa is a traditional North African hot chili sauce made usually from bird's eye chili pepper, serrano peppers and spices like garlic, cilantro, and caraway. You can buy prepared harissa which is usually sold in a tube. It is typically used to flavor couscous. When you bite into the raw Tunisian-Harissa fettuccine, you can definitely taste the smoky, lemon flavors captured within the pasta. I really wanted to capture and stay true to the Middle Eastern flavors from the pasta using ingredients that are traditionally found in their dishes. I am a big fan of "Casablanca" and Humphrey Bogart. So whenever I think of Morocco, I think of that movie and the mysterious sexiness that just oozed off the screen. I also think of bold colors and exciting flavors.
Casablanca image taken from International Cinema Review
I had special ordered this amazing merguez sausage I had tried while visiting friends in DC at the Columbia Heights farmer's market from Stachowksi Charcuterie. While you're cooking the merguez, the intense flavors of cinnamon, cloves and raisins just hits you. It is mouthwatering... You can easily substitute the merguez with anything, but I feel that it really adds a little something to the pasta. I used the lemon juice at the very end to tone down the richness of the pasta and brighten up the flavors. If you are vegetarian, you can still enjoy this delicious pasta with a bit of roasted eggplant treated to a little cumin-paprika action! You also don't need to purchase this fettuccine to make this pasta. Just replace the flavors with one-two tablespoons of harissa paste at the very end.
This is a great Friday night meal since it is comforting and easy to make in under 30 minutes. Once you're finished, pour yourself a glass of wine and pop in a DVD of your favorite Bogey movie and RELAX!
6 oz Tunisian-Harissa fettuccine
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 links merguez sausage
1/8 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup roasted red peppers, diced and cut into 1-inch strips
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp mild paprika
1/4 cup basil, roughly chopped
Juice from 1/2 lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. In a pot of salted water over high heat, bring to boil and then add fettuccine. The salted water is to season the pasta. Lower to medium heat and cook until al dente, approximately 5-8 minutes. The pasta should have a slight bite to it still. Do not overcook it! Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, drain pasta and put to the side.
2. While pasta is cooking, in a medium size sauté pan add olive oil over medium heat. Then, squeeze the merguez sausages out of their casing into small bite-size pieces. Cook for a few minutes, then add pine nuts to taste. After a minute, add the peppers and garlic. Cook all together for another few minutes until sausage is fully cooked.
3. Put pasta back in the pot it was boiled in, add sausage mixture with all juices. Add basil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. If you'd like a stronger taste of harissa, you can add 1 tbsp or to taste. Use the reserved pasta water to thin the pasta. Mix all together.
4. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the top. Serve immediately.