Harissa Spaghettini with Kale & Shrimp

Harissa Spaghettini with Kale & Shrimp

My sister-in-law, Jane, is the busy mother of four kids who shares my curiosity for food, and whenever she visits she comes bearing the most delectable, edible gifts. On a recent visit, she brought me a jar of harissa – the North African, mildly spicy, roasted hot pepper paste, which is often eaten as a condiment or used in stews and marinades to add a smoky, roasted flavor.

I usually serve harissa with sandwiches or as part of a cheese platter. This time, I wanted to find a recipe that Jane would appreciate. I know she rarely gets to indulge herself, so I wanted something decadent, seriously flavorful, pampering and quick. I also wanted something healthy and nurturing that she could share with the whole family. While looking for such a recipe, I stumbled across one for Harissa Spaghettini with Kale from one of my favorite blogs. And as I’m prone to do, I added my own twist to make it even more scrumptious: grilled shrimp.


Harissa is originally from Tunisia, but it is now very common in parts of North Africa and many other countries, including the US. It is a complex blend of hot peppers, oil, spices and, sometimes, roasted tomatoes. You can either make it from scratch or buy it in jars and tubes from most grocery stores. It has the texture of a tapenade and the heat of a mild hot sauce. While some harissas can be very spicy, it is easy to find milder versions that don’t skimp on the flavor. I personally prefer the ones that aren’t too overwhelmingly hot. Two brands I have recently eaten and recommend are Les Moulins Mahjoub and Cava Mezze.

Since I have predominantly used harissa as a condiment, I was excited to try this recipe which uses it as the integral ingredient for the pasta sauce. I also love all the other ingredients in this recipe. Just looking at a bowl of raw kale makes me feel healthy. The whole wheat spaghettini makes this dish hearty, the kalamata olives add a tangy balance to the heat of the harissa, the lemon zest echoes the bitter tartness in the rest of the dish, the pine nuts add a roasted crunch, and the shrimp adds a peppery sweetness.

Shrimp with Harissa Spaghettini

This is such a great recipe to keep in your back pocket for days when you want to eat something quick, healthy and seriously flavorful. Cheers to Jane and all the other busy parents out there! I’m in awe of how of selfless you are. I hope you’ll take the time out to pamper yourself with this dish.

Wishing you warm nurturing meals,

 A printable list of ingredients and directions are at the end of this post,
along with an image of this Perfect Morsel.

Toasted Pine Nuts

Heat the pine nuts in a cast iron pan or similar saute pan over a medium heat. Stir frequently for 5 minutes or until the seeds begin to turn brown. Keep an eye on the nuts as once they start to turn they may easily burn. Transfer to a bowl to cool.

Kalamata Olives

Rinse the kalamata olives. Using a sharp knife, cut the olives in half. Set aside.

Lemon Zest

Rinse and pat dry a whole lemon. Using a zester or grater, zest the outermost rind of the lemon. Set aside.

Garlic in Mortar & Pestle

Using a mortar and pestle, crush and grind the garlic with a pinch of salt. You can finely chop the garlic if you don’t have a mortar and pestle.

Harissa Spaghetti-12

Add the garlic to a small bowl along with the harissa and 1/4 of extra virgin olive oil.

Harissa Sauce

Stir to mix and set aside.

Whole Wheat Spaghettini

Boil water in a large pot and cook the spaghettini according to the directions on the package.


While the pasta cooks, rinse the kale. Remove the hard spine and chop the kale into bite size pieces. Doesn’t just looking at a bowl of kale makes you feel healthy?

Kale and Pasta

A minute before the pasta is done, add the chopped kale to the pasta and pasta water, and stir for the remaining time. Drain the kale and pasta in a colander and rinse with cold water, to stop both from cooking anymore.

Harissa Sauce in Pan

Heat the harissa mix to the pot that the pasta had been cooking in over medium heat for 1 minute.

Cooking Harissa Spaghettini

Stir in the pasta, kale, pine nuts, kalamata olives, and lemon zest. Heat for 2 minutes, stirring gently so as not to break the spaghettini.

Grilled Shrimp

Mix shrimp, black pepper, salt and olive oil in a bowl. Cook the shrimp either on a grill pan or a saute pan for 4 minutes on each side, until cooked all the way through. The key to getting a good sear on the shrimp is not to move them until the 4 minutes are up.

Harissa Spaghettini

Gently stir the shrimp into the pasta and transfer to a platter to serve.

Harissa Shrimp Pasta

You’ll notice that this week I don’t have a photograph of this perfect morsel. Why? Because I ate it before I could photograph it! This is how good this dish is.


  1. Jane says

    Yum! Thanks! I’m bringing a container of harissa to friends in California tomorrow. If TSA asks me to discard it, I guess I’ll pull out a spoon and consume it all before I go thru security!

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