A rich, spicy tomato pasta full of melt in the mouth harissa roasted eggplant (aubergine). A simple dinner which brings the smoky taste of harissa to a classic Italian meal and can easily be made vegan.
👩🍳 Christine’s Notes
Harissa is my new favorite thing to play with in the kitchen, and on busy nights it proves to be an excellent shortcut. The addition of harissa in this pasta sauce brings so much extra flavor, and a fiery smoky kick. It’s kind of a pasta alla norma meets penne arrabiata, but not quite, because the flavor definitely strays from an Italian profile thanks to the North African harissa.
Is that clear? Nope? It’s just very tasty, is what I can promise.
This is also an excellent choice for those with complication feelings towards the eggplant / aubergine / whatever you want to call it. Neither myself nor Mr. Veggie are what you would call fans of this vegetable. But I sensed that a harissa pasta recipe could be a good home for it, and we were both huge fans. The eggplant is roasted in a harissa-honey marinade (use maple syrup to keep it vegan) where it caramelizes and starts to melt, then it’s transferred to the sauce where it infuses all that delicious flavor and melts down a little more. So melty. I can’t seem to stop saying the word “melty” over here. But that’s just what it is.
🛒 What to know about your ingredients
This is a pretty easygoing recipe. By that I mean nothing needs to be too exact, nothing needs to be fancy.
A few things worth noting however:
- Different parts of the world tend towards different breeds of eggplant / aubergine. The eggplant I used in this recipe weighed 300 grams (10.5 ounces) which is typical in the UK but if you have a larger eggplant, feel free to use it all in this recipe. The sauce can definitely handle more eggplant. Just scale up the harissa-honey glaze a little if you are using substantially more than 300 grams.
- I use plain harissa here, feel free to try rose harissa.
- I’d suggest using the best canned tomatoes you can afford for this (I like to use my favorite Mutti brand) because they do get a chance to shine in this recipe. However it’s not essential. It will work out just fine with the cheaper ones.
- Maple syrup can be used in place of honey to keep the recipe vegan friendly.
✨ Other Ideas + Variations to your Harissa Pasta ✨
There’s lots of flexibility here!
- Feel free to add other vegetables! Mushrooms and peppers can roast alongside the eggplant, spinach can be mixed in at the end.
- If you’d prefer a slightly creamy finish, drizzle in some cream or a couple dollops of mascarpone at the end.
- The recipe calls for you to add the harissa only to the eggplant’s roasting glaze. This gives a fairly subtle result, so if you want a bigger kick of harissa, you can add another teaspoon or two directly to the sauce.
- Change up the herbs if you need to! Parsley would work well here and I’d even consider mint to really flex the genre.
Harissa Eggplant Pasta
- 1 medium* (1 medium*) eggplant / aubergine , chopped into small cubes
- 6 cloves (6 cloves) garlic, divided
- 2 tbsp (2 tbsp) harissa
- 2 tbsp (2 tbsp) olive oil, + more for coating the pan
- 1 tbsp (1 tbsp) maple syrup or honey
- 800 g (3.33 cups) canned chopped tomatoes
- 1 tsp (1 tsp) balsamic vinegar
- 2 tsp (2 tsp) dried Italian herbs
- 1 medium (1 medium) red onion, diced
- 350 g (5.83 cups) pasta
- 1 bunch (1 bunch) fresh basil, chopped
- cheese , for topping
- Preheat the oven to 200C / 390F.
- Whisk together the honey, harissa, olive oil and half of the minced garlic in a large bowl. Add the eggplant cubes and mix to ensure every bit is covered in the glaze.6 cloves garlic, 2 tbsp harissa, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp maple syrup or honey, 1 medium* eggplant / aubergine
- Scatter over a lightly oiled baking sheet and place in the oven for 25 minutes.
- In the meantime, start preparing the tomato sauce. Saute the onion until soft, then add the remaining half of the garlic and dried herbs. Saute for another couple of minutes until fragrant.6 cloves garlic, 1 medium red onion, 2 tsp dried Italian herbs
- Add the canned tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. Simmer, covered, until the eggplant is finished.800 g canned chopped tomatoes, 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- Check in on the eggplant and turn / mix it all around in the pan about halfway through the cook time. Then leave it in the oven until it's nicely browned, caramelized and reduced in size.
- Add the eggplant to the tomato sauce and leave it it simmer while you cook the pasta.
- Boil the pasta according to package instructions, then drain once it is al dente.350 g pasta
- Add the pasta and the fresh basil to the pan and mix to combine. Serve immediately, topped with cheese if desired.1 bunch fresh basil, cheese