North African Spiced Tomato and Chickpea Pasta


by Tori Pintar

It was an especially snowy winter here in Montana and I’ve only made it this far because of spices like harissa, cinnamon and cardamom. In the US we largely associate the latter two spices with dishes on the sweeter side, however they are wonderful in savory cooking. They add so much depth and a different type of warmth than chiles do. This dish is inspired by my very limited knowledge of north African cuisine which is where the harissa paste originates from. I also love the idea of taking your traditional marinara sauce and turning it on it’s head with the addition of harissa, cinnamon and cardamom. Be sure to top with the yogurt and chopped almonds. They really add something special.

Serves 4-6
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 medium onion, chopped

  • Bunch of collard greens, thick ribs removed and thinly sliced, leaves ribboned (Lacinato kale also works well)

  • 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

  • 2 tablespoons harissa paste*

  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika

  • 1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1⁄2 teaspoon cardamom

  • 1 teaspoon coriander

  • 2 cans of diced tomatoes, preferably fire roasted, (14.5 ounce cans)

  • 1 can chickpeas, (14.5 ounce)

  • 2 slices of lemon, reserve remainder of lemon for juice

  • 1 1⁄2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • One box of Blue Evolution Rotini

  • Handful of cilantro, roughly chopped, reserving a few leaves for garnish Greek yogurt or coconut yogurt (to keep vegan)

  • Toasted almonds, roughly chopped


  1. In a dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat until warm. Add onion, collard green stems and salt and cook stirring occasionally, until onions are tender--about 7 to 10 minutes.

  2. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds to one minute.

  3. Add the harissa paste, smoked paprika, cinnamon, cardamom and coriander. Stir to coat onions and garlic and cook until spices are toasted and fragrant, about two minutes.

  4. Add tomatoes, chickpeas, lemon slices, balsamic vinegar and about half an empty tomato can’s worth of water. Stir to combine everything. Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered for about 20 minutes until tomatoes have reduced and flavors meld. Add more water as needed if it thickens too much. A good trick is to steal a little pasta water as you cook your pasta.

  5. Meanwhile, near the end of your sauce cooking time, prepare pasta per package directions. Drain, reserving a little pasta water to thin your sauce if desired. Return pasta to cooking pot and toss with a little olive oil to prevent sticking.

  6. Taste your sauce and add salt and pepper as needed. Add collard green leaves and cook until wilted, about 3-5 minutes. Turn of heat and fold in chopped cilantro. Remove lemon slices.

  7. Divide pasta into bowls and top with sauce. Top with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, yogurt of choice, remaining cilantro leaves and the toasted almonds. Enjoy immediately. I recommend enjoying with a nice Syrah to complement the warming spices in the sauce.

Notes: Harissa paste is pretty widely available these days but here are two good online sources in case you can’t find it.
New York Shuk