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Saturday, May 12, 2012
Tunisian Ditali Rigati Pasta with Chicken and Harissa
A modern Tunisian pasta entree with classic traditional flavors!
I really like Tunisian cuisine! The food is full of flavor and it is a nice hot weather cuisine. I live in the Mojave Desert and we get summertime temperatures that compare to the temperatures of the Sahara Desert. When the temperature is over 118 degrees in the Mojave, I really have no desire to eat Chicago summertime junk food, clam chowder or heavy Pennsylvania Dutch food. Mildly spicy flavorful small portions of food give relief to the heat. Both Sahara desert cuisine and tropical cuisine offer many great hot summertime food ideas!
There was a period of time, long ago, when the Arabic occupation of Southern Italy introduced new mechanized technology that enabled the Italians to create new methods of making pasta. During that time, the Arabs and Persians were both very advanced in chemistry and metallurgy. Mechanical methods of creating tube pastas were soon developed by the Italians, during the Arabic occupation.
Long after the Arabs left Italy, Italian pasta was introduced to the Arabic countries during the Italian occupation of North Africa. Arabs, Persians and Egyptians liked pasta! Many of there traditional recipes went well with pasta. The traditional native North African pasta was and always will be couscous. Italian pasta will never replace couscous, but it is looked upon as an interesting alternative meal.
Tomatoes and chile peppers were introduced to Tunisia during the colombian age of trade. Tomatoes and peppers are plants that do well in hot weather regions. It was a natural for Tunisia to adopt peppers and tomatoes when they were introduced from the Americas. Modern Tunisian cuisine is rich with the flavors of mildly spicy chiles and tomatoes.
Because Tunisia has a hot climate, peppers and tomatoes were better suited to be kept in a paste form, such as harissa and tomato paste. Tomato paste is traditionally made by cooking and reducing tomatoes with the heat of sunlight. Harissa is usually made by reducing pepper puree in a pot over a fire. Many Tunisian recipes call for tomato paste, rather than fresh tomatoes. Tomato paste is often mixed with harissa paste to create a rich bold sauce flavor.
The tomato paste harissa sauce for today's pasta recipe is flavored with some interesting Tunisian traditional flavors. On a plate, this Tunisian pasta entree looks very simple, but the flavors are very complex and interesting! Just like with traditional Italian pasta, only enough sauce is made to coat the pasta with flavor.
Tunisian Ditali Rigati Pasta with Chicken and Harissa Recipe:
Italian methods are not used to make this sauce. The methods are Tunisian! The first difference in this recipe that an Italian chef will notice, is that the onions are cooked till they caramelize! One item that Italians will like to see in this recipe, is that the pasta and sauce should be finished cooking at the same time.
Remove the skin and excess fat from 1 large chicken thigh.
Debone the chicken thigh.
Cut the chicken thigh meat into short bite size strips and set them aside.
Place enough water in a pot to cook 1 portion of ditali rigati pasta.
Boil the water over high heat. The pasta should be added to the water after the onions are caramelized for the sauce!
Heat a saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
Add 2 tablespoons of blended olive oil.
Add 3 tablespoons of finely copped onion.
Saute till the onions start to caramelize.
Add the reserved bite size chicken thigh strips.
Saute till the chicken pieces are fully cooked and till the onions turn a light brown caramelized color.
Add 2 finely minced garlic cloves.
Add 1/2 tablespoon of finely ground almond.
Add 2 tablespoons of harissa.
Add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste.
Add 2 cups of water.
Note: Start cooking the pasta now! Add 1 portion of ditali rigati pasta to the hot water and stir occasionally as it cooks.
When the sauce starts to gently simmer, add 1 bay leaf.
Add 1 pinch of dried mint leaves.
Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
Add 1 pinch of oregano.
Add 1 pinch of basil.
Add 1 tiny pinch of cumin.
Add 1 small pinch of crushed dried red pepper. (optional)
Add sea salt and black pepper.
Add 1 tablespoon of fresh cheese curd or 1 tablespoon of finely grated parmesan cheese.
Stir till the cheese melts into the sauce.
Simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a medium thin tomato sauce consistency.
Keep the sauce warm over low heat.
By now, the ditali rigati pasta should be cooked al dente.
Drain the water off of the pasta.
Add the al dente ditali rigati to the sauce.
Toss the sauce and pasta together.
Place the pasta into a bowl.
Sprinkle a few pinches of finely grated parmesan cheese over the pasta. (optional)
Sprinkle a few pinches of finely chopped green bell pepper over the pasta.
The flavor of this Tunisian Ditali Rigati Pasta with Chicken and Harissa is very satisfying! The small amount of almond is barely noticeable, but it rounds the sharp flavor of the sauce. The combination of herbs is nice. The harissa and tomato paste gives this pasta a mildly spicy bold taste that is perfect for hot weather! Yum! ... Shawna