This Baked Pasta with Harissa Tomato Sauce and Ricotta Cheese might very well be my absolute new favorite baked pasta recipe.
A pretty standard tomato sauce is updated with the spicy, smoky flavor of harissa for a harissa tomato sauce that is delightful to chow down on. We baked this pasta and harissa tomato sauce with dollops of harissa-spiked ricotta cheese and then baked it until it was ooey-gooey and browned on top for the perfect, easy, decadent dinner
Baked Pasta with Harissa Tomato Sauce and Ricotta Cheese
- Large pot
- Baking dish
- 16 ounces pasta of your choice I used casarecce
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1-2 red Fresno chili peppers optional, or use crushed red pepper to taste
- 1 28- ounce can crushed tomatoes fire-roasted, preferred
- Salt pepper, and sugar to taste
- 1½ tablespoons harissa powder or use harissa paste
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 12 ounces good quality ricotta cheese Basket ricotta, if you can find it
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon harissa powder or paste
Prepare the Pasta:
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until slightly undercooked (about 2-3 minutes under the recommended cook time). Reserve ⅓ cup of the pasta cooking water and then drain the pasta and set aside.
- While the pasta is cooking, prepare the remaining ingredients. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Dice the onion and set aside. Mince the garlic and chili peppers, if using, and set aside.
Start the Harissa Tomato Sauce:
- In a pot, heat the butter over medium-high until melted and frothy and beginning to brown. First, add the onions and season with a bit of salt and cook, stirring regularly, for 6-8 minutes until light golden brown.
- Next, add the garlic and chili peppers if using and cook for 1 minute until fragrant. Finally, add the crushed tomatoes along with the harissa powder and stir to incorporate. Taste and season with salt, pepper, and a sprinkle of sugar if desired. Reduce heat to low and cover and cook for 20 minutes.
- While the harissa tomato sauce is simmering, prepare the ricotta cheese.
Prepare the Ricotta Cheese Topping:
- In a small bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon of harissa powder and stir to combine. Season with a touch of salt and set aside.
Finish the Harissa Tomato Sauce:
- Remove the sauce from the heat and add the reserved pasta cooking water and the heavy cream and stir to incorporate. Add the cooked pasta to the pot and toss with the sauce.
Finish the Baked Pasta:
- Pour the pasta and the sauce into a 2-quart casserole dish. Spoon dollops of the ricotta cheese over the top of the dish. Transfer to the oven and bake for about 25 minutes or until the cheese is beginning to brown and the sauce is very bubbly.
- Divide the pasta between bowls and enjoy!