Harissa mac & cheese with za’atar and lamb sausage

27.11.2015

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Harissa mac & cheese with za'atar and lamb sausage: a spicy, intensely savory twist on the classic, and the perfect comfort food.

Harissa mac & cheese with za'atar and lamb sausage: a spicy, intensely savory twist on the classic, and the perfect comfort food.

Harissa mac & cheese with za'atar and lamb sausage: a spicy, intensely savory twist on the classic, and the perfect comfort food.

Harissa mac & cheese with za'atar and lamb sausage: a spicy, intensely savory twist on the classic, and the perfect comfort food.

Harissa mac & cheese with za'atar and lamb sausage: a spicy, intensely savory twist on the classic, and the perfect comfort food.

Harissa mac & cheese with za'atar and lamb sausage: a spicy, intensely savory twist on the classic, and the perfect comfort food.

Harissa mac & cheese with za'atar and lamb sausage: a spicy, intensely savory twist on the classic, and the perfect comfort food.

Harissa mac & cheese with za'atar and lamb sausage: a spicy, intensely savory twist on the classic, and the perfect comfort food.

It’s getting deep into comfort food territory over here. We’ve had a ridiculously mild November this year, but it’s still grey and raining, and I doubt it’ll be long before it takes a turn for the worse. You know what I tried to make the other day? A kale salad.

Granted, it was a kale salad with farro and roasted carrots, almonds, and goat cheese, but it was still a kale salad. Every time I make one of those, I feel terrific about my life choices for all of, say, an hour or so — and then I’m hungry again. And I mean hungry with a vengeance. And although this harissa mac & cheese isn’t the sort of thing I’d be cooking up on a regular basis, I think that once in a while it’s important to indulge yourself, and cook some truly fantastic comfort food.

I’m totally that person who has to drench her traditional mac & cheese in ketchup or sriracha — I just find the cream sauces so bland! So I knew that I wanted this dish to have a tomato sauce base, with a little acidity and spice to set off the gooey cheese. I chose a red pepper sauce because I like that the pepper flavour further accentuates the rich, peppery smokiness of the harissa, and then I decided to throw some capers and chopped parsley in there for a little extra punch. The touch of cream helps bring all the flavours together, and there’s some terrific saltiness from the feta. And last, the lamb really takes this dish over the edge. How have I been eating sausage-less mac & cheese all my life before this? Lesson learned, friends, lesson learned.

The whole shebang comes together surprisingly quickly — while the pasta’s boiling, you cook the sauce, then toss it all together for a bake in the oven — and requires only a pot and a skillet! And those last few minutes while the cheese is browning and bubbling away produce what might seriously be the most heavenly scent on earth. Happy feasting, all.

Harissa mac & cheese with za’atar and lamb sausage

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Serving Size: Serves 8-10.

A spicy, intensely savory twist on the classic, and the perfect comfort food.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups (740g) dried pasta
  • 500g lamb sausage
  • 2Tbs za'atar, plus more for garnish
  • 2 Tbs minced parsley stems
  • 2 Tbs finely chopped capers
  • 650 ml red pepper tomato sauce (plain tomato sauce is also fine)
  • 2 Tbs harissa paste
  • 2 Tbs (a generous splash) of whipping cream
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 340g (1 ball) mozzarella
  • 160g (roughly 1 cup) feta, crumbled

Directions

  1. In a large pot, set several litres of water to boil for the pasta. Before adding the pasta, salt the water very generously -- it should taste like mild seawater. Cook the pasta until al dente (erring on the side of firmer rather than softer), drain, and toss with cold water to stop the cooking.
  2. Preheat the oven to 475F.
  3. Remove the lamb sausage from its casing and break into small bite-size pieces. In a large skillet, fry the sausage until fully cooked. Add the za'atar, as well as the chopped parsley stems and capers. Stir for a minute, until the heat from the sausage fat activates the spices. Add the red pepper tomato sauce, 2 Tbs of harissa paste, and a generous splash of cream. Stir together, and taste. Adjust seasoning to your liking with salt, pepper, and possibly more harissa.
  4. While the sauce comes together, slice half the mozzarella into very thin rounds, and grate the other half. Stir the grated mozzarella in with the sauce, along with half the crumbled feta.
  5. Toss the sauce and pasta together, and transfer to a very large oven-safe pot. Top with the remaining mozzarella rounds and crumbled feta. Bake for 10 minutes with a lid (or aluminum foil) on top, and then the final 10 minutes without. The mac & cheese is done when the cheese is golden-brown and bubbling, and your kitchen smells incredible. Sprinkle with a Tablespoon or so of za'atar and serve immediately.
http://toughcookieblog.com/harissa-mac-cheese-with-zaatar-and-lamb-sausage/

xo,

A

Harissa mac & cheese with za'atar and lamb sausage: a spicy, intensely savory twist on the classic, and the perfect comfort food.

This post was sponsored by Natrel as part of their Mac & Cheese Challenge: 52 weeks, 52 themes, 52 mac & cheese recipes. Share your own mac & cheese adventures, and tag them on Instagram using @Natrel and #NatrelMac for a chance to win monthly Le Creuset prizes. For more information, check out: http://experience.natrel.ca/en/macncheese.

 

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12 Responses to “Harissa mac & cheese with za’atar and lamb sausage”

  1. Teresa December 12, 2015 at 2:45 AM #

    Now, this is a mac ‘n’ cheese I can get behind! It’s got everything. I agree, most mac ‘n’ cheese sauces are a bit too bland for me.

    This is a perfect antidote to all the wet, grey weather this year.

  2. Gloria @ Homemade & Yummy December 11, 2015 at 6:26 PM #

    OMG…I have printed this….and will be making it very very soon. Both my husband and myself love lamb…and all those spices….what a great recipe!! Thanks….can’t wait!! Happy Holidays!!

  3. Shareba @ In Search Of Yummy-ness December 11, 2015 at 5:49 PM #

    Your mac and cheese looks so flavourful and comforting! I really need to get my hands on some harissa now!

  4. Wanda December 11, 2015 at 4:47 PM #

    Oh man this sounds and looks amazing! I use Za’atar all the time to. Bookmarking!

  5. Sarah | (Cooking for) Kiwi & Bean December 11, 2015 at 4:09 PM #

    Um, I am DEFINITELY MAKING THIS!!!! I often make comments to that effect when really who has time for all these recipes? But this sounds so so good that I am going to dig up some harissa (I think I’ve got everything else) and make it. Sounds so so so good. And I agree I often find conventional mac and cheese to be pretty bland.

  6. Christina December 11, 2015 at 11:57 AM #

    This looks delicious! I too feel smug when I eat a kale salad, even though I fry pancetta in olive oil and then use that oil in the dressing.

  7. Isabelle @ Crumb December 11, 2015 at 10:58 AM #

    I have a dirty, dirty love affair with harissa. I’ll take any excuse to stir it into something, but for some odd reason, it’s never occurred to me to use it in a mac and cheese. Totally loving it, though… it looks like the perfect crossover between mac n cheese and pasta mac, with an extra dash of spice. :)

  8. Julia December 11, 2015 at 10:49 AM #

    This recipe is swoon-worthy! I am utterly enchanted and will not be able to stop thinking about all these incredible favors! Harissa, here I come.

  9. Marie December 11, 2015 at 9:43 AM #

    Geez! Just when I think I’ve tried ALL the best mac & cheese variations possible, someone comes up with a genius idea. Za’atar and lamb are two of my favorite savory ingredients, and I’m salivating just thinking of the perfect spicy kick harissa must add to the dish. This sounds like the absolute perfect dish for a cozy holiday night. It’s on my list!

  10. Melissa November 28, 2015 at 12:00 AM #

    So I am on a life long quest for The. Best. Mac n Cheese. Ever. This is a completely different take on it from anything I’ve tried before but I think I need to change that. I could practically taste the whole thing coming together while I read the post! I also like to add something to kick up the blandness of straight up cheese sauce. This just sounds so good!

  11. Carole November 27, 2015 at 3:46 PM #

    Now THIS is my kind of mac and cheese!

  12. Justine @ JustineCelina.com November 27, 2015 at 3:39 PM #

    Wow! This looks incredible, and I love the dark, rick quality your images have. I’m totally with you on the whole comfort food things — if you’re going to indulge, this do it right! Beautiful post. :)