One Pot Pasta with Spicy Harissa Beef Recipe

How many hours have you been staring at the computer today? Spring is so busy, and sometimes it’s hard to shake off the glow of our screens and step out of the tunnel of the Internet.

We’re doing just that in Greece for our honeymoon right now, and oh man, does it feel good. Fresh air, new scenery, SO much to eat. After an insanely busy past few weeks, Greece feels like breathing deep again.

I’m just so happy to be spending some time outside, away from the computer. A lot of folks think us book people are introverts who’d rather sit inside all day reading a book rather than socializing. Which is totally true. But I’m also willing to sit outside all day reading a book. I think that makes me adventurous.

If you also want to try something new tonight, and you’re bleary eyed from staring at your manuscript or the computer screen for hours, then come over here. Back away from the computer, tiptoe into the kitchen, and make this really, really slowly. Isn’t it nice to remember what unrushed cooking feels like?

harissa pasta skinnytaste recipe

This pasta is:

  1. Cozy, comforting, reassuring, and all those other words you want to come home to after a long day
  2. Excellent when paired with a book or ouzo
  3. Spicy, and just a little bit adventurous. Like reading outside.

This one pot pasta with meat sauce recipe is adapted from SkinnyTaste: Fast and Slow by Gina Homolka, so I have to give all the credit there for the great flavor combination. I just changed things around so that I could make the recipe in one pot (the culinary term for that is “laziness”), tweaked the spices in the meat sauce to my taste, and used ground beef instead of lamb because it’s what I had. (The most glamorous reason of all, I know.)

If you don’t have harissa or roasted red peppers, just skip them and you’ll still have a very nice Bolognese sauce on your hands. I’ll still be virtually high-fiving you, because hey, you cooked a thing. You can also reduce the amount of harissa if you don’t like it too spicy. Just make sure you sear your ground beef well to build flavor—most of the time, people stop cooking ground beef as soon as it’s brown. But just like seared steak is more delicious with a crispy, caramelized crust, seared ground beef is also amazing when it gets a little deep brown on it. Try it just once–for me!

One Pot Pasta with Spicy Harissa Beef Recipe

harissa pasta skinnytaste recipe

Serves 4

Pull out from your cabinet:

watercolor icons cooking skillet free


1 celery stalk
1 carrot
1 large onion
8 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground beef
1 can diced tomatoes (14.5 ounces)
1 jar roasted red peppers (12 ounces)
3 tablespoons harissa
2 teaspoons coriander
3 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4 cups chicken broth or water
12 oz. elbows or other short pasta
3 scallions
1 sprig of mint

Finely chop the celery, carrot, onion, and garlic cloves by hand or in a food processor; set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil and ground beef. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper, and stir, breaking up any large chunks. Cook past browned until it is slightly seared and sticking a bit to the bottom of the pan, 10 to 12 minutes.

Add the celery, carrot, onion, and garlic cloves, and season once more with salt and pepper. Cook until softened, about 8 to 10 minutes. As the vegetables cook, drain the roasted red peppers. Puree the peppers and diced tomatoes in a blender or food processor until smooth; set aside.

To the skillet, add the harissa, coriander, cumin, and paprika, and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the tomato and roasted red pepper puree, red pepper flakes, and broth. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil.

Add the elbows and cook until al dente. As the elbows cook, slice the scallions and finely chop the mint.

Divide the pasta in 4 bowls and garnish with the scallions and mint. Serve while hot.

Eat it outside, inside, with a book, with company, or just all by your lonesome on the couch.

What I’m Reading This Week:

The Happy Traveler (Dr. Jaime Kurtz): Guys, this book! I’m so proud to represent it. Jaime is a happiness researcher and an Associate Professor at James Madison University, and she has written the definitive guide to traveling more happily and finding more meaning from your trips. All I want to do is hand out a copy to every last person on our plane, at our hotel, in the streets, at tourist sites, in public restrooms. Because don’t they know?! Traveling could be even better, if they just had Jaime’s wise words and cutting edge research on their side. The Happy Traveler releases May 29th and if you’re going anywhere this year, you really, really need a copy. Not that I’m biased. But why don’t you have this book yet? (This is where I go into bossy-and-braggy-agent mode because I just get to work with the smartest people.)

How Do Books Become Bestsellers? (Can Authors Increase Those Chances?) (Karen Tsetsi on “How do books becomes bestsellers?” is actually a very, very complicated question. Just defining “bestseller” can be very, very complicated. Here’s a nice exploration that shows just how intricate of a question it is.

The Elusive Value of PR as a Book Marketing Tactic (Emily Wenstrom on The Write Life): I blabber on about long tail success to every poor soul who finds their way here, pitches me at a conference, or queries me at Stonesong. But it’s true, true, true. As Emily Wenstrom writes: “Just like social media and a lot of the other most impactful long-term platforming tactics, public relations is looks at the long tail success. And if you’re an author looking for a career in this business, that’s exactly the game you want to be playing.”

What We’re Cooking This Week

Not a thing! We are hopping around from Athens to Meteora, and then spending next week in Santorini and Ios. We’ll be staying in AirBnbs the second half of the trip, and I’m already daydreaming about markets and eating fresh fish and feta and salads on the terrace. So no post next week, due to eating so much I pass out.


Read, Eat, Drink–Weekend Roundup


We have our Friendsgiving weekend in the hills of Virginia coming up, so here’s some light and fun reading looking. I so enjoyed this visual essay Medium published this week on How to Sell a Book–you can find it here. It’s by Sarah Lazavoric, who herself just released a book called A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy. I absolutely love the premise of her book–here’s a snippet from the back cover copy: “Like most people, Sarah Lazarovic covets beautiful things. But rather than give in to her impulse to spend and acquire, Sarah spent a year painting the objects she wanted to buy instead.” 

I really admire this idea of enjoying beautiful objects without having to purchase them, maintain them, and store them. I just wish I could paint at all, so I’d be able to do what Sarah did!

And here’s my favorite graphic she drew for the Medium essay. I want to deny this and pretend that I’m more multifaceted, but…it sounds about right.


Read More

Read, Eat, Drink–Weekend Roundup

As much as agents do our best to try to help writers and offer insight into the wild, whacky world that is publishing, sometimes nothing resonates quite like hearing directly from other writers. So here’s my favorite author blog post of the week–Colleen Hoover’s incredible story of how writing changed her life. Three years ago, she was living in a trailer, working 12 hours a day, and barely making ends meet. She picked up writing in her spare time and self-published her first book. She sold about 30 copies in the first week, but she kept at it. Today, she’s the New York Times bestselling author of 6 books and has a lucrative book deal with Atria/Simon & Schuster. And the best part of it all? In her words:

Three years ago, my husband and I dreamed about the day we would be able to build a new house. Tomorrow, that’s going to happen. On the same land where we happily lived in our single-wide trailer, we will be breaking ground on the house we will spend the rest of our lives in, and I still can’t wrap my head around it.

I know this started with the fact that I wrote and finished a book, but that was as simple as putting a pen to paper. Nothing would have followed had it not been for the support of my readers. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the motivation. And remember-

Dreams are free, so make sure you have a shit-load of them.

And THAT right there is exactly why we’re all in this crazy, unpredictable, shaky business.

You can read Colleen’s full story here.

Raise your hand if you like bacon. Looks like…everyone on the planet. And the only thing better than bacon is bacon + pasta, especially when it’s Mario Batali’s Spaghetti Carbonara. This is (I think) the same recipe he uses at his restaurant Otto in New York, but you can make it yourself at home for, oh, a 95% discount.

Read More

Weekend Roundup–Read, Eat, Drink

I happened to find myself completely book-free this week (due to a crappy packing job on my way to NYC). So I also found myself scanning a bookshelf for something to read on the train and at nights. And I found C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, his classic book that explores the underpinnings of all Christian faiths.


I read all seven books of The Chronicles of Narnia series as a kid, and I’m pretty sure Aslan is still the coolest talking lion I’ve ever read about. And The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is still one of my favorite titles of all time.

But Mere Christianity is nothing like those books (although, if you read deeper into Narnia it actually is, but I won’t get into that). Yet it’s every bit as wonderful as expected.

It’s a short read (just over 200 pages), and I love both how quaint and 1950s-esque his voice is, and how timeless and straight-talking it still remains. It’s a book for nonbelievers and believers alike—even if you don’t have a scrap of interest in any form religion, it’s an incredibly compelling philosophical exercise. And it’s just fascinating to watch him unwrap each little box of his argument, holding it up for you to inspect that it is good.

If you missed the Narnia boat (sorry, Dawn Treader pun!), pick up Mere Christianity. It’s a  great starting point into Lewis’s adult oeuvre and, considering that he’s known as the most important writer of the 20th century, it’s a must-read.

Confession: I’ve been neglecting my kitchen for the past two weeks! We’ve been moving and unpacking and traveling and shopping and working and adjusting to our new neighborhood, and I haven’t even been on a proper grocery run in weeks. I’m ashamed of myself. But even more, I’m just craving walking through the grocery aisles, meal planning for a normal, non-crazy week, and getting into my kitchen after a long day of work, with music and a glass of wine, to make something yummy.

And on top of it all, I’ve been having digestive issues, so  the past few days I’ve been cutting sugar, carbs, and dairy from my diet. So I don’t even know what to eat any more. But that hasn’t stopped me from fantasizing about food all day. As soon as I’m feeling better, this will be my dream, go-all-out, cook-like-a-maniac menu:

Muffaletta Pasta Salad.
All my dreams in life involve muffaletta. Just call me Muffaletta Maria. (Actually don’t, it sounds weird.) Recipe here.

Grilled Asian Sweet and Spicy Chicken Skewers.
Don’t tell me that picture doesn’t make you drool. Recipe here.

Pecan Pie Bars
Salted Caramel and Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars.
Everything amazing in the world, in one bar. Recipe here.

I’m calling in my personal mixologist for a drink this week. Here’s Jarrett with a recipe for a different kind of gin and tonic:

Gin and Tonic. Gin & Tonic. G&T. The first mixed drink I truly learned to love.

But there’s a new variable to the G&T game: gourmet tonic. The Jack Rudy Co. makes small batch tonic that’s nothing like the clear stuff you buy at the store.  This tonic is what tonic was always meant to be: slightly sweet, fragrant, with subtle lemongrass and orange peel flavors. All of this makes the drink taste less like pure gin in a glass.


G&T purists may be surprised by how different this tonic is, but I say they should find some room in their lineup for the Gin & Rudy Tonic. I have come to like this recipe way more than just a traditional G&T!

Gin & Rudy

  • Add ice to an on-the-rocks glass (a.k.a. an Old Fashioned glass)
  • 2 oz. of your preferred gin (I’ve recently been enjoying “Jack Pine Gin” from Northern Latitudes, a distillery in Northern Michigan)
  • .75 oz. of Jack Rudy Co. tonic
  • 4 oz. of soda water
  • A slice of lime

Combine ingredients and stir. If you want to get fancy, shave off a thin piece of the lime’s rind, heat it up with a lighter for a few seconds, and rub it on the rim of the glass before dropping it in the drink as a garnish.

If you do decide to try the Jack Rudy tonic, check out the Jack Rudy Co. website–they have a great list of drink recipes to make with their small batch tonic and grenadine.

Happy reading, eating, and drinking this weekend!