Israeli couscous with tomato and olives is an easy side dish bursting with savory flavors. Chewy pearl couscous is simmered on the stovetop until tender then tossed in a Mediterranean-inspired sweet and tangy cherry tomato sauce.
Israeli couscous, also known as Pearl for it’s perfectly round and dainty appearance, is a nice way to add variety in your daily mealtime routine. These chewy spheres of semolina wheat readily soak up any sauce or dressing. It’s a pantry item that you should keep stocked because it’s easily prepared on the stovetop.
Cooking couscous is very similar to pasta noodles, however, instead of boiling until al dente, it’s covered and gently simmers until tender. To infuse rich Mediterranean flavors into this dish, ripe cherry tomatoes and briny kalamata olives add a hint of sweetness plus savory notes to the sauce. The tomato mixture simmers with aromatics and vinegar to intensify the flavors.
How to cook Israeli Couscous with tomato sauce
- Simmer covered, until the water is absorbed and chewy.
- Saute tomatoes, olives, shallots, garlic, vinegar in a large saute pan.
- Allow tomato mixture to simmer until sauce lightly thickens.
- Combine couscous, parsley, and basil with tomato sauce.
Is Israeli Couscous the same as Pearl Couscous?
Yes, Israeli couscous is synonymous with Pearl Couscous. It’s a style of the semolina wheat that has been formed into the size of peppercorns. They have a chewy pasta-like texture when cooked. Pearl is significantly larger than other types of couscous like Moroccan, but about half the size of Lebanese varieties which is more like a pea.
Can you substitute regular Moroccan Couscous for Israeli Couscous?
In most cases yes, especially as a plain side dish or when incorporated into a chilled couscous salad. However, when combining couscous with a sauce like this tomato recipe, it’s best to use the larger and more robust Israeli variety. It absorbs the liquid better without becoming mushy like the more fine-sized Moroccan type.
How do you make a homemade tomato sauce?
A fresh tomato sauce is one of the easiest and quickest recipes to make on the stovetop. Using vine-ripened baby tomatoes adds a lovely sweetness, balanced with a punch of red wine vinegar for pungency and brightness.
Sauteing the sliced tomatoes in earthy olive oil and then simmering until the liquid that’s released concentrates the flavors. The salty flavors from the olives season the sauce and add a luxurious depth of flavor. It all happens in just 10 minutes! The sauce provides a nice coating around the couscous.
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Do you need to rinse couscous before cooking?
Couscous doesn’t need rinsing before preparing like rice. There aren’t many free starches released from the semolina wheat product when washed or cooked. The larger Israeli couscous is more sticky like pasta and separates easily with a fork. Using a little bit of olive oil or cold water can help to separate the Pearl couscous, or when combined with dressing and sauces.
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Israeli Couscous with Tomato and Olives
- 1 ½ cups water
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 1 cup Israeli couscous, pearl couscous
- 4 cups baby tomatoes, cut in half
- ½ cup kalamata olives, pitted, sliced
- ½ cup minced shallots
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon minced parsley
- 1 tablespoon sliced basil
- black pepper, as needed for seasoning
- Bring water and ½ teaspoon salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add couscous and reduce heat to a simmer.
- Cover and cook until the water is absorbed, 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the couscous sit for 5 minutes, and then fluff with a fork.
- Combine the cut tomatoes, olives, shallots, garlic, red wine vinegar, and ½ teaspoon salt in a medium bowl.
- Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.
- Slowly and carefully add the tomato mixture to the pan.
- Saute and cook until the tomatoes are softened and sauce forms, 8 to 10 minutes.
- Add the cooked couscous, parsley, and basil to the tomatoes, stir to combine.
- Taste and season with more salt and pepper as desired.
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