Apr 20
2011

Israeli (Pearl) Couscous with Prosciutto, Asparagus & Mushrooms Recipe

Israeli (Pearl) Couscous Recipe with Prosciutto, Asparagus & Mushrooms

“Do you think these things would work like BBs if I blew them out of a straw?” This is the question my 6-year old son asks as he investigates a bowl of uncooked Israeli couscous. Of course, Israeli (or pearl) couscous, a toasted semolina pasta shaped into little balls, is typically used for eating. However, if you are a young energetic boy, obsessed with all things “Nerf”, then it may seem logical to use it as a small projectile. I do not pretend to understand the mind of a 6-year old. I am just here to make sure no one loses an eye.

In the 1950s, the Israeli company Osem claimed to invent Israeli couscous (known there as ptitim) to provide to the immigrants moving to Israel from Arab and Muslim countries as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The truth of the matter is that this claim was just a marketing ploy and this small pasta has been known for generations as Palestinian matfoul and North African berkukes. It is also a staple in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.

Israeli couscous is larger than regular couscous and is typically sold in a box. We brought several boxes home from Trader Joe’s the last time we visited California, but it is available in other stores as well. Its chewy texture stands up to bold ingredients and sauces, but also melds well with light flavors. In this recipe, the couscous is mixed with asparagus, mushrooms and prosciutto in a simple sauce of white wine, olive oil and garlic. The flavor is light and refreshing and the sauce comes together in minutes to make this an impressive dish for guests or a quick meal on a busy weeknight.

The recipe:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add Isreali (pearl) couscous and cook until al dente. During the last minute of cooking, add the asparagus. Drain the pasta and asparagus into a colander.

Prosciutto Israeli Couscous Collage

While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook until tender. Add 3 additional tablespoons olive oil to the skillet and stir in minced garlic and crushed red chili flakes. Cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add dry white wine and cook at a rapid simmer for 2 minutes.

ProsciuttoICouscous3

Add prosciutto and simmer until just heated through, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the couscous and asparagus and toss with the mushrooms and sauce. Add finely grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley, and toss again. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately and top with additional grated Parmesan cheese.

ProsciuttoICouscousLS

Other recipes using Israeli couscous:

Cookin’ Canuck’s Cinnamon-Scented Toasted Israeli Couscous with Pine Nuts
Cookin’ Canuck’s Israeli Couscous with Grilled Summer Vegetables
A Communal Table’s Toasted Cous Cous Salad with Dried Figs & Apricots
Sauce and Sensibility’s Israeli Couscous with Mixed Mushrooms
Gimme Some Oven’s Breakfast Israeli Couscous (with Apricots, Almonds & Coconut)

Israeli (Pearl) Couscous with Prosciutto, Asparagus & Mushrooms

8 oz. Israeli (pearl) couscous
6 oz. fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
8 oz. crimini mushrooms, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pinch crushed red chilli flakes
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 oz. prosciutto, roughly chopped
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1/4 cup (packed) chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add Isreali (pearl) couscous and cook until al dente. During the last minute of cooking, add the asparagus. Drain the pasta and asparagus into a colander.

While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook until tender. Add 3 additional tablespoons olive oil to the skillet and stir in minced garlic and crushed red chili flakes. Cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add dry white wine and cook at a rapid simmer for 2 minutes.

Add prosciutto and simmer until just heated through, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the couscous and asparagus and toss with the mushrooms and sauce. Add finely grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley, and toss again. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately and top with additional grated Parmesan cheese.

Serves 4.

Printable recipe

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{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

1 kelley April 20, 2011 at 10:01 am

This is right up my alley. A great light dinner for spring time!

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2 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) April 20, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Thank you, Kelley. Dishes that come together this quickly are perfect for spring and summer.

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3 Heather at Heathers Dish April 20, 2011 at 10:20 am

Israeli couscous is the best…the texture is phenomenal!

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4 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) April 20, 2011 at 12:58 pm

I agree, Heather. It’s a wonderful texture.

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5 Mushrooms Canada April 20, 2011 at 10:29 am

Ohh the mind of a 6 year old boy! I hope you told him yes they would be just like BB’s…
I have a weakness for prosciutto and mushrooms… Use them together and I am in trouble! Good thing this recipe is nice and light!
– Brittany

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6 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) April 20, 2011 at 12:59 pm

I was watching to make sure he didn’t sneak off with a handful of the I. couscous. As for prosciutto and mushrooms together – I agree.

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7 Mary @ Delightful Bitefuls April 20, 2011 at 11:07 am

Goodness me, this sounds delicious! Love that spring is here and that this salad will go perfect with a BBQ :)

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8 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) April 20, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Mary, this can be made ahead and served cold, too.

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9 Kalynskitchen April 20, 2011 at 11:21 am

Sounds just delicious. I remember when I first had Israeli couscous, about 1995 and in Chicago at a trendy restaurant when I was on a trip to visit my brother.

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10 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) April 20, 2011 at 1:00 pm

It’s funny that ingredients that were considered so trendy are now the norm in many households.

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11 Jean (Lemons and Anchovies) April 20, 2011 at 11:57 am

This certainly tops the couscous dish I made this weekend. I had to get creative with the leftovers but I wish I had just prepared it this way to begin with. I’m really liking the addition of prosciutto and course, the asparagus, my favorite veggie. :-)

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12 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) April 20, 2011 at 1:02 pm

Thanks, Jean. The asparagus adds a really nice spring flavor to this dish.

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13 Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) April 20, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Dara, what a great recipe and site. I was hanging out with Marla yesterday and she was raving about you….I had to come over and check you out :)

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14 Katrina April 20, 2011 at 2:15 pm

This is so creative! I love this idea :)

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15 Liz April 20, 2011 at 2:26 pm

I had to giggle at your son’s question…so cute! This looks like a fabulous, flavorful dish…I just love Israeli couscous~

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16 marla April 20, 2011 at 3:09 pm

Dara, your cous cous looks awesome and your sons reaction is hilarious! Love the shape of these little pasta-like balls and they adapt to flavors so nicely too. Those simmering mushrooms look amazing!

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17 Jason Phelps April 20, 2011 at 3:59 pm

I’m with your son. It might be good to eat, but the possibilities are endless. I have to say I don’t think I have had this kind of cous cous before, and I can’t seem to figure out why.

Jason

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18 Lindsey@Lindselicious April 20, 2011 at 4:23 pm

Love love israeli couscous- yours looks amazing. How can you go wrong with the addition of proscuitto too. YUM!!

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19 Yuri April 20, 2011 at 5:06 pm

I love Israeli couscous… really liking the flavors you used in this recipe, Dara!

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20 Kimby April 20, 2011 at 5:18 pm

I like the “zing” from the crushed red peppers — your flavor combinations are tremendous.

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21 carolinaheartstrings April 20, 2011 at 5:22 pm

This looks so wonderful. What a great picture.

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22 Alice April 20, 2011 at 5:28 pm

Sorry, the origin of this couscous is not Israeli, but Palestinian. This couscous was made for hundreds of years by hand by Palestinians and called maftoul (and they are still making and manufacturing it the same way today). The Israelis liked it, so called it Israeli, (just as they did other Arabic foods from felafel to hummus) although it is not Israeli in origin at all. I would love to get the source for your history of this grain because it is erroneous. To call this Israeli is like calling matzo soup Palestinian.

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23 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) April 20, 2011 at 7:45 pm

Alice, thanks so much for this information. That’s the last time I trust Wikepedia! I did some more thorough research and edited the post.

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24 Alice April 21, 2011 at 9:54 am

Thanks Dara–I do have to say though you did a wonderful preparation–have a great week!!

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25 Susi's Kochen und Backen April 20, 2011 at 6:13 pm

I love Israeli couscous and this creation sounds incredibly tasty. Some of my favorite ingredients combined into one yummy dish, yes please :-)

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26 fooddreamer April 20, 2011 at 6:31 pm

I love Trader Joe’s Isreali couscous and I really love what you did with it here! But mostly, I love your son’s question about the BBs. Exactly the sort of thing my 6-year old son would ask too!

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27 Pretend Chef April 21, 2011 at 6:32 am

This sounds really amazing and something I would love to try when my guy goes back out on the road for work. Yummy!

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28 Maris (In Good Taste) April 21, 2011 at 7:00 am

This is an absolutely perfect springtime or anytime dish! It’s light healthy and so tasty!

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29 Donna April 21, 2011 at 8:42 am

Isn’t life fun with boys in the house?!

I have always wanted to try this style of couscous, but never have. Will try yours for an Easter side~ Thanks!

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30 Amy April 21, 2011 at 9:15 am

Dara – Was ecstatic to see this recipe in my inbox today! I’m insecure in the kitchen, so I subscribe to your e-newsletter just to make my mouth water.

But today’s recipe features all my favorite ingredients, and it was only a bonus that the recipe is so simple! For someone who has literally burned boiling water, this is encouraging. I have shared it with friends, hoping if we attempt cooking in numbers, something edible might come of it!
Thanks!
Amy

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31 Barbara | VinoLuciStyle April 21, 2011 at 10:17 am

I used to call it Israeli couscous too until I read that history somewhere but pearl couscous works too.

I’m not a fan of couscous but I made a simple dish with pearl couscous several years ago and we love it. This sound so right up my alley and I need a new recipe to love cause I just make the one I have over and over!

It’s not always in grocery stores though but I’ve had good luck in both Whole Foods and Sunflower Market finding it in the bins of food you measure out yourself.

Proscuitto on the grocery list…recipe on my list for Easter, thanks!

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32 Paula - bell'alimento April 21, 2011 at 1:42 pm

I have to get my hands on some pearl couscous and soon ; ) Gorgeous Dara!

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33 Wenderly April 21, 2011 at 1:48 pm

LOVE Israeli couscous! This recipe looks so divine.

Tell your son I like the way he thinks…I will be blowing my Israeli couscous out of a straw (at my unknowing daughters) next time I make it! (giggle) Should be great fun!

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34 Becky at VintageMixer April 21, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Yum!! I have been wanting to try Israeli couscous and now I have a recipe to start with! thanks

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35 Alison @ Ingredients, Inc. April 21, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Incredible! I love your recipes Dara!!

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36 Jennifer (Savor) April 21, 2011 at 3:42 pm

LOVE isreali couscous – especially in a salad. Gorgeous pics as always Dara!

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37 Cookbook Queen April 21, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Looks delicious!!

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38 The Newlywed Chefs April 21, 2011 at 7:05 pm

I haven’t tried Israeli couscous, but one of my best friends is from Israel! Looks like we’ll need to have a ladies night and dive into this recipe!

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39 Frank April 22, 2011 at 5:32 am

Israeli couscous looks (and sounds) a lot like fregola, a pasta from Sardinia!

PS: I bet your son is right about the BBs…

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40 rebecca April 22, 2011 at 7:54 am

wonderful recipe great for spring

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41 The Food Hunter April 22, 2011 at 11:24 am

This recipe is screaming spring!

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42 Shaina April 25, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Those mushrooms look fantastic. I’m a big fan of Israeli couscous, too, and with all the spring vegetables? Perfect.

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43 heidi leon April 27, 2011 at 2:37 am

I´m quite sure this pearl couscous tastes like spring with those beautiful asparagus and mushrooms. Oh, and the prosciutto…. Mamma mia!

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44 frree auto insurance quotes March 10, 2014 at 1:54 am

Whoa, whoa, get out the way with that good information.

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