Israeli Couscous with Tomatoes and Basil

Sweet tomatoes and fresh basil make this couscous a versatile and flavorful side dish.

Israeli Couscous with Tomatoes and Basil

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Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 4


  • 1 ⅓ cups Israeli couscous
  • 2 quarts water
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons extra- virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or puréed
  • 1 pound (about 3 cups) cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 sprig basil
  • 4 tablespoons slivered basil leaves


  • Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat and add couscous. Toast couscous, shaking pan or stirring often, until it colors very lightly and smells aromatic and toasty, a bit like popcorn. This should take about 5 minutes. Once you can smell the toasted aroma, immediately add 2 quarts water and salt to taste (be generous, as if you are cooking pasta) and boil, uncovered, 10 minutes, until couscous is al dente; it should not be mushy, and there should still be plenty of water in the pot. Drain through a strainer and rinse with cold water. Tap strainer against sink to drain well, then return couscous to the same pot, cover pot with a kitchen towel, and return lid. Let sit for 10 minutes while you make the sauce.
  • In a wide, heavy skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat and add garlic. As soon as it begins to sizzle and smell fragrant, usually in about 30 seconds, add cherry tomatoes and turn heat up to medium -high. Add sugar, salt, and basil sprig and cook, stirring often, until tomatoes collapse and skins shrivel. Some of the tomato pulp will be in the pan, and should thicken and caramelize slightly, but there should still be pulp inside the skins. This should only take about 5 minutes.
  • Turn off heat and remove basil sprig. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add a little fresh pepper if desired.
  • Add couscous to the pan along with slivered basil, stir together, and serve.
  • From Martha Rose Shulman/New York Times Food
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