Calling couscous a variety of pasta wouldn’t be far off the mark. Like great pasta, it's made from semolina flour and—in its best form—very little else. To “cook” it, really, is just to rehydrate it with a hot liquid such as water, stock, or sauce (as we call for in the recipe here).
How long does it take to cook? Well, that depends on your couscous. The kind you’ll find most often in the grocery store has very small grains and takes just a few minutes to soften and warm through.
Another common variety, called “Israeli” or “Pearl” couscous, has larger, rounded grains and takes a few more minutes to cook through. The result is chubbier and chewier, providing a nice bite and a satisfying result as in our recipe for Israeli Couscous with Tomatoes and Chickpeas.
I like every kind of couscous. It’s so easy to use and takes on an extraordinary amount of flavor. It’s also, to my eye, lovely to behold.