I was first served pasta with fig sauce by chef Christopher Mariscotti at The Vineyard Restaurant, in the heart of fig country in Madera, California. It was a revelation, and I couldn’t wait to interpret the chef's recipe at home. The acidity of the lemon juice and the saltiness of the Parmigiano-Reqqiano balance the sweetness of the figs in this unusual pasta dish. Use firm ripe green figs because the purple skins of Black Mission figs will turn the pasta pink.
- Two to three 1-inch-thick slices Italian bread, crusts trimmed, tom into pieces
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons pignoli (pine nuts)
- ¼ teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 pound fresh green figs (Calimyrna, Kadota, or Desert King), stems trimmed, cut into ½-inch-thick wedges
- 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound fresh fettuccine
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
- Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
2. While the water is heating, pulse the bread in the bowl of a food processor until it forms coarse crumbs; there should be about 1 cup.
3. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a medium skillet. Add the crumbs and cook, stirring, over medium-low heat until they are toasted and crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer crumbs to a small bowl
4. Add the pignoli to the skillet and heat, stirring constantly, over low heat until evenly golden, about 3 minutes. Add to the bowl with the toasted bread crumbs.
5. Combine the remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil and the garlic in the skillet and heat over low heat just until the garlic begins to sizzle. Add the figs and cook gently over low heat, turning carefully to coat them with the oil, for 2 minutes. Sprinkle with the lemon zest, rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm over very low heat.
6. Cook the fettuccine in the boiling water until al dente, 3 to 5 minutes. Ladle out ¼ cup the pasta cooking liquid and reserve it. Drain the pasta.
7. Return the pasta to the pot, and add the reserved pasta cooking liquid and the lemon juice; toss to coat. Pour the fig mixture on top. Add the butter, and toss gently just to blend. Transfer half of the pasta to a serving platter. Sprinkle with half of the toasted crumbs and pignoli. Top with the remaining pasta, arranging some of the figs on top. Top with the remaining crumb and pignoli mixture. Cover the top generously with Parmigiano-Reggiano, and serve.
Nutritional information is based on 1/8 teaspoon added salt per serving, but does not include freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.