- Prep time 25 minutes
- Cook time 25 minutes
- Serves 4
I'm fortunate to have a healthy fig tree in my yard that produces an abundance of fruit (to the happiness of squirrels and chipmunks). A cheese and fig plate is a typical weekend splurge. While planning a dinner, I wondered how including figs into a Pasta alla Gricia recipe would work. This was the result. There's a balance of sweet (figs), savory (pancetta), and a bit of funk from the Gorgonzola that gives this dish its unique twist. This makes a nice first course, I served it with a grilled pork shoulder steak, rubbed with a fennel spice mix. Yum.
A few tips: Start with 1/4 cup of gorgonzola and add up to 1/2 cup depending on your taste. If Gorgonzola ain't your thing, some other soft cheese that melts easily, such as fontina, which is mild; or goat cheese (again on the stronger side, but different) works nicely. Otherwise, use ¼ cup of grated Pecorino Romano. Increase amount of figs if using mission figs, as they are typically smaller than turkey figs.
While this started as a traditional preparation for Pasta alla Gricia, please don’t skewer me for using parmigiana instead of pecorino romano. I wanted a less sharp flavor so as to not overpower the gorgonzola.
Oh, since I’m straying from tradition, pancetta is much easier to find than guanciale.
Why use a bronze die cut pasta? Because “they” said to. Apparently it releases its starches better than basic extruded spaghetti. I can’t say it’s true, I didn’t experiment, but the end result sure tastes great.
Fresh figs (brown turkey)
pancetta, cut into a small dice
bucatinii or fettucine (bronze die cut, such as Barillla Collezione)
fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups
parmigiana reggiano (finely grated)
1/4 - 1/2 cups
soft, imported gorgonzola (dolce), cut into a dice
freshly ground black pepper plus more for taste
- Cut stem from figs. Cut 4 figs into quarters, set aside. Cut each of the remaining figs into 8 pieces.
- Bring a pot of water to boil to cook the pasta.
- While you are bringing the pasta water to a boil, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan to medium. Add the pancetta and cook until crispy - about 7 - 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer the pancetta to a small bowl but keep the rendered fat in the pan. Remove from the burner. Add the rosemary to the rendered fat and stir.
- Once the pasta water reaches boiling, add salt (about 1/2 tsp kosher salt per quart of water. Don’t oversalt the pasta water, you’ll be adding some of this water to make the sauce. There’s already enough salt in the cheese and pancetta. You can adjust later.). Carefully add the pasta in and cook until it's before al dente, about half the time per the package instructions (around 5 minutes, depending upon the type of pasta you use).
- As the pasta finishes boiling, place the grated parmigiana in a bowl, and add a ladle or two of pasta water. Mix with a fork until a loose paste forms.
- Heat the pan with the rendered fat over medium heat. When the pasta has cooked about 5 minutes, add a ladle of pasta water to the frying pan and stir vigorously with the renderings to make an emulsion. Using tongs or a spaghetti claw, transfer the pasta to the pan. Don’t worry about draining the pasta. Add a ladle of pasta water as well. Turn off the heat to the pot of water, do not discard the water yet.
- Let the pasta cook for a few minutes until done to al dente. The pasta will release its starches and a creamy consistency starts to form when mixed with the fat. Stir frequently with a wooden spoon. (Using a fork as well helps to keep the pasta from jumping out of the pan). Add pasta water, a ladleful at a time and stir. Once the pasta reaches al dente or desired doneness, there should be a little bit of liquid left at the bottom of the pan, it shouldn't be completely dry. Add more pasta water if needed during the cooking process. Remove the pan from the heat.
- Add the parmigiana cheese paste and gorgonzola to the pasta and mix with a wooden spoon and a fork, allowing the cheeses to melt down and form a very creamy and smooth sauce. You want a bit of sauce pooling under the pasta. If the sauce needs to be thinned out a bit more, add more pasta water. Add the pancetta and chopped figs and 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper and mix again until evenly distributed in the pasta.
- Plate into 4 servings and top each serving with 4 fig quarters. Add additional black pepper and grated parmigiana and crumbled gorgonzola if desired. Enjoy!