We are deep into summer and soon believe it or not Autumn will be upon us! Apart from the transition from winter to spring I think the transition between summer and autumn, is truly special. The abundance of incredible produce and the beautiful changes in nature, is very inspiring. Although it’s still scorching hot here in Australia, it reminds me of the heat in Italy. We always spend time there at end of summer and it my favourite time. Last summer we were at this artisanal bakery in the north of Italy just an hour or so from Milan. Apart from their incredible range of bread they also sell local produce grown by their neighbours. There was a basketful of ripe figs and of course I took the whole thing home! When I see such good produce It feels like I’ve found treasure. So when Harris Farm asked me to create a recipe for their gorgeous figs I was really excited. I felt a light summer pasta was a good way to show off the beauty of the figs. We don’t see it often but on the coast of Italy in regions around Naples a traditional dish is pizza with figs. So why not try it with pasta.
Firstly, I’ve chosen a light pasta for this dish like Fusilli Avellinesi. Spaghetti, linguine, penne are all too heavy for this dish and require richer sauces. The figs in this recipe are caramelised lightly with some sweet balsamic vinegar in the oven. I found this rich caramelised balsamic vinegar that Harris Farm source from Berry in NSW and it reminds me of this vinegar that I buy when I’m in Italy. The pine nuts and pancetta create a salty, smooth and nutty flavour and texture. Just like for the base of a pesto, pine nuts work their magic and there is no need to add bread crumbs to make this a crumb. The basil (as always) is very important, it relieves the richness of the pancetta and caramelised figs and freshens the palate, you only need a little bit but it wouldn’t be the same without it. Now the cheese…I can’t do pasta without a good quality cheese. The salty, edgy flavour of parmigiano reggiano is crucial in balancing out all flavours in this dish. Go for the wedge and not the shaved one and shave it just before serving the pasta as the oils, moisture and flavour will travel even better. Oh and don’t be shy on the black pepper. Serve with a cold white wine and you are set for these warm summer nights!
I truly believe that the best quality ingredients, combined perfectly together create the best food. Enjoy this recipe!
1/4 cup caramelised balsamic vinegar
125 g pancetta (diced)
100 g pine nuts
230 g (80 g per person) fusilli avellinesi
100 g parmigiano reggiano
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup fresh basil
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Slice the figs in half lengthways and place onto a baking tray. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and place into the oven for 15-20 minutes.
- Meanwhile prepare a pot of salty water and bring to the boil. Once boiling add the pasta. If you are using the pasta above cook for 10 minutes or until al dente. You want to keep this pasta with the texture and a bit of a bite.
- Heat a pan and toast the pine nuts, stirring with a wooden spoon every minute or so until golden brown and you can see the natural pine nut oil come out onto the surface. Remove the pine nuts and place them into a bowl.
- Using the same pan, fry the pancetta until golden brown. The natural fat will come out so there is no need to add extra oil or butter. Once golden brown, add the pine nuts from the bowl and back onto the fry pan with pancetta. Mix the pancetta and pine nuts together and add a good amount of freshly ground black pepper and set aside.
- Divide the pancetta into two parts. Place 1 part into a large bowl. Blend the other half until it has the consistency of a crumb (set this crumb aside, you will use it to sprinkle onto the pasta later).
- Strain the pasta from the water and add it into the bowl with the first half of the pine nut and pancetta mixture.
- Remove the figs from the oven and cut each half into another half to make quarters. Keep 4 figs as they are. Add the quarter fig pieces into the bowl of pasta along with a few spoonfuls of the balsamic vinegar that has been in the roasting pan. Add the fresh basil and a tbsp or so of olive oil. Stir through well. Taste and season will salt if necessary.
- Spoon the pasta onto the plates. Place the leftover pieces of fig onto the side, top with the pancetta pine nut crumb and shave the parmigiano reggiano on top.
- Serve with a cool white wine and enjoy!