You can be eating this irresistible, sweet and savory dish in the time it takes to boil pasta, with Bruce Tretter’s picture-book step-by-step directions.
Fresh figs! Man, I’ve been digging them lately, especially since they’ve been on sale at Trader Joe’s at $4.99 for two pounds. They’re fleshy, sweet and flavorful, much more flavorful than the super sweet fig filling you find in cookies. They’re also tremendously versatile.
I recently posted a picture book sweet and savory salad recipe. The next day, I thought of using figs to make a sweet and savory pasta sauce. I put a pot of water on the stove, cranked up the frying pan, added chopped garlic, red bell pepper, sun dried tomatoes, precooked chicken sausages and seasoned it all with Italian seasoning and a shot balsamic vinegar. My kids came over for dinner—always fun—and left almost no prisoners. Great!
Now, I know fresh figs are seasonal and are sometimes tough to find. No problem. You can make this sauce using just about any fruit—apples, pears, peaches or plums will work just fine.
Preparation Time: 10-15 minutes
Cooking Time: 10-15 minutes
½ Box or 8 Ounces Pasta
2 Handfuls Fresh Figs
3-4 Precooked Sausages (I like using sweet Italian or sun dried tomato chicken sausages for this sauce, but your favorite sausage will work fine)
Sun Dried Tomatoes
Olive or Vegetable Oil (for convenience and flavor, I used the oil from the sun dried tomatoes)
2-3 Garlic Cloves
1 Bell Pepper (red, yellow or orange bell peppers are more flavorful and sweeter than green bell peppers)
Grated Parmesan Cheese
Crushed Red Pepper
Balsamic Vinegar (optional)
10 Inch Frying Pan
Medium Sized Pot
Tongs (to serve pasta—can also use a fork)
1. Fill a medium sized pot about half full with cold tap water. Put the pot on the stove, and turn on the burner to HIGH heat.
2. While the water warms, pull 2-3 garlic cloves from a fresh garlic bulb.
Put one garlic clove at a time under the flat side of wide bladed (chef’s) knife, and use the heel of your hand to press down on the top flat side of the knife with enough pressure to break the garlic clove open to make peeling the garlic skin much easier.
Peel the garlic skin. Then slice and chop the garlic until it looks about as shown in the third picture below.
3. Prepare the fresh figs by first removing the stems. Then cut the figs in half lengthwise and cut them again in cross section into bite sized pieces.
4. Prepare the bell pepper by cutting the pepper in half lengthwise without cutting into the seed cluster in the middle of the pepper.
Pull the pepper halves apart at the stem and remove the seed cluster.
Cut each pepper half lengthwise into strips 1/4 – 1/2 inch (6-12 mm) wide, and then cut those strips in cross section into pieces also 1/4 – 1/2 inch (6-12 mm) wide.
5. Cut about a handful of sun dried tomatoes (estimate—you don’t have to measure them in your hand) into strips about 1/4 inch (6 mm) wide, and then cut those strips in cross section into pieces also about 1/4 inch (6 mm) wide.
6. Cut 3-4 precooked sausages in cross section into slices 1/4 – 1/2 inch (6-12 mm) wide.
7. Let the water come to a big bubble, rapid boil as shown in the full boil photo below, not just a small bubble, fizzy boil shown in the NOT a full boil (see the photo below), to help ensure the pasta cooks properly to desired doneness.
When the water comes to a full boil, add about as much salt as shown below (optional but adds flavor to pasta) and …
8. Put the frying pan on the stove, and turn on the burner to MEDIUM heat.
9. Let the water in the pasta pot come back to a full boil. Then turn down the burner heat to MEDIUM to prevent the pot from boiling over, and cook until the timer sounds. (See my instructions for boiling pasta—quick and easy!)
10. Put a colander in the sink, and …
…check the frying pan for the proper cooking temperature by wetting your fingers with tap water and flicking the water onto the pan surface.
The pan is warmed to the proper cooking temperature when the water sizzles on contact with the pan surface and quickly evaporates. (NOTE: If the water sizzles and evaporates in a puff as soon as it hits the pan, move the pan to a cool burner for a few minutes. Turn down the heat setting a few notches on the burner you originally used, and heat the pan again. If the water doesn’t sizzle on contact, keep heating the pan until it does.)
11. When the frying pan is properly warmed, add just enough olive or vegetable oil to coat the pan surface evenly (I’m using a shot of oil from the sun dried tomato jar for a little added flavor), and then, right away, add the chopped garlic, bell pepper and sausage.
Stir occasionally and cook for just a few minutes until the garlic becomes fragrant. Then …
…add the chopped figs and sun dried tomatoes along with a good shake of Italian seasoning and shot of balsamic vinegar (optional but adds a rich sweet and sour flavor to the sauce).
12. When the timer for the pasta sounds, pour the pasta and hot water into the colander in the sink.
13. Stir the sauce occasionally until the bell peppers just start to soften but are still firm, not mushy, and the sauce looks about as shown in the picture below on the right.
14. Use tongs or a fork to put the freshly cooked pasta in a bowl (or onto a plate) and top with sauce.
15. Either have the pasta with sausage and fresh fig sauce as is or …
…topped with your choice or combination of grated Parmesan cheese and/or crushed red pepper to taste.
Images courtesy of Bruce Tretter