An uncommon pair

Tom Fork
September 29, 2011

Figs are summer's sweetest bounty. These green and purple fleshy fruits first appear in May and last through early fall. In Italy, the last figs to mature in late September are the smaller, light green ones, often called fichi settembrini. The last sweetness of summer, these figs can be found at farmer's markets and greengrocers not only in Florence but throughout Italy.


In early September, we met Gabriella Mari, co-founder of Florence's Scuola di Arte Culinaria Cordon Bleu. When we asked her share one of her seasonal favorites, she offered a simple yet toothsome pasta dish starring two highly uncommon ingredients: fresh fichi settembrini and nduja, a sausage that is one of Calabria's best known foods. Those who have not yet tasted nduja, beware, for it is as spicy and hot as you get in Italy. Indeed, a little nduja, a soft sausage made from pork meat, a bit of fat, salt and a lot of hot red pepper, goes a long, long way. Just a tablespoon, for example, is enough to spice up a whole pan of tomato sauce. 


With its sharp sting, one would not normally consider nduja a natural match to the sweet and delicate settembrino, yet with a deliciously light pasta that perfectly balances sweet and spicy, the results of Mari's recipe are sure to surprise. It's easy to find fresh fichi settembrini at greengrocers around Florence, but tracking down nduja may prove difficult. Try searching the stalls in the Mercato Centrale in San Lorenzo, or stop by La Divina Enoteca just off piazza San Lorenzo, where you're sure to find some of Calabria's spiciest spreadable sausage.


Buon appetito!






Fichi settembrini e nduja pasta (serves 4 to 6)




350gr long pasta

extra virgin olive oil

1 clove of garlic, crushed with garlic press

100gr Calabrian nduja 

8 ripe figs, pealed and cut up in quarters

1 firm, sliced fig for decoration

4 tbs grated dry ricotta

salt to taste



Bring the water to a boil in a big pot, add a pinch of salt and cook the pasta al dente. In a separate pan, heat a splash of extra virgin olive oil with the crushed garlic and add the nduja, crumbling it. Cook over medium heat for a few minutes and add the peeled and cut ripe figs. Heat until the figs and sausages melt, becoming a thick sauce, then remove from the flame.


Drain the pasta and place in a large bowl. Pour the nduja and fig sauce over it and toss together, adding the dry grated ricotta. Serve immediately, with a sprinkle of ricotta and a slice of the firm fig as garnish. 


Photo Credits: Sofie Delauw 



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