We have made this recipe many times now, and it is pretty adaptable to what you have on hand. We have made it with more brussels sprouts than called for (up to 2 lbs), and we have also made it with less (only 1 lb). This last time, we only had 1 lb brussels sprouts, so we added some cooked swiss chard to increase the greens. In a pinch, we have even used frozen brussels sprouts, but we prefer to use fresh when possible. We have made this with both gorgonzola and blue cheese, sometimes measuring out the exact amount, sometimes just throwing some on and seeing how it tastes. Depending on our mood, sometimes we skip the nuts on top (although it does add a nice crunch). You can also substitute any dried fruit in for the dried figs, although I can't think of anything that would work better. We've never made it with fresh figs, and I don't think I would recommend it. Fresh figs are so delicate, and have such a unique flavor, that I think they are better when eaten fresh (uncooked).
Recipe: Baked Rigatoni with Brussels Sprouts, Figs and Blue Cheese
Slightly Adapted from Mark Bittman
Yield: 4 servings
8 oz rigatoni (the large kind)
1 1/2 lbs brussels sprouts, trimmed and roughly chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
4 oz blue cheese or gorgonzola, crumbled
3/4 cup dried figs, chopped
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped almonds, for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and salt it. Add the pasta and cook 4-5 minutes, until about halfway cooked. It should still be quite firm inside. Add the brussels sprouts to the pot and cook 3 minutes, until the vegetables and pasta are both just barely tender. Drain, reserving some of the pasta water (at least 1 cup), and return the pasta and brussels sprouts to the pot.
Stir in the oil, cheese, figs and black pepper. Add a splash of the pasta water, and stir to combine. Add extra salt and pepper to taste. You want the sauce to be on the thin side, since the pasta will continue to absorb water while baking. Add more pasta water if necessary.
Spray a 9x13 pan with nonstick cooking spray, and pour the pasta mixture into the pan. Cover with foil, and bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil, and make sure there is still some liquid at the bottom of the pan (add more cooking water if there is no liquid left. Bake another 5 minutes, or until mixture is bubbling. Let cool 5 minutes, garnish with almonds, and serve.
Mixed up, about to be baked
Close up, in an attempt to show the bubbling sauce!