Baked Rigatoni with Brussels Sprouts, Figs, and Blue Cheese


By Freya Bellin

As the weather becomes chillier, I love a good casserole. This pasta dish, though maybe not a traditional casserole, evokes the same warm, melty, heartiness.  And while the list of ingredients may raise eyebrows, they all come together harmoniously: the bite of the cheese, the juicy sweetness of fresh figs, and the crunch of Brussels sprouts. I don’t always love blue cheese, but it served its purpose well here. 4 ounces of cheese, especially a pungent one like gorgonzola, is just the right amount to add flavor throughout, without overwhelming the dish. It seeps into the tubes of rigatoni, and coats everything in a light, cheesy sauce. The almonds add some crunch, but flavor-wise don’t interfere with the rest of the dish. This pasta is well balanced, unique, and makes excellent leftovers. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

Baked Rigatoni with Brussels Sprouts, Figs, and Blue Cheese

Makes: 4 servings

Time: 45 minutes

Many cheesy baked pastas depend on béchamel—the classic sauce made with flour, butter, and milk—for creaminess. But this is a very cool alternative that combines a variety of textures and flavors (including fruit) without diluting the taste of the cheese. Pears, apples, and cranberries would all be fine here, and if you’re not keen on blue cheese, try fontina, Gruyère, or anything that melts easily.

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing the pan


8 ounces rigatoni, preferably whole wheat

1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, roughly chopped

4 ounces Gorgonzola or other blue cheese, crumbled

6 to 8 fresh figs, or 1 cup dried, chopped

Black pepper

1/4 cup chopped almonds, for garnish

1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Grease a 9 × 13-inch baking pan with a little olive oil. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Add the pasta and cook it halfway through (start checking after 3 minutes; it should still be quite firm inside). Add the Brussels sprouts to the pot and cook, until the pasta and vegetables are just barely tender, another 3 minutes. Drain, reserving some of the cooking water, and return the pasta and Brussels sprouts to the pot.

2. Stir in the blue cheese, figs, the 2 tablespoons oil, and a splash of the cooking water. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss, and taste and adjust the seasoning. Turn the pasta mixture into the prepared pan.

3. Bake, checking once or twice and adding a bit more of the cooking water if the pasta looks too dry, until the mixture is bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes. Garnish with chopped almonds and serve.


Posted in Italian, Recipes


  1. ibbyla said...

    I agree with rlieb. Sounds excellent. If you can’t eat nuts, substitute bacon.

  2. koshem9 said...

    Figs abhor being cooked. Why not spread them after the bacon is tamed? Adding pickled figs brings out the ouds.

  3. EastofEdenCook said...

    I made this recipe for dinner last night and four adults almost finished the entire dish. I can think of no better compliment for a new recipe! I roasted the Brussels sprouts and apples ( instead of figs) until almost done and used Fontina cheese. Exceptional!

  4. Mvo124 said...

    Delicious, light pasta. I would make this again with some slight changes. Next time I’ll roast the Brussels sprouts in the oven separately instead of boiling. The carmelizing that happens during roasting is such a beautiful flavor. I’ll also use dried figs instead of fresh. The fresh figs almost melted into the pasta which tasted great but wasn’t visually appealing. I’m not sure baking the pasta added anything–so I’m just going to toss the pasta, roasted veggies, and dried figs with the sauce in a bowl.

  5. SB_Boston said...

    This is a nice idea, and I am Italian (born and bred until my 40s) and VERY territorial about new ideas that you can possibly apply to pasta; so mr Bittman is definitely onto something here.
    Indeed, one of my favorite restaurants in Rome in the early 90s served half rigatoni with Brussels sprouts and Stilton. Not baked: the sprouts were cooked very soft, to the point where they partly melted in the cheesy sauce (I am not sure whether it was just Stilton, water and Parmesan, or if it included milk). I think that both interpretations sound scrumptious; it’s just that the pairing of strong-tasting cheese and Brussels sprouts work really well.

    • SB_Boston said...

      Pardon be – I thought this recipe to come from Mark Bittman, so heartfelt apologies to Freya Bellin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *