Pecorino pepper pasta is the vegetarian main dish that will be a new favorite. Featuring caramelized onions and tender tangy figs, you’ll love how these ingredients combine with the pecorino and pepper pasta.
Why This Recipe Works
This quick pasta gets its bold flavor from a handful of simple ingredients. Caramelized onions
provided complex sweetness. Instead of finishing them with sugar or honey as many recipes call for, we added baking soda, which speeds up the reaction that converts flavorless inulin (a polysaccharide present in onions) to fructose. We accented that sweetness by blooming coarsely ground black pepper in butter before stirring it into the onions, and we finished the dish with sharp and savory Pecorino Romano, bits of honeyed figs, and fresh-tasting parsley.
Adding hot pasta cooking water at the end of preparation is the key to creating a light caramelized onion and fig sauce that clings to the pasta.
A Twist on Caramelized Onions
The key to caramelized onions is to usually cook them low and slow. This recipe turns that idea on its head—it might seem counterintuitive to cook the onions in water and oil at the same time over high heat, but the water softens the onions and will evaporate, and the oil will get in on the act at this point, as the onions start to sizzle.
Then, the onions are pressed into the sides of the cooking receptacle and cook further without stirring. Then, you will stir the onions. That same idea of pressing, cooking and stirring again. Baking soda with water combine into a solution to further cook the onions until evaporated.
Storing Caramelized Onions
Onions can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month.
Pecorino Pepper Pasta Sauce
Cook the pasta in salted water. Reserve 1½ cups cooking water, then drain pasta and return it to the pot.
Start the sauce while the pasta cooks by melting butter. To this, you’ll add pepper and cook until fragrant. Then, you add reserved onions, figs, and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are warmed through.
To finish the sauce, you’ll add Pecorino, parsley, vinegar, onions, and 1 cup reserved cooking water to pasta and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, adjusting consistency with remaining reserved cooking water as needed and passing extra Pecorino separately.
Pecorino Pepper Pasta with Figs and Caramelized Onions
- 3 pounds onions, halved and sliced through root end 1/4-inch thick
- 3/4 cup plus 1 TBSP water, divided
- 2 TBSP vegetable oil
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 pound pasta
- Salt and coarsely ground pepper
- 1 TBSP unsalted butter
- 1 cup chopped Orchard Choice or Sun-Maid Figs
- 1 1/2 ounces shredded Pecorino Romano cheese (3/4 cup), plus extra for serving
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 TBSP white wine vinegar
For the Caramelized Onions
- Bring onions, 3/4 cup water, oil, and salt to boil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat. Cover and cook until water has evaporated and onions start to sizzle, about 10 minutes.
- Uncover, reduce heat to medium-high, and use a rubber spatula to gently press onions into the sides and bottom of the skillet. Cook, without stirring onions, for 30 seconds. Stir onions, scraping fond from skillet, then gently press onions into sides and bottom of the skillet again. Repeat pressing, cooking, and stirring until onions are softened, well browned, and slightly sticky, 15 to 20 minutes.
- Combine baking soda and remaining 1 tablespoon water in bowl. Stir baking soda solution into onions and cook, stirring constantly, until solution has evaporated, about 1 minute. Transfer onions to a bowl and set aside. (Onions can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month.)
For the Pasta
- Bring 4 quarts water to boil in a large pot. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Reserve 1½ cups cooking water, then drain pasta and return it to the pot.
- While pasta cooks, melt butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon pepper and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add reserved onions, figs, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are warmed through, about 4 minutes.
- Add Pecorino, parsley, vinegar, onions, and 1 cup reserved cooking water to pasta and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, adjusting consistency with remaining reserved cooking water as needed and passing extra Pecorino separately.