Penne Pasta with Duck Confit

It is said that there is elegance in simplicity and there is nothing more simple and satisfying than a big bowl of pasta.  Summer or winter, this pasta dish is rich and full of sweet and sour flavors.  Be sure to use fresh star anise to really bring out the aroma of the licorice.  If fresh figs are not available, dried figs may be substituted, just soak them in the balsamic vinegar first.

And for a real treat, make sure you have a bottle of the La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir on hand!

Penne Pasta with Duck Confit, Mission Figs, Balsamic Vinegar and Star Anise Infused Cream Sauce



  • ½ lb. penne pasta
  • 2 C. cream
  • 5 pods star anise
  • 3 Tbsp. thyme, chopped
  • 8 Mission figs, washed and cut in half
  • 3 Tbsp. oil (plus extra to drizzle over pasta)
  • 1 slice of bacon, finely diced
  • 3 Tbsp. shallots, finely minced
  • 1/3 C. balsamic vinegar (plus 1 Tbsp. for seasoning)
  • 8 oz. duck confit, shredded (roasted chicken legs may be substituted)
  • 3 Tbsp. parsley, finely chopped
  • ¼ C. Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 350º.
  2. Fill a 6-quart pot with water and place over high heat.  Once the water boils, cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain pasta and drizzle with oil and toss gently.  This will prevent the pasta from sticking together while you prepare the sauce.
  3. In another pot, add the cream, star anise and 1 Tbsp. of fresh thyme.  Reduce by half and reserve.  This can be done in advance.
  4. Toss the figs with 1 Tbsp. oil and season with salt and pepper.  Pour onto baking sheet and roast for 6 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to chill.  Once cold, cut the fig halves in half again.  This can also be done a day in advance.
  5. Place a 12-inch sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the remaining 2 Tbsp. oil and bacon.  Once the bacon has started to turn light brown, add the shallots.  Continue stirring until the edges of the shallots start to brown, approximately 2 minutes.
  6. Add the remaining thyme and the balsamic vinegar.  Reduce the vinegar until it coats the bottom of the pan.  Add the shredded duck confit, figs and half of the cream.  Bring to a simmer and add the pasta and parsley.  Stir or flip the pasta with ingredients.   You may want to add more cream at this point to gain sauce consistency. Remove pasta from heat.  Allow to sit for 1 minute. Give a final seasoning with salt, pepper and a splash of balsamic vinegar.  Top with parmesan and serve.