Fig Marinara Pasta Recipe

Fig Marinara Pasta Recipe Recipe

Lala, my husband's youngest sister, helped to maintain our vegetable and fruit garden all summer. She definitely has a green thumb and has been so good watering our tomato plants and keeping them alive (even when I was out of town for the Banh Mi book promotion in Houston last week). Lala has just started 4th grade this month. She's a very witty girl, full of energy and such a foodie. She told me she didn't want to have to eat the school lunches this year and would prefer eating homemade food for her back-to-school lunch (click on the link for more back-to-school lunch suggestions).

I told her it would be possible only if she helps me in the kitchen once she's done with her homework. She started a chart with the menu of the week and she seemed so thrilled! I couldn't be more excited because these are more precious moments I get to  share with my munchkin, plus it's about sharing my passion for cooking. 

So this evening, we gathered a few San Marzano tomatoes, basil flowers and Brown Turkey figs. You're probably wondering what we made with all these fantastic ingredients? Pasta sauce! I sweetened the tomato sauce with a hint of maple syrup and tossed medium shell pasta into the delectable sauce. It’s sweet without being overpowering, and the figs give it a wonderful new dimension.


Yields: 4 servings

1 pound medium shell pasta, cooked
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 (8-inch) stalk leek (white and green parts), chopped
1½ pounds San Marzano tomatoes, halved
½ pound Brown Turkey figs, eah cut into 8 pieces
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 stalk celery, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, finely minced
8 basil flower buds
1 bay leaf, torn in half
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon red chili flakes
1 tablespoon salted butter
3 tablespoons Romano cheese, freshly grated
2 tablespoons curly parsley, chopped


For the figs: In a pot, heat 3 tablespoons oil. Add the leeks. Cook for 8 minutes until the leeks are shiny and translucent. Add the celery and continue cooking for 8 more minutes. Transfer to a plate. Combine ¼ cup cold water and maple syrup. Bring to a boil, add the figs and basil flowers.Let simmer for 12 minutes. 

For the marina sauce: To the same pot, add the bay leaf, tomatoes, red chili flakes and return the reserved leeks, garlic and celery. Cook over high heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reserve a few figs from the sauce so they're still visible in the end product. Transfer the rest to a food mill. If you don't have a food mill, you can use a food processor, then pass the sauce through a coarse-mesh sieve and discard the tomato skin and basil flower buds if you like. Return the tomato sauce to the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, return the reserved figs, then immediately lower the heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes until the sauce thickens. Cover and let it sit until ready to assemble.


Heat the rest of the oil in a large non-stick pan. Add the garlic and cook over medium heat until fragrant. Add the pasta shells and sauté them in a bit of butter. Season with salt and pepper. Cover with the fig marinara sauce. Turn off the heat, cover and let sit for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with Romano cheese and parsley.

Bon appétit!


You could use any variety of tomatoes such as Roma tomatoes. I just happened to have some San Marzano tomatoes in our garden. This variety is perfect for making tomato sauce. 

I learned the basil flower trick while visiting my friend Magdalena for brunch. She said she always keeps the basil flowers, which are edible, and flavors omelets with them. Removing the basil flower buds will improve the growth of the plant.

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on September 5, 2013.


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