A throwback to the 1980s
It had seemed that this symbol of trendy cuisine from the 1980s had gone the way of big hair and leg warmers. But penne alla vodka has started to make a comeback thanks to celebrity chefs like Valentino Bontempi.
While the dish’s title may have you thinking it’s a Russian creation it’s not. According to food writer, Pasquale Bruno Jr. in The Ultimate Pasta Cookbook, penne alla vodka was invented at Dante, a restaurant in Bologna, Italy. After gaining popularity in Italy in the 1970s, it was all the rage in the United States in the 1980s.
You could make this dish as a side without the salmon or serve the salmon on the side if you prefer. To put you in the mood, crank up your favourite 80s tunes and hit the kitchen.
How to make salmon with vodka cream sauce
In this recipe, we’ll add poached salmon to our vodka cream sauce. If we were to simply add cream to tomato sauce it would not combine well. So that’s where the vodka comes in. Vodka is used as a flavour enhancer and an emulsifier to blend the tomato sauce and the cream. And the vodka in it won’t even get you tipsy because the alcohol evaporates off when cooking. Oh well, you’ll just have to choose a nice Italian wine to have with it. Perhaps a Sangiovese or Valpolicella will do the trick.
Once you have blended the poached salmon and pasta with the sauce, transfer it to the serving plates and top with smoked salmon and parsley. Both toppings add depth and accentuate the delicious flavours of this dish.
Salmon with Penne alla Vodka
- 16 oz uncooked penne pasta
- 8 oz salmon filets
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ½ cup chopped onion
- ½ tsp crushed chili peppers
- 28 oz crushed tomatoes or passata
- ¼ cup vodka
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ½ tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 3 oz smoked salmon cut into thin strips
- ¼ cup finely chopped parsley
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the package directions.
- Add water to a pot with a cover and a steamer basket, bring to a boil.
- Place salmon fillets on the basket and poach in the steam for about 5-7 minutes or until cooked. The fish should be moist, tender and flaky. Remove from the pot and set aside.
- To a large pan, add the olive oil, heat to medium then add the onion and cook until transparent. Add the red pepper flakes and cook for about 30 seconds.
- Add the crushed tomatoes and vodka to the pan. Simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, remove the skin (and bones, if any) from the salmon, then flake it. To flake the salmon, separate the flesh with the aid two forks.
- Add the cream and Parmesan cheese to the sauce and simmer for about 5 more minutes.
- Stir the flaked salmon and pasta into the sauce pot then season with salt and pepper.
- Transfer the mixture to serving plates and top with smoked salmon and parsley.
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