Penne with Smoked Salmon and Vodka Cream Sauce

 

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Hi fellow friends and bloggers, it has been a loooong time since I updated my blog!  For good reason though, this summer has been crazy busy.  In June I married my amazing fiancé and then embarked on our honeymoon to Asia!  What a wild ride, I wish I could do it all over again, but alas, my child needs schooling and so all good things must come to an end.

It’s been 8 months since we moved to Madrid, and that also has been super crazy, making new friends, my daughter is in a new school, hubby in a new job……and me, well I have a new blog!  From now on, all my sweet baking confections will be on San Luis Baking Co.  I hope you enjoy and visit!

So, for our recipe.  Another new adventure has been my potted tomato plants.  We eat tomatoes like they go out of style, but most importantly, my hubs and used to go crazy because finding Italian tomato varieties here is close to impossible.  On one trip to Italy, I bought three types of tomatoes, Pacchino Cherry, which is an heirloom from Sicily, small, but sweet as sugar; San Marzano, which hails from Campania (around Naples, Italy) and is one of the best varieties to make sauce; and Costoluto Fiorentino, which is a large heirloom from Tuscany which makes for a killer salad tomato!  I harvested the seeds, planted in the beginning of May, and voila! This has been my first foray into tomato gardening, and it has had its ups and downs, but I am amazed at the yield that I have had!  So our recipe today includes my cherry tomatoes, straight from the vine.  I know most of us don’t have tomatoes at home, so try to find the ripest, sweetest cherry tomatoes to make this dish.  The tomatoes’ acidity balances well with the mellow cream, and the smokiness of the salmon pairs perfectly in this dish, it’s a winner!

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So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 3-4

300g Penne Pasta

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp chili flakes

3 garlic cloves, smashed

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

Pinch of salt

1/4 cup Vodka

200 ml heavy cream

100 g smoked salmon, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

2 tsp fresh Italian parsley, minced

In a large stockpot, put water and 1 tbsp salt to boil.  In a medium sauté pan over medium low heat, add the olive oil.  When hot, add the chili flakes and the garlic.  Cook until fragrant, about 4 minutes, making sure it doesn’t burn.  Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for another 2 minutes.  Add the cherry tomatoes, salt and a 1/4 cup of water, and lower the heat to low.  Cook for about 10 minutes, or until the water has evaporated by half.

Raise the heat to high, and add the vodka and carefully light to flambe; to burn off all the alcohol.  Lower the heat to a minimum, and add the cream and stir.  Take off the heat and add the salmon, pepper and give it a good stir.  Set aside.

Cook the pasta according to package directions.  When it is done, strain all but a tbsp of the water, and toss it in the pan with your sauce.  Raise the heat on your pan, and cook on high for about 2 minutes, until all the pasta is evenly coated with the sauce.  Sprinkle with the parsley, and serve immediately.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Maccheroni Gambrinus

Ristorante Gambrinus.  The name invokes memories of my early “tween” years when I first started TASIS, in Lugano, Switzerland.  I went to school there from 1986-1992, and frequently we used to go to this restaurant in the main square.  I remember when I first tried this dish.  It was made table side, the server expertly flambeeing the vodka over the penne pasta, then adding the fresh cream and parsley.  And then the first bite.  Heaven.  Nirvana.  Valhalla.  Whatever you want to call it, it was delicious.  With a capital D.  For many years I have recreated this dish, from the stained, crumpled hand-written recipe my mother wrote out as per the restaurant owner’s directions, or from sheer memory.  And of course, it will never, in my mind, be as good as the original.  There is always something about someone else making you food, that makes it taste better.  Or maybe it’s a little eleven year old girls’ memory of that perfect moment, when things were a lot easier, when your parents paid the bill, and when all I had to do was dress up for dinner and then fall asleep in the car ride home, with my belly full of that scrumptuous pasta, knowing that the next morning the world would be all right.

Here, I give you my version of this dish, and I hope you will recreate it at home.

Maccheroni Gambrinus

Serves 4

1 lb of penne pasta

2 tbsp of olive oil

4 strips of bacon or pancetta (pancetta is obviously the choice, but I only had bacon on hand), chopped

1 tsp of crushed red pepper

1/2 onion, finely diced

1 garlic clove, finely diced

1/8 tsp of dried oregano

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 small can of tomato puree

1/2 cup vodka

1/4 cup cream

Fresh parsley, chopped for garnish

Parmesan cheese, grated

Put 8 cups of salted water to boil.  Meanwhile, in a large saute pan over medium heat, add your bacon, red pepper flakes, and oregano.  Saute until the bacon is not yet crispy, but starting to cook.  About 5 minutes.  Add your onion, and cook until soft and translucent, about another 7 minutes.  Then add your garlic and let it cook another 2 minutes until fragrant.

Add the tomato paste, and mix well until combined.  Then add your tomato puree, and fill the can/bottle with water and add to the sauce, and let it come to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 15 minutes.

Now here is the tricky part.  Once you have let the sauce simmer so the water has evaporated and you get a wonderful smooth sauce, raise the heat to high, and let it come to a boil.  Get your matches or lighter ready, close at hand, and add your vodka and flambee.  It only takes a second for it to flambee, so there was no way I could get a picture of the flames.  But trust me, it lit up!

Don’t do it like I did.  You could light the vodka bottle on fire.  I was just being greedy and pouring some more in.  I like vodka.  And I am not ashamed to say it.

Once the vodka has been evaporated, take it off the heat, and add your cream and parsley.

Boil the pasta according to package directions, and then toss with the warm sauce.  Serve with a large mountain of freshly grated parmesan cheese….or a small one.  But I love cheese.

Enjoy!!!!  Have seconds.  You only live once.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla