From the Riviera Romagnola to smoked salmon as a chic touch. Pennette alla vodka with cream, salmon and tomato are back, but in a contemporary version. Here is the recipe
A symbol of the 1980s, the Vodka pennette they were a must both after an evening in Milano Marittima and on special occasions to surprise guests. With the passage of time, also thanks to the demonization of cream in the kitchen, penne with vodka has lost its charm, remaining in the childhood memories of those who now have some gray hair. To relive the best years, certain nights of yesteryear and find out what will remain of those eighties, the time has come to restore dignity to a memorial dish. As we know, smell and taste are the most evocative senses of distant memories, so without paying too much attention to the new commandments of contemporary cuisine, why not bring them back to the table? But in a reloaded, obviously gourmet version; like everything in this new Millennium.
In the beginning it was a "Bloody Mary like gravy"
Pennette with vodka is a dish whose authorship is disputed between different characters, starting with Italian Ugo Tognazzi, who first reports the recipe in his book My kitchen of 1974. But he is not the only one: there are Roman chefs, housewives from Voghera and even an American student from Columbia University who seems to have been the first to "invent" the combination of vodka and tomato (yes, exactly, that of the Bloody Mary ). If its origins are lost in legend, what is certain is that the recipe was popularized in the discos of the Riviera Romagnola starting in the late seventies. This is how diehard disco goers were fed in the heart of roaring summer nights, and the version embellished with salmon, caviar or shrimp spread, until it became a chic dish.
The Roman version in amatriciana
In Rome they merged with amatriciana, which suddenly became alcoholic. "Pennette with vodka were born in those years and were very popular, they were also offered in some Roman restaurants after two in the morning, as an alternative to spaghetti", he says Claudio Cerati, inventor of the precious Upstream salmon, finely smoked and processed in Italy. "Those were the years when salmon was synonymous with quality and exclusive delicacy, the real star of the tables during the Christmas holidays", and this is how even the most polar dish of the time ended up ennobling.
Pennette with vodka are a symbol for Claudio Cerati, so much so that he wanted to include them in the recipe book Evolution and variations of the divine salmon which collects dishes from chefs from all over Italy. «Taking up this recipe was not that difficult. It took a bit of courage to overcome the idea of cream in the toppings, the aftertaste of the sweet and delicate aroma of vodka and the replacement of bacon with Upstream salmon, to rediscover those traditions and emotions of the past in this symphony with a modern flavor .
Tomato and vodka, a scientific marriage
After the fury of the seventies and eighties, the tomato was often abandoned in favor of cream alone, breaking the union – not as eccentric as it seems – between vodka and tomato. In fact, vodka helps to release some of the aromatic molecules of the tomato that otherwise could not be released in a sauce with oil. The vodka then releases the tomato flavor and in addition acts as an emulsifier, making the sauce homogeneous. Cream – little! – serves to soften the sauce a little on the palate and to mitigate the contrast with the salmon, making everything more harmonious. It can also be omitted if you like sharper and stronger flavors. And here is the gourmet version taken from the Upstream cookbook, a quick dish to prepare even for those who are new to cooking.
Ingredients for 4 people
150 g of Classic Upstream smoked salmon cut into small cubes
300 g of striped penne
30 g of butter
250 g of tomato puree
3 coffee cups of vodka
100 g of fresh cream
2 tablespoons of chopped chives
Finely chop the shallot and let it soften in butter; add a cup of vodka, the tomato puree and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it rest for 3 minutes. Add the cream and keep warm around 60 ° C. Meanwhile, cook the penne in boiling water, drain and pour into a pan. Deglaze with the remaining vodka, blasting them over high heat until the alcohol has evaporated completely. Turn off the heat and add the tomato sauce, cream and vodka and finish mixing well.
Serve and garnish with the salmon and chives. Season with ground pepper.
Text by Jacopo Giavara and Margo Schachter
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