COZY IN CREAM Pasta and smoked salmon are perfectly at home in a creamy sauce.
Pasta dishes are convenient by nature. Boil up the pasta, cook up the sauce and bosh them together. I mean what could go wrong? Don’t worry, plenty can!
When it comes to pasta you must play by the rules. Cook in plenty of well-salted water and always take off the heat before it’s cooked through; the rest of the cooking occurs when it’s surrounded by the sauce – and you want a small bite to the pasta (al dente), not a flabby texture! Remember too to always take some of the pasta cooking water across to the sauce: it’s part of the tradition.
In recent times I have gone off pasta a bit, in favour of spuds and rice, and other wholesome vegetables. I get annoyed by the really processed flours used for pastas and the fact they can’t be that good for your gut. However, pasta dishes are not going anywhere, and we still use them regularly in our house.
Here are two of our old reliables. Easy to prepare, full of umami flavours, and a great return for the work involved.
Smoked salmon pasta in a cream sauce
You’ll often see this dish as ‘Penne Al Salmone’ on restaurant menus. Smoked salmon is comforting at the best of times; cooked warm with a cream-influenced sauce, it’s a winner.
One key here is to include lovely lemony-tasting capers to create a little bite to the flavour. True aficionados always flambé the sauce with alcohol, but sure if you don’t have it you don’t have it! Penne or shells, cooked al-dente, are the preferred pastas for this dish, but you can use tagliatelle. Another key is finely diced red onion, slowly cooked to a translucent softness at the start.
What you need
- 400g pasta
- 1 med red onion
- 200g fresh smoked salmon,
- 200ml cream,
- 2 tbsp capers,
- Dash of vodka or brandy (if you have it)
- Olive oil
- Fresh herbs for dressing
What you do
Chop the red onion really finely, and cook it in a frying pan over medium-low heat with oil and a knob of butter until translucent and soft. I always add a touch of salt to cooking onions.
Break your smoked salmon into small bite-size pieces and lay into pan, cooking for four minutes while stirring. If you’re adding alcohol, turn up the heat and when the pan is hot throw in a dash. The alcohol burns off and reduces in flavour.
Next, add your capers for one minute and then add the cream. The important thing with cooking cream is to cook it over a fairly high heat until it completely mingles with all the flavours and reduces a little.
You can prep this sauce anytime up to two hours before eating. Cook the pasta as instructed, and simply bring sauce back to full heat, adding the pasta and a touch of its cooking water. Stir with a wooden spoon for a good minute. Season and lay out on warm plates, with a fresh-herb garnish for decoration.
Creamy leek and mushroom pasta
Put these two slow-cooked winter vegetables together with the sexiness of cream, and you produce the equivalent of a warm, comforting, tasty, attractive blanket to wrap around yourself!
The Brunette slow-cooks her leeks soft first before adding the mushrooms, while I do it other way round to achieve a well-browned mushroom before adding the leeks. Using butter with the cooking oil is important here.
Tagliatelle is my preferred pasta here but short pastas can also work well. The use of dried porcini mushrooms bumps up the flavour indicator when used with regular mushrooms.
What you need
- 400g pasta
- 2 leeks
- 150g white or brown-cap mushrooms, sliced
- 35g dried porcini mushrooms
- Around 200ml cream
- 75g Parmesan cheese, grated
What you do
Trim, skin and cut your leeks into into 1½ inch pieces, then split in half. Soaked the dried mushrooms in a quarter cup of water.
Cook your sliced mushrooms in a frying pan, over a medium heat, with oil and butter. I like to cook them until they are well browned and let out juices. Like onions, I always cook them with a good pinch of salt. About three-quarter way through, add your split leeks, and cook for another four minutes until lightly browned. Add the porcinis and their juice. Add in the cream, and cook over a strong heat for four minutes to blend and reduce. Add the pasta and serve on warmed bowl-plates with Parmesan and a good dash of freshly ground black pepper.
You could always try a different version by adding tarragon in at the early stages, or even some chopped red chillies if that’s your style.
Red Cabot is interested in food, nature and small things. He sells his food at Westport Country Markets in St Anne’s Boxing Club, James’s Street Car Park, Westport, every Thursday, from 8am to 1pm.