Penne Rigate with Salmon and Fiery Vodka Recipe

Comforting pasta is perfect as the weather cools, and spirits can lend interesting layers of flavor to a dish. In honor of having fun with two made-up “holidays,” here is a dish to try that combines both vodka and pasta so we can raise a fork to National Vodka Day (Oct. 4) and National Noodle Day (Oct. 6) with one meal. 

Penne Rigate is smaller than regular penne and has fine ribs to hold this spicy sauce, notes chef and caterer Serena Bass, who contributed this recipe to Drinks magazine. This is great as a first course or a wonderful main course and cooks very quickly, so have everything else ready to go. To add a little crunch, you can top the pasta with some Tuscan Croutons (a recipe follows). Then all you need is a green salad with a simple vinaigrette and you’re set, suggests Bass. Cheers and bon appetit!

Penne Rigate with Salmon and Fiery Vodka

Makes 4 Servings

14 ounces Penne Rigate
1/2 tablespoon butter
8 ounces salmon filet with all the brown trimmed away, cut into rough 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
1 shot of Absolut Peppar vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream at room temperature
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup minced fresh dill
1/4 cup finely cut chives

1. Cook the penne in well-salted water until al dente, about 11 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, melt the butter over high heat in a non-stick sauté pan. Add the salmon, salt, and pepper and cook briefly until opaque, and then add the vodka and cook 30 seconds or until the vodka has evaporated.

3. Add the cream and lemon. Stir and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat, add the fresh herbs (save a sprinkling for decoration), and cover the pan with a kitchen towel to keep warm.

4. When the pasta is done, add the sauce, and serve immediately on warm plates.

Cook’s Note: For Tuscan Croutons: Toss 2 cups 1/2-inch cubes of crustless Italian bread with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan. Spread on a cookie sheet and bake at 350°F for 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine, and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her son, who used to eat beets and Indian food as a preschooler, will one day again think of real food as more than something you need to eat before dessert and be inspired by his younger brother, who is now into trying new foods.