This recipe is an indicator of my tenacity. It is the result of the recreation of a favorite pasta dish from a little Italian bistro we frequented nearly 30 years ago. That dish was a Rigatoni bathed in a sauce of creamy tomatoes and smoky salmon.
After several attempts at replicating that memorable dish, I finally realized that I was concentrating too much on one flavor, aka the salmon. I decided that I needed to perfect the method of transporting the essence of the smoky salmon without losing the tomato base the salmon was there only to enhance. I believe I have found the perfect balance of ingredients to stand up to the salmon without losing the sweet tomato and other delicate seasonings.
In fact, since I don’t always have smoked salmon in my larder, the tomato crème sauce without the salmon has become one of our favorites. And you can whip this one up in the time it takes the pasta to cook!
Rigatoni with Smoked Salmon Tomato Crème
Yield: 6 Servings Preparation Time: 10 Minutes Cooking Time: 12 Minutes
• 1 Pound Dried Rigatoni
• 1 Pound Campari Tomatoes, cut half crosswise
• 4 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
• 2 Shallots, chopped
• Kosher Salt
• ½ Teaspoon Dried Basil
• ⅛ Teaspoon Freshly Grated Nutmeg
• 3 Tablespoons Sherry
• 2 Cups Heavy Cream
• Freshly Ground Black Pepper
• ¼ Pound Smoked Salmon Filet, at room temperature, flaked
Step 1. Cook Rigatoni according to package directions, in generously salted water, until al dente. Drain pasta reserving ½ cup of the cooking water. Set pasta and reserved water aside.
Step 2. While the pasta is cooking melt the Butter over medium-low heat in a large sauté or fry pan and add the Shallots. Cook for 2 minutes just to sweat the Shallots and then remove them with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Step 3. Increase the heat to medium and add the Tomatoes, cut side down. Pierce the skin side several times with the point of a knife. Cook without disturbing them at all for 5 minutes.
Step 4. Turn the Tomatoes over and sprinkle the cut sides with ½ teaspoon of the Kosher Salt, the Basil and the Nutmeg. Cook for 3 minutes and then turn again to release more juices into the pan. Remove 3 or 4 halves of the Tomatoes for garnish and set aside.
Step 5. Return the sweated Shallots to the pan and stir in the Sherry. Cook for 2 minutes and then reduce heat to low and stir in the Cream. Cook until the sauce is just beginning to bubble. Adjust seasoning with Salt and Pepper.
Step 6. Use a pair of tongs to remove the loosened skins from the Tomatoes remaining in the pan and discard. Add the cooked Rigatoni to the pan and stir to coat with the sauce. Sprinkle the flaked Salmon over the pasta and lightly toss to evenly distribute.
Plate the sauced pasta and place the reserved Tomato halves, cut side up, on top to garnish.
Tips and Trending
~ I use Campari tomatoes for this dish because they’re extra sweet, very juicy and super low in acid which makes them perfect for the very brief cooking time. Campari tomatoes vary in size from about 1½” to 2½” in diameter. I always look for the smallest for this recipe. If you cannot find Campari tomatoes at your grocer, substitute the ones you find packaged as “Tomatoes on the Vine”.
~ The herb (Basil), spice (Nutmeg) and aromatic (Shallots) used in the recipe are intentionally kept to a minimum to allow the delicate flavor of the tomatoes to shine through.