The Oscars are on tonight! Movie stars, the red carpet, glamorous women in evening gowns, handsome men in black tie attire. Even if you usually watch movies from Netflix or Red Box a year after they’ve come out, like we do, it’s still fun to crowd around the television to take it all in.
Nothing matches the allure of cinema italiano, though. During the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, Italian film makers, actors and actresses entertained audiences world wide with movies that are now iconic. Federico Fellini gave us masterpieces such as La strada, Le notti di Cabiria, 8 1/2 and of course, La dolce vita.
The left-leaning and sometimes controversial Pier Paolo Pasolini, master of the commedia all’italiano Mario Monicelli, and Ladri di biciclette (Bicycle Thieves) director Vittorio de Sica made memorable and award-winning Italian films, while comic actors Totò, and Alberto Sordi became household names in Italy and beyond by making audiences laugh.
Watch it here: Alberto Sordi – Macaroni io ve distruggo!
The Italian actresses, though, captured the imagination of viewers everywhere. Claudia Cardinale, star of Fellini’s 8 1/2, Monicelli’s I soliti ignoti (Big Deal on Madonna Street) and Luchino Visconti’s il Gattopardo (The Leopard), is still consideed one of Italy’s most glamorous actresses.
In 1961 Sophia Loren earned an Academy Award for her dramatic performance in De Sica’s film World War II film La ciociara (Two Women), the first actress to win that award for a foreign language film.
Like Loren, Gina Lollobrigida began her career in Italian film, and went on to make European and American films, including Never So Few with Frank Sinatra and Come September with Rock Hudson.
Watching these men and women of the big screen calls for an equally glamorous Italian pasta. Pennette al salmone is the perfect fit. It’s easy and quick to prepare, but delicious and elegant in with its petite pasta and its creamy pink salmon sauce – the perfect accompaniment to a night at the Oscars.
Ingredients for 4
30 g (2 Tbsp) butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
70 g (1/3 cup) finely chopped onion
115 g (4 oz.) smoked salmon
1 large can (800 g or 28 oz) whole tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
100 g (just under 1/2 cup) crème fraîche*
1 bunch Italian parsley
1 package (500g or 16 oz.) pennette**
Dry white wine
*Crème fraîche is a cultured cream used for cooking. In Italy, we use a similar product called panna, but it is not available locally. If you cannot find either option, heavy cream will work.
**Pennette are smaller than the more commonly known pasta, penne. Ours were made by Garofalo, an Italian pasta company, and were called Penne Mezzani Rigate.
Place butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté for 5 minutes until the onions are translucent. Add the smoked salmon, broken into small pieces. Mince the Italian parsley. Add a large pinch to the salmon, and set the rest aside. Sauté the salmon and parsley for 5 more minutes. Add the tomatoes, passing them through a food mill to produce a smooth sauce. Add a dash of dry white wine, salt liberally, and let simmer for 15 minutes.
While the sauce simmers, bring a medium pot of water to boil. Toss in a handful of salt (preferably coarse), and add the pasta. Cook to pasta al dente according to the time on the package. While the pasta cooks, add the crème fraîche to the sauce, stir it in well, and turn off the heat. Taste for salt, and add if needed.
When the pasta is ready, drain it and return it immediately to the pot. Pour in the salmon sauce, and stir well until all of the pasta is coated. Serve right away with a sprinkling of Italian parsley on top.
Download a pdf of Pennette al salmone.