The Oscars are on tonight! Movie stars, the red carpet, glamorous evening gowns and black tie attire. Even if you usually stream your movies 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 maker and actors entertained audiences world wide with now-iconic movies. Federico Fellini gave us masterpieces such as La Strada, Le Notti di Cabiria, 8½, and, of course, La Dolce Vita.
The left-leaning and sometimes controversial Pier Paolo Pasolini, master of the commedia all’italiano, director Mario Monicelli, and Ladri di Biciclette (Bicycle Thieves) director Vittorio de Sica made memorable and award-winning Italian films, while comedic actors Totò, and Alberto Sordi became household names in Italy and beyond by making audiences laugh.
It was the women, though, who captured the imagination of a worldwide audience. Claudia Cardinale, star of Fellini’s 8½, Monicelli’s I Soliti Ignoti (Big Deal on Madonna Street) and Luchino Visconti’s il Gattopardo (The Leopard), is still considered one of Italy’s most glamorous actors.
In 1961, Sophia Loren earned an Academy Award for her dramatic performance in De Sica’s World War II film La Ciociara (Two Women), the first female actor 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 with its petite pasta and creamy pink salmon sauce – the perfect accompaniment to a night at the Oscars.
- 30 grams butter
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 70 grams finely chopped white onion
- 115 grams smoked salmon
- 1 bunch Italian parsley
- Dry white wine
- 28 oz. can of whole San Marzano tomatoes
- 100 grams crème fraîche
- 1 package pennette
Place butter and olive oil in a large saucepan 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.
Add a dash of dry white wine and sauté the salmon and parsley for 5 more minutes.
Add the tomatoes, passing them through a food mill to produce a smooth sauce.
Salt to taste 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 the sauce for salt, and add if needed.
When the pasta is ready, drain it well and it to the saucepan with the salmon sauce. Cook over low heat for one minute, stirring well until all of the pasta is coated.
Serve immediately with a sprinkling of Italian parsley on top.
Crème fraîche is a cultured cream used for cooking. In Italy, we use a similar product called panna da cucina, but it is not readily available locally. If you cannot find either option, heavy cream will work.
Pennette are smaller than the more commonly known pasta, penne. Use penne if you cannot find pennette.