Salmon Penne alla Vodka

This salmon penne with tomato vodka sauce is a delicious way to dress up a classic pasta dish with one of our favorite fish. It's decadent, but comes together in less than 30 minutes, start to finish.

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Salmon penne alla vodka in a blue bowl on a wooden table with place setting.

Penne with Vodka Sauce and Salmon

I could call this recipe Quick and Easy Penne with Vodka Sauce and Salmon, but honestly, doesn’t Salmon Penne alla Vodka sound so much better? It gives it an Italian flair and lets us in on the secret that this is a decadent and delicious meal. No-one needs to know how easy it is to put together and how it can be made in under 30 minutes. Let everyone believe in your mastery in the kitchen and the time you devote to feeding them well. I won’t tell.

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Ingredients on a wooden table - canned tomatoes, parmesan cheese, onion, garlic, chili flake, vodka, cream and basil.

Easy Tomato Vodka Sauce

There are very few ingredients in a classic tomato vodka sauce, so make sure you use the best ingredients you can find. That means really good quality tomatoes and true Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Those two ingredients will set the bar for flavor in this recipe. You can read all about how to make Tomato Vodka Cream Sauce here, but I’ve included the directions in the recipe card as well so you don’t have to go back and forth.

 

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Salmon chopped into cubes on a little white cutting board on a blue countertop with a pan of tomato vodka sauce, some basil and a tin of penne pasta.

How to Choose Salmon

When purchasing salmon for this recipe, you don’t need to go top shelf. The most important thing to look for when buying any fish is to know its source. Wild salmon or ethically-raised and sustainable salmon is the best choice. If it’s not abundantly clear in labeling, just ask behind the fish counter to learn more about what you’re purchasing. I like both Pacific and Atlantic salmon, and am especially fond of Scottish salmon, but there are lots of different options available these days. (Read about how to skin and fillet a side of salmon here.) 

 

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Salmon Penne alla Vodka in a blue bowl on a wooden table with a glass of wine.

How to Cook Salmon for Penne alla Vodka

You could make your life a little more difficult and sear the salmon for this pasta dish. You could pan roast it or air-fry the fillets and then break it up into the tomato vodka cream sauce. Or… you could follow this easy recipe and just let the cubes of salmon cook in the sauce for 4 to 6 minutes. So easy. So quick. So delicious.

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Salmon Penne alla Vodka

  • Prep Time: 5 m
  • Cook Time: 20 m
  • Total Time: 28 m
  • Servings:
    4

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup finely diced onion about ½ onion
  • 2 cloves garlic smashed and peeled
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28-ounce) can of tomatoes, crushed
  • cup vodka
  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 (5-ounce) fillets of salmon, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 ounces goat cheese optional
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill or fresh basil chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Bring a large stockpot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Pre-heat a large skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the oil and butter and sauté the onion and for a couple of minutes, until they start to soften. Season with salt and crushed red pepper flakes.
  3. Add the crushed tomatoes and vodka and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  4. Add the pasta to the pot of boiling water and cook the pasta according to package directions.
  5. Add the heavy cream and simmer for another 2 minutes.
  6. Add the salmon and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes, until the salmon is opaque and cooked through and the sauce has thickened a little.
  7. Drain the pasta, reserving ½ cup of pasta water ahead of time and toss the pasta directly into the pan with the sauce. Mix the pasta and sauce together gently, adding reserved pasta water if, and as needed. Sprinkle in the goat cheese (if using) and swirl lightly. Season to taste with salt.
  8. Serve pasta with fresh dill sprinkled on top.
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