Spaghetti with salmon and brandy sauce

Salmon and brandy pasta recipe

I still remember the arrival of cooking cream in my life. Until the late 1960s, my mum did not use cream, she was Sicilian. In our house, the rule was that a sauce is red and must be made with tomato and olive oil. A stick of butter lasted easily a couple of months in our fridge as she had no use for it. We had a simple life. Cake was made in winter and gelato -4 or 5 flavors, not 30 like now – was made in summer.
Then the 70’s and ’80s exploded with all sorts of sophistication: tortellini with cream and ham, crepes rolled with Bechamel and champignons, tiramisu, pannacotta. White was the new red and it was everywhere.
This recipes is oh so ’70 that is almost forbidden. Modern Italian chefs recoil at the puddles of cream at the bottom of their childhood plates.  In fashionable establishments, pasta is often naked, no tomato, no cream, a few extravagant ingredients scattered on top of a mysterious watery juice, a bit of olive oil if you are lucky. The last one I have seen on YouTube is a “carbonara” cooked in a broth of pepper and tossed with sea urchins. Interesting, but a hint too gimmicky for my humble kitchen.
This pasta, on the other hand gives you a lovely dinner without the cream puddle.  My husband loves it. I only make it with wild salmon which we use sparingly and as a treat for environmental reasons.

  • 250 gr  good quality spaghetti (possibly bronze drawn)
  • 1 small onion, diced very finely (about 2 tablespoon diced onion)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil plus extra for finishing.
  • 300 gr (10 oz) canned diced tomato (about 2/3 of a can)
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2-3 tablespoon brandy
  • 100 gr (3 oz) smoked wild salmon, diced
  • 1 fresh red chili pepper, thinly sliced (optional)
  • 2 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley

Using a shallow pan – a frying pan with high sides is ideal – sauté the garlic and onion in 1 tablespoon olive oil over very low heat. If the onion starts browning deglaze with a little white wine. Add the diced tomato, cover and simmer until a little thicker, about 5 min. Add salmon and cream, bring back to simmering temperature and switch off, you don’t want to cook the flavor of the salmon away. The whole preparation should take no more than 7-8 min.
Meanwhile cook the spaghetti according to package instructions until al dente. When the pasta is cooked, turn the heat under the sauce pan to high. Drain the pasta and transfer into the sauce pan. Add chili pepper now, if using.
Stir the pasta quickly into the sauce as explained here. Add some pasta water – up to one tablespoon per person – and stir some more until the excess liquid is absorbed. Add a generous dash of brandy  and stir again to incorporate. Sprinkle with parsley . Serve on warm plates with a drizzle of fruity extra virgin olive oil.
Serves 2-3


  1. This looks so good – and is reminiscent of a recipe someone gave me but with three CUPS of cream! I like your light version better – much more authentic. I can’t wait to try it – do you think it would work well on homemade pasta? My uncle’s family was from Sicilia and, like you, the cooking was simple but so flavorful. Food was fresher and more in season (although I had never thought of the cake/gelato seasonality before!). I have very few of the recipes from that side of the family but the ones I have are treasures.

    • Lovely Frank, let me know if you like it. Light is my specialty but that final drizzle of really good olive oil gives t a lot fo flavor even with a educed anmount of fat. It’s essential!

  2. This looks so good and I would trust you completely on the proportions — 2 tablespoons of cream sounds like plenty, especially with the brandy and tomato. Don’t want to drown the spaghetti!

  3. We’ve had this twice in the past few weeks & have added it to our store of Letizia’s recipes, to be oft repeated, with a drizzle of olio d’oliva della Madonna del Piatto! ~ Dede & Ken

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