I have adapted this baked tagliatelle with smoked salmon and gruyere from a recipe I found in Anna Del Conte’s memoir, Risotto with Nettles. It is a book that I had been eyeing up for a while so my eldest bought it for me for my birthday.
Being a lover of both modern social history and food, I found the book fascinating. It speaks of her privileged childhood lived out in grand Italian apartments amongst expensive antiques and gnocchi rolling servants, the war years during which privilege and money counted for nothing, the desire to survive being the great leveller, and then of her marriage to an English man and her subsequent adaptation to a very different way of life, both in and out of the kitchen. It was an interesting read but for me, the icing on the cake was that it was packed full of genuine Italian recipes. Out of the selection we’ve tried so far this is our favourite by a long shot.
This summer we travelled to Italy for the first time. Having never been to Italy before I was looking forward to trying the food. One of the things that surprised me the most was the al denteness (is that a word??) of the pasta. I thought I cooked my pasta al dente but they took theirs to another level. The jury was out in my family as to whether they liked it. Dan and I did, the girls thought it would work for some recipes but not others.
This is one of those meals where al dente really does help as the pasta will continue cooking in the sauce while it’s in the oven.
I like to make this for a crowd and vary things by making one lot as the recipe states and another lot using cooked smoked bacon for those people that don’t like fish. All you need is a nice fresh salad to serve alongside and you have a complete meal.
Baked Tagliatelle with Smoked Salmon and Gruyere
This creamy smoked salmon tagliatelle makes a great change to a regular meat or tomato pasta sauce and it’s easy to double the recipe if you have a crowd coming round. All you need is a fresh salad to serve alongside and you have a complete meal.
For the sauce
- 750 ml milk I use 1% fat
- 60 g butter
- 50 g plain flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 350 g tagliatelle
- 120 g smoked salmon cut into strips
- 100 g gruyere derinded and cut into very thin slices
For the topping
- 25 g freshly grated parmesan
- 30 g breadcrumbs I like to use panko
- Preheat the oven to 200°C
For the sauce*
- Melt the butter over a medium heat. When fully melted add the flour, stir well and cook for a minute or two. Turn the heat to its lowest setting. Add a small splash of milk to the pan and stir thoroughly to incorporate fully. Continue to add the milk a little at a time (you may need to turn the heat up a little after the first few additions) stirring thoroughly after each addition, until you have a thick, bubbling sauce. Stir in the salt and cayenne pepper and check the seasoning.
- Cook the tagliatelle according to packet instructions, ensuring that you drain it when it is al dente. Return the pasta to the pan. (If you put it on to cook at the same time as you start the sauce the two should be ready together).
- Add the smoked salmon and the gruyere to the pasta pan. Pour the sauce over the top and gently combine.
- Tip the pasta into an oven dish, combine the parmesan and breadcrumbs and sprinkle over the top. Place in the preheated oven until golden and bubbling, about 15 minutes.
*Making a béchamel can be a bit daunting but, as long as you don’t rush, you’ll get great results. After mixing the melted flour and butter together, and allowed the resulting roux to cook for a few minutes, you begin adding the milk. Slow and steady is the key here so turn the heat to its lowest setting. Initially you just want to add a very small splash of milk. A couple of tablespoons is plenty. Stir this into the roux which will go thick and lumpy which is fine. Once this milk is fully incorporated add another few tablespoons, again incorporating it thoroughly.
Now continue along that vein, making sure that you stir each addition of milk into the roux/sauce thoroughly each time, giving it a good beat with the wooden spoon and scraping the wooden spoon down occasionally. As the sauce thins you can add more milk at each stage but only do this towards the end, when you’ve used up nearly all the milk.
Remember, slow and steady is the key. If it all goes wrong and you end up with a lumpy sauce you can always sieve it but you shouldn’t need to as long as you add the milk slowly and incorporate it thoroughly after each addition.