Saucy Valentine’s Dinner at Home

This Valentine’s Day, if you’re in the mood to time travel to a white tablecloth restaurant in 1988—and honestly, who isn’t?—I’ve got your Valentine’s Evening meal: Capellini with Cold Smoked Salmon, Capers, and Vodka Cream Sauce.

Other than a poet shirt and a pair of Doc Martens, I can’t think of anything that says late ‘80’s more than angel hair pasta and vodka cream sauce. My ’80s-inspired dish is inspired by Capellini Natasha, by one of the best chefs in the country, Columbus’ Kent Rigsby. Chef Rigsby is always creating great new things, but Capellini Natasha is what the people yell the loudest for. It’s like his Piano Man. Personally, it’s one of my favorite dishes ever to come out of Columbus.

It’s easy to forget what vodka does to cream. It wakes it up. It gives it a hard edge. That’s why I add quite a lot. If you’re well-heeled—or feeling well-heeled and just want to to really impress your date—set a jar of caviar on the platter for a self-serve situation. (Casual elegance is so sexy.)

And what to drink with Capellini with Cold Smoked Salmon, Capers, and Vodka Cream Sauce? I’d do Champagne or greyhounds. Oh, who are we kidding, I’d do Champagne and greyhounds. But whatever you drink is not as important as this: Serve no appetizers, side dishes, or bread. Trust me. Capellini with Cold Smoked Salmon, Capers, and Vodka Cream Sauce is all you’re going to need.


Capellini with Cold Smoked Salmon, Capers, and Vodka Cream Sauce

  • 1 box Capellini pasta
  • 2 tablespooons butter
  • 1 small to medium onion
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 1 cup vodka or aquavit
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 8 ounces cold smoked salmon (not the flaky kind, but the soft shiny kind that comes in slices)
  • Black pepper (to taste)


  1. Boil a giant pot of water over high heat (I don’t salt the water for this dish).
  2. Warm a large skillet over medium heat.
  3. Set a large platter on the counter near the stove.
  4. Slice the onion in half through the core, cut off each end, and then slice the onion in 1/8-inch slices (as shown in the photo).
  5. Drain the capers.
  6. Slice the salmon in 1-inch pieces.


  1. Melt the butter in the skillet (if it begins to brown, turn down the heat).
  2. Add sliced onions and slowly cook until they begin to soften and become translucent (try not to brown them).
  3. While the onions are cooking, add the pasta to the boiling water, and set the timer for recommended cooking time.
  4. Add the vodka to the onions, and bubble four minutes to reduce (increase the heat if necessary). Add cream, and bring to a boil. Let the mixture reduce until it thickens a little bit.
  5. Add the salmon and capers, and remove from the heat.
  6. By now, your pasta should be done. Drain it well.
  7. Add the pasta to the salmon and sauce in the pan, mix very well, and turn out the whole pan of pasta on the platter.
  8. Pop open your champs and move to the table!

Now that you have dinner figured out, learn how to make your own Valentine’s floral arrangements here