Betsy and I were having an evening wherein work pressures and life annoyances had driven us to consume something extraordinarily creamy and rich. This pasta fits that kind of day perfectly. Make it on some evening when you know you'll have enough people over for dinner to eat it all because it isn't one of those pasta sauces that keeps well. This will easily serve 4 people, more if you are doing small portions for a first course. It's really easy to make and would be great with a green salad tossed in a bright vinaigrette to contrast with the creamy sauce--of course the other day when I made this we were feeling sorry for ourselves and didn't scare up any green vegetables at all. Betsy showed up and said "well, I didn't bring any salad stuff...but look! I brought brownies! And wine!" Which, if you think about it, is even more awesome than a salad, especially on cruddy days.
You will need a chunk of good smoked salmon--I used about 8 ounces but it's a pretty flexible thing. The better the salmon is, the better your sauce will be. Use a knife or a fork and flake up your chunk of salmon into little pieces and set aside. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and saute 1 small minced onion over medium heat until lightly caramelized and all soft and golden, about 8 minutes. Turn your heat up to medium-high and add 1 cup white wine and let it sizzle for a second to burn off the alcohol. Add 1 6-ounce can tomato paste and saute with the onions and wine for 1 minute then add 1/2 cup tomato puree (note: you can use any kind of canned tomato at this point as long as it isn't more tomato paste or nasty premade tomato sauce. Diced tomatoes are fine, or whatever else you happen to have in your cupboard). Add 1 8-ounce package of cream cheese in chunks, while stirring the sauce gently to make sure the cream cheese melts--it should turn a really pretty light pink color. Add in about 3 tablespoons of half-and-half (or milk or cream) to smooth it out. When the sauce is smooth, add your flaked smoked salmon and 2 teaspoons fresh black pepper. Taste it to see if it needs salt--smoked salmon is pretty salty already so it might be OK. If it seems too rich and creamy you can add a tablespoon vodka or a drizzle more white wine or some more tomato puree if you want it less pink. Either way, boil up a pound of penne pasta (or something else if you like it better), drain it lightly when it is al dente, return it to the pot you boiled it in and toss it together with your salmon sauce. Serve immediately with wine and brownies and stop worrying about your job.