When you have some amazing smoked salmon, you want to use it in the most amazing ways. Making some creamy pasta with it is one of the yummier ways to indulge. So much flavor comes from the smoked salmon as the smokiness gets infused into the creamy sauce. It’s also simple and comes together in minutes.
- Smoked salmon: Definitely the star of the dish. Smoked salmon provides an intense flavor that doesn’t overwhelm.
- Pasta: Fettuccini, penne or you can even go with gnocchi for a totally different texture.
- Wine and fresh lemon juice: They add acidity and brightness to help cut the creamy sauce and flavorful salmon creating a great balance.
- Heavy cream: Gives the sauce heft.
- Butter: Provides silky texture and taste.
- Onion: For a touch of sharp flavor.
- Grated Parmesan cheese: The crowning touch of a mellow and rich Italian classic.
- Optional add-ins:
- Capers, or black or Kalamata olives provide Mediterranean flavor.
- Asparagus is another excellent choice to give it an earthy feel and texture. Cook the asparagus in the pasta water and add it with the salmon.
- Leeks or garlic, or other members of the allium family, like shallots, can be added with — or instead of — the onion.
- Crispy salmon skin “bacon”: To make it, remove the skin from the filet, crisp in a skillet with a little oil, chop it up and add to the top of the pasta at the end. (Thanks to Jamie Oliver for the tip.)
The star of this dish is the smoked salmon. You can buy it. You can make it (which I totally recommend). Making simple hot smoked salmon is probably a lot easier than you might think if you own a smoker.
Hot Smoked vs Cold Smoked Salmon
For this recipe I used hot smoked salmon, which is already fully cooked. Cold smoked salmon is usually cured, which means it will have a different texture, as well as a higher salt content. For this reason, you will likely want to add less salt to the dish if using cold smoked salmon.
Coarse vs Fine Grated Parmesan Cheese
You get much more flavor from coarsely grated Parmesan. The finely grated stuff from a small microplane zester just kind of turns to air and doesn’t pack nearly the flavor. Go with coarse grade when grating the Parm for pasta.
The Quick How-To
- Cook the pasta al dente, as it absorbs liquid from the sauce. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
- Sautee the onion in the melted butter and add a pinch of salt; it should be tender and translucent but not browned, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the wine and reduce until it is almost gone. Then add the cream and cook until it just starts to bubble.
- Once it’s bubbling, gently stir in the smoked salmon and warm through. Taste, then season with salt and pepper. Add any asparagus, olives or capers at this point as well.
- Add the cooked pasta and continue cooking until the sauce begins to thicken, about 2 to 3 minutes. If the sauce is too thick, add a little of the pasta water to thin it.
- Remove from heat and stir in the lemon zest and juice, Parmesan cheese and taste again. Season with salt and pepper as needed.
- Garnish with fresh herbs (basil is a winner), toasted pine nuts and more Parmesan, and maybe that crispy salmon skin “bacon.”
- Taste your salmon before adding more seasoning. If it is cured/cold smoked, then it will have a high salt content, so use less salt.
- If it has the skin on, save it. Crisp it, and use it on top as a tasty garnish.
- Add-ins like olives or asparagus add complementary flavors and textures.
More Salmon and Pasta Dishes
- How to Make Simple Smoked Salmon
- Creamy Lemon Vodka Salmon Pasta
- Butternut Squash and Sausage Pasta
- Baked Salmon
- Sausage, Peppers and Broccolini Pasta
- 12 oz. pasta (such as fettuccini or penne)
- 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup chopped onion (about 1/2 medium onion)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 11 oz. smoked salmon (fork torn)
- Diamond Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
- 2 Tbsp. lemon juice (from about 1/2 a lemon)
- zest from 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup coarsely grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese (plus more for plating)
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs or torn basil (or to taste)
- toasted pine nuts for garnish
- Bring 4 quarts of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta al dente, as it will finish cooking in and absorb the sauce. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
- Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Sautee the onion with a sprinkle of salt until it is tender and translucent but not browned, about 4 to 5 minutes.
- Pour in the wine and reduce it down until it is almost gone.
- Add the cream and cook until it just starts to bubble.
- Gently stir in the smoked salmon and warm through. Taste then season with salt and pepper. Also stir in any add-ins — like capers, olives or asparagus — at this point.
- Add the cooked pasta and continue cooking until the sauce begins to thicken, about 2 to 3 minutes. If the sauce is too thick, add a little of the pasta water to thin it out.
- Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and zest, Parmesan cheese and taste again and season with salt and pepper and more lemon juice if needed.
- Garnish with fresh herbs, toasted pine nuts and more Parmesan, and serve.
- Cold smoked (cured) salmon is usually saltier than hot smoked salmon. Taste before adding too much seasoning.
- Reserve pasta water to add into the pasta if the sauce needs to be thinned out.
- If the salmon has the skin on, save it. Crisp it up in a skillet, chop it and use it on top as a tasty salmon skin “bacon” garnish.
- Add-ins like capers, olives or asparagus add complementary flavors and textures.