Sometimes a pasta dish is so good that you want to marry it … or at least go steady. Salmon, pasta, cream, butter, white wine … are your eyes twinkling yet? Roasted red peppers and spinach or chard complete the relationship. This is a favorite here at our house.
We love salmon and I’m always trying to come up with interesting ways to cook it. I like to purchase whole fillets of salmon at Costco, then skin it, portion it into meal sized packages and freeze it.
A bonus of this dish is that it uses just two pots. One to cook the pasta, another one for everything else. I prefer to prep the ingredients for the whole meal at once, including a salad to go alongside. It cooks quite quickly and it’s just easier to have everything ready.
As I was making this dish, I looked over at my counter and saw my prep (or mise en place, for you Francophiles). This kind of thing makes the Organizer in me happy. It also yields much better cooking and easier clean-up, especially when your kitchen doesn’t look like a bomb detonated.
Don’t you hate it when a pasta dish is so heavy on the pasta that the other ingredients are merely garnishes? Not so with this one. Don’t get me wrong, noodles are part of my DNA and I love them, but I like a well-balanced combo. This salmon pasta is proper fare for a dinner party as well as an ordinary Tuesday night.
Tips for Making Salmon Cream Pasta
In this recipe, I’ve used Steelhead Salmon and DeLallo brand pappardelle pasta. I like the way this pasta holds the sauce while allowing the ingredients to move around the noodles. Everything doesn’t end up at the bottom of the bowl. Fettuccine or linguine would also work well. And any salmon you like will do.
I’ve used store brand roasted red peppers in this dish, but here are my homemade Marinated Roasted Red Peppers.
Prep your vegetables while you bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Cook your pasta about 5 minutes – you want it very al dente because it will continue cooking in the sauce later. Drain and toss with a little oil to keep it from sticking. I leave the oiled noodles in the colander until I need them.
Heat a skillet that’s large enough to hold your entire dish. Season and sear your salmon, but don’t cook it all the way through. Remove. Like the pasta, it will finish later in the sauce.
Sauté the onion, garlic and red pepper flakes. Adding red pepper flakes to the skillet now allows their flavor to penetrate the fat. Spices such as these are more fat soluble than water soluble. Stir in flour to make a roux of sorts.
Whisk in your wine, stock and cream, then fold in the roasted red peppers. Let them have a simmer together to get to know one another, the wine needs some time to mellow. If you’re using spinach, wait a bit to add it because it cooks quickly. If you’re using kale, add it right after the liquids are whisked in to allow it time to cook properly.
Commercial chicken stock ( or broth) is great in this recipe, but I prefer to use some shrimp stock if I have it. I like to make it from the shells of shrimp I’ve peeled when cooking shrimp dishes – and it couldn’t be easier. I freeze the stock when I make it, then put it in the fridge to thaw – if I happen to plan a day ahead. Here are my recipes for Homemade Shrimp Stock and Homemade Chicken Broth.
Stir the spinach into the sauce and allow it to cook a minute or two. Break up the salmon into large chunks. Fold it in along with the pasta, cheese and herbs using tongs. Gently! Trust me, love travels down your arms and reaches your food through the utensils. So does hate. Your choice.
Heat the dish through and serve. Salmon Cream Pasta leftovers are yummy!
And how much do you love these dishes? Shout out to Stray Cat Pottery Studio for allowing me to fondle them. Stray Cat’s pottery artists do such gorgeous work – their dishware makes a daily appearance in my life. They are the creators of my lovely everyday blue & green dishes.
Salmon Cream Pasta with Roasted Red Peppers
- 8 oz fettuccine or pappardelle pasta
- 1 lb skinless salmon, cut into several pieces if whole and patted dry with paper towels
- salt and pepper for seasoning salmon
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- ½ of a sweet onion, diced ¼"
- 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 2 Tablespoons flour
- ⅓ cup white wine
- 3 cups chicken broth or homemade shrimp stock (or a combo)
- ⅔ cup heavy cream
- ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
- ½ teaspoon black pepper, to taste
- 1 cup ½" diced roasted red peppers (about ¾ of a 12 oz jar, drained)
- 8 oz baby spinach, OR 4 large leaves of chard, stemmed and cut up
- ¼ cup rough chopped fresh basil or parsley
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil and cook the pasta for 5 minutes. Drain. You want to under cook it since it will finish cooking in the sauce. Thoroughly toss it with a little oil and reserve it for later.
- Meanwhile, on medium heat, heat a skillet (or pot) large enough to hold the whole pasta dish. On both sides of the salmon, lightly oil it and sprinkle with salt and pepper. When the skillet is hot but not smoking, swirl in the 2 Tablespoons of olive oil. Sear the salmon quickly on both sides, approximately 1 minute per side, but don't cook through. Remove it to a plate.
- Sauté the onion in the pan for 3-4 minutes, but don't brown it. Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes. Add the butter and allow it to melt. Stir in the flour until it's evenly distributed.
- Whisk in the wine and broth until smooth. Stir in the cream, salt and pepper and red peppers. Simmer very gently for about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. If it tastes a little sharp from the wine, allow it to cook a another 5 or 10 minutes to let the wine mellow. Let your taste buds guide you. Don't boil it.
- Stir the spinach into the sauce and allow it to wilt. No need to cook it for more than a minute, it will cook very quickly and it's good if it still has its structure.
- Break up the salmon into large chunks. It will further break up as you mix it in, so keep the pieces larger than bite size. Give the pasta a toss to make sure it's not sticking to itself then pour it into the skillet. Add the salmon, herbs and Parmesan cheese and fold them all in to the sauce together very gently, using tongs. If you mix in each of these individually, your salmon will end up in shreds.
- Heat through for a minute or two. Serve, topped with more cheese if desired.
- Rubbing some oil into the salmon (and other delicate proteins) before searing helps to insure it won’t stick to the pan. The protein fibers are fragile and would appreciate the extra help.
- This dish can easily be made with shrimp or thinly sliced chicken. Use the same concept and adjust as you like, just don’t overcook your protein.
- If you’d like to substitute a tougher green such as kale, add it to the skillet with the cream and red peppers so it has additional time to cook.
- I would not use commercial shrimp or fish stock, they can be tinny and bitter tasting. If I didn’t have any homemade shrimp stock, I wouldn’t hesitate to use commercial chicken or vegetable broth. See my shrimp stock recipe on my site linked in the post. Great way to use those shells which will go in the trash anyway!