Smoked salmon is a bit of a secret weapon in the kitchen. The cooking has already been done, a small amount goes a long way and it’s a nutritional powerhouse. This is exactly why this recipe has been on repeat in my kitchen all winter. It even checks the box for on-the-table-in-30-minutes with little kitchen mess. And it features the technique of using some of the hot water from cooking the pasta to “extend” the sauce – so there’s only a bit of cream in it (more water, less cream).
Using “hot” smoked salmon instead of “cold” smoked salmon makes it easier to separate it into flakes to give fabulous smoky flavor to every bite of pasta. The short list of other ingredients – grated lemon zest, capers and Italian parsley perfectly offset the smoky flavor of the salmon. Immediately tossing the drained hot pasta with the small amount of cooking water, butter and the egg cream mixture will slightly cook the egg with the residual heat (see note in recipe) and will create a silky texture.
What’s the difference between “hot” and “cold” smoked salmon? Hot smoked salmon is typically smoked in the 120 to 180 degrees F. range creating a flaky texture and smoky flavor. You’ll recognize it at the grocery store sold in fillet chunks. Cold smoked salmon (often labeled “lox”) is first cured in salt and then smoked in the 75 to 85 degrees F. range resulting in a fresher, less smoky flavor and silky texture suitable for slicing thinly. At the grocery store it is sold in a flat package of slices.
- ⅓ cup cream
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
- 1 egg*
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 8 ounces spaghetti or bucatini, broken into thirds
- ½ to ¾ cup pasta cooking water
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 to 4 ounces “hot” smoked salmon, flaked
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
- 1 to 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- In a small saucepan that has a lid bring cream to a boil; immediately remove from heat and whisk in garlic, egg and salt (this will take the raw taste out of the garlic and slightly cook the egg); cover and set aside.
- Cook pasta in boiling salted water according to manufacturer’s directions. Just before draining measure out ¾ cup of the pasta water then drain pasta. Put pasta back in the pan it was cooked in and toss with butter.
- Whisk ½ cup of the hot pasta water into the cream mixture then toss with the hot cooked pasta. Add salmon, capers, parsley and lemon zest and toss to evenly distribute ingredients. Add remaining ¼ cup hot pasta water if needed. Toss pasta with Parmesan or sprinkle on top.