This is my family’s all-time favourite dinner party pasta dish. Our friends request it all the time. I’m happy to oblige because it tastes great, and the sauce makes itself! It’s easy. Steaming wet, just-cooked pasta and melting cream cheese form an incredibly smooth luxurious sauce. The smoked salmon adds flavour extravagance that’s balanced by the familiar flavours of capers, dill, lemon, onion and mustard. A five-star dish for sharing!
Yield: Serves 4
1 1 pound box penne pasta
1 cup cream cheese, softened
1 bunch fresh dill, chopped
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup capers
8 ounces smoked salmon, or more, cut into ribbons
a sprinkle or two sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Cook penne in lots of boiling salted water until al dentecooked through and tender but still retaining some texture and chew.
Scoop out some of the starchy cooking water and reserve. Drain the pasta but not quite all the way. Leave it a bit wet. Put the pasta back into the pot along with a splash or two of the reserved water.
While the pasta is still steaming hot, immediately add the rest of the ingredients except the salmon. Stir with a wooden spoon as the cheese melts and forms a creamy sauce.
At the last second briefly stir in the smoked salmon; this way it won’t break up as much. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.
You can use any of your favourite shaped pastas for this dish, like bowties; but ribbon pastas, like spaghetti, don’t work as well. This dish also works equally well with any kind of smoked fish. And if you don’t have green onions, try a finely minced red onion. If you don’t have capers, try a spoonful of standard green hot-dog relish.
In the Maritimes we don’t worry whether our chowders are authentic or not. We know a true clam chowder is just a bowl full of simple, hearty flavours. We often use canned clams and always stir in onions, potatoes and milk. We’re too busy asking for seconds to worry whether we got it right!