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.
Fresh cultured blue mussels are easy to cook as well as being a healthy and easy meal option. They’re quick and tasty and can be eaten right out of the pot or used in a variety of recipes. Before you start cooking, you should always give your mussels a quick rinse. Cultured blue mussels are pre-cleaned so that’s really all you need to do. The fresh water will cause the mussels to close. If there are any that don’t close give them a quick tap, if they still don’t close at least partially, simply discard them.
One of the best ways to fill Half Your Plate (and all of your soup bowl) is with a simple pureed soup. They’re a time-honoured and super-simple way to get a whole lot of vegetable flavour on the table in a hurry – maybe even hide vegetables from finicky eaters. This one was custom created by the Honourable Lawrence MacAulay with Chef Michael Smith’s coaching!