Welcome, everyone! Today’s recipe is a perfect weeknight meal. It comes together in about as much time as it takes to boil the rigatoni. The inspiration for this recipe came from a craving I had for a bagel with cream cheese, smoked salmon, onions and capers. I had everything but the bagels. I am not someone who likes to go to the grocery store for just one thing, so I decided rigatoni would be a suitable substitute for the bagel. The Hot Smoked Salmon Pasta is smothered in cream cheese sauce and topped with a salad of arugula, sliced red onions, capers, olive oil and lemon juice. Let’s get to the recipe!
Let’s start with the salad, it can sit while everything else comes together. Build this salad to your personal taste; add more onions or capers as you see fit. I have two big handfuls of arugula; to that I am adding about 1/4 of a red onion, sliced thinly. And about 2-3 tablespoons of capers, because I love capers.
Drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil over this, then about 2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice. Toss with your hands to combine and set aside.
Now, get a pot of salted water boiling for the rigatoni and have the cream cheese, minced garlic and salmon ready to go, this will all come together fairly quickly. As soon as the rigatoni goes into the water, set a timer for 12 minutes. Now we will start the sauce. (Remember to periodically stir the rigatoni to keep them from sticking together.)
Easy Cream Cheese Sauce
In a Dutch oven or a large pot, lightly sauté minced garlic in about a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-low heat. As soon as the garlic is fragrant (about 30 seconds), turn the heat to low and pour in 1/4 cup or so of milk. The milk is just there to help the cream cheese melt more easily.
Then add 8 ounces of cream cheese, cut into cubes. Stir constantly to melt the cream cheese and to keep it from scorching. Keep this over low heat, stirring regularly until the rigatoni is al dente.
When the rigatoni is cooked to al dente, scoop out 1 cup of the pasta water and set aside. Then, drain the pasta. Pour a little of the pasta water at a time into the cream cheese sauce while stirring. Keep adding pasta water and stirring until you have relatively thin, gravy-like sauce. Turn off the heat.
Immediately stir in the rigatoni and gently toss to fully coat the noodles.
Hot Smoked Salmon Pasta
Hot smoked salmon is wet brined for a day before being smoked at about 120 degrees. During the smoking process, the salmon is cooked all the way through. This means that it usually comes in fillets, rather than thin slices. Hot smoked salmon is best for this recipe because you can break it up into large chunks. If you can’t find hot smoked salmon, you can use canned salmon.
Break the salmon up in large chunks, directly into the pasta and sauce. Gently stir to coat the salmon and mix into the rigatoni. My Trader Joe’s smoked sockeye salmon comes seasoned with salt, pepper, mustard seeds and lemon. If your’s does not come seasoned, or if you’re using canned salmon, add 4-5 cranks of fresh cracked pepper and a good pinch of Kosher Salt. Stir gently to combine.
Plate it up!
The true magic of this dish happens when you plate it. Scoop a good size portion of the pasta into a shallow bowl. Then, grate lemon zest over the bowl; do as much or as little as you like, I recommend a healthy amount.
Top the lemon zest with a couple (or a few) cranks of fresh cracked black pepper.
Then, use your hands to toss the arugula salad once more, and still using your hand, grab a handful of the salad and pile it onto the pasta.
Now, drizzle some olive oil over the whole bowl and sprinkle on some finishing flaky sea salt.
This dish is my version of everything but the bagel. It is so, so good. In fact, it’s my favorite thing I have made lately. Super satisfying with the bright flavors of the lemon; the rich cream sauce; the bouncy, chewy rigatoni; and the peppery, fresh crunch of the onions and arugula. Don’t forget the little bursts of briny, salty capers!
I hope you all give this super, easy Hot Smoked Salmon Pasta a try! Let me know if you do and how it goes for you. Another great rigatoni recipe we did recently was a Spanakopita Pasta Bake, it’s wonderful! Do check it out, and I will see you here again Wednesday – keep up on facebook and Instagram too! Take care and be well, everyone! xo Kelly
Hot Smoked Salmon Pasta with Arugula Salad
Hot Smoked Salmon and rigatoni smothered in cream cheese sauce and topped with a salad of arugula, sliced red onions, capers, olive oil and lemon juice.
- Hot Smoked Salmon Pasta
- 1 16-oz. package Rigatoni Pasta (or other tubular pasta)
- 1 tbsp. Olive Oil + more for drizzling over dish
- 2 Cloves Garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup Milk
- 8 oz. Full Fat Cream Cheese, cubed and softened to room temperature
- 1 cup Pasta Water
- 14-16 oz. Hot Smoked Alaskan Salmon (or canned Alaskan Salmon)
- Lemon Zest, to taste
- Fresh Cracked Pepper, to taste
- Flaky Sea Salt for garnish
- Arugula Salad
- ~2 cups Baby Arugula
- 2-3 tbsp. Capers
- 1/4-1/2 Red Onion, thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp. Olive Oil
- 2-3 tbsp. Fresh Lemon Juice
Combine arugula, onions, and capers in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Toss with your hands to coat the salad and set aside.
Hot Smoked Salmon Pasta
Bring a pot of salted water to boil.
As soon as the rigatoni goes into the water, set a timer for 12 minutes, stir occasionally.
In a separate Dutch oven or a large pot, lightly sauté minced garlic in about a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-low heat. As soon as the garlic is fragrant (about 30 seconds), turn the heat to low and pour in 1/4 cup or so of milk.
Add the cubed cream cheese and stir continuously until the cheese is melted and a smooth sauce forms.
Scoop 1 cup of the pasta water when the rigatoni is cooked to al dente, and set aside. Immediately drain pasta and leave in the colander.
Slowly add the pasta water to the cream cheese sauce, stir continuously until a loose, gravy-like sauce forms. You may only need 3/4 of the pasta water. Turn off the heat.
Immediately add the cooked rigatoni to the sauce and gently fold and stir to coat the rigatoni in the cream cheese sauce.
Break the hot smoked salmon into bite size chunks into the pot with sauced pasta, gently fold and stir to coat the salmon.
Immediately spoon portions of the pasta into shallow bowls.
Grate lemon zest over each bowl of pasta.
Add a few cranks of fresh cracked black pepper over each bowl of pasta.
Give the salad one good mix with your hand and top each bowl of pasta with a handful of salad.
Drizzle olive oil over each bowl and top with flaky sea salt.