Moist chunks of smoked fish, nubs of tender asparagus and handfuls of fresh herbs come together in this pasta that sings of spring. All you have to do is assemble the ingredients, boil the pasta and toss everything together in what is essentially an uncooked sauce, leaving you plenty of time with mom before dinner.
Cook to Cook: Look for sturdy pieces of smoked fish that you can flake such as trout, bluefish, whitefish or salmon. Do not use lox-style salmon that is already cut into slices. The pieces need to be sturdy enough to hold up to a good tossing with the pasta.
Best prepared and eaten immediately.
- 1 pound penne pasta
- 1/2 pound asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces, tough ends discarded
- Extra-virgin olive oil
6 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 pound smoked trout or other sturdy smoked fish (see Cook to Cook), broken into bite-size pieces
- 1 tightly packed cup of mixed fresh herbs like dill, basil, tarragon, chives, mint and thyme (any combination will work), roughly chopped, plus 1/4 cup more for garnish
- Grated zest of 1 large lemon, plus lemon juice as needed
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Bring 6 quarts of heavily salted water to a boil in an 8-quart pot.
2. Drop the pasta into the boiling water. Add the asparagus 1 minute before the pasta is done (check the box for timing). Once the pasta is tender but still has a little bite (al dente), scoop up 1/2 cup of the pasta water and set aside. Immediately drain the pasta and asparagus in a colander.
3. Return the empty pasta pot to the burner and reduce the heat to medium-low. Film the pot with olive oil and add the garlic, sautéing until just fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the cooked pasta and asparagus and the cream, and toss until blended over the heat, about 10 seconds.
4. Add the smoked fish, 1 cup of the fresh herbs, and the grated zest and gently toss. Add small amounts of hot pasta water if more sauce is needed. Taste and season with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice to brighten it.
Serve in individual bowls with a garnish of additional fresh herbs on top.
(Photo: Jennifer Simonson)