Leftover salmon makes for a perfect combo in this quick and easy pasta dish.
Reuse leftover smoked salmon by incorporating it into this simple pasta dish. Credit: Courtesy of Sandy Oliver

Oh look, there’s smoked salmon in the fridge purchased to make an appetizer spread by whipping it into cream cheese. I bought about a quarter of a pound of it — actually about $2.50 or so worth of salmon ends and trimmings. Unless elegant slices of it wrapped around asparagus or laid on crackers with sour cream and capers is your goal, salmon trim gives you your savory smoked salmon flavor at a lower cost.

I used some of it during the holidays but there were leftovers. It keeps pretty well, but I don’t like to push my luck, and a quick supper of salmon in a creamy garlicky sauce with peas stirred in and served with pasta made a good supper for two with a salad alongside. And we used up the salmon before it had time to lose its charm. Another leftover intercepted between the kitchen and compost pile.

Melt a little butter, about a tablespoon, in a saucepan and add olive oil. Saute two cloves of garlic, sliced thinly, in the butter and oil, then add the peas and lightly chopped salmon and let them warm together. Add cream, bring it to a boil then reduce the temperature right away. It will thicken nicely. Boil your pasta, add the sauce and serve.

Part of what makes a dish like this fun to eat is varying the pasta. We had it on gemelli, but shapes like orecchiette, shells or mezze rigatoni that cradle peas in their hollows appeal, too. We dropped our peas in with the pasta for the last couple of minutes of cooking time and drained them with the pasta when it was done.

Salmon and pea lovers might rather eat this on toast. Go right ahead. The smoked salmon packs an outsized flavor punch in proportion to its quantity so you might dial back the amount of salmon you’d use in a regular salmon and peas dish. You can vary the amount of peas you use, too. I usually prefer frozen, and in this case, I used our homegrown ones.

You also can use unsmoked salmon, like leftover baked or grilled salmon. Or if you buy a filet, you might cut off the thin tail end or a thin edge from the side in order to have an even-sized portion of fish to bake or roast, then use your trimmings in the pasta dish. I do this regularly with fish, not just with salmon, and stash the pieces in the freezer with an eye toward chowder.  

Look in your fridge to see what you might have on hand. Lots of dips and spreads can be thinned or melted into pasta-perfect sauces. Maybe you’ll be as lucky as I was to find salmon. Or maybe the next time you head to the grocery store, check out the fish section and look for a package of salmon trimmings.

Salmon and peas on pasta

Makes a variable number of servings.

Pasta of your choice, boiled
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced (optional)
1/4 to 1/2 cup of smoked salmon pieces, lightly broken up
1/2 to 1 cup of peas
1/2 to 3/4 cup cream

Boil pasta in well-salted water, according to the directions on the package.

Melt the butter together with the oil in a saute pan, and stir in the garlic and salmon.

Cook briefly until the salmon is opaque, then add the peas and cream.

Bring to a boil, then take off the heat and set aside. Sample and add salt and pepper to taste.

Stir the sauce into the pasta and serve.

Avatar photo

Sandy Oliver, Taste Buds

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working...