Easy, delicious & versatile, this recipe is popular with both kids & adults & so simple to whip up after a busy day. If I'm watching calories, I use low-fat cream &/ or substitute 100-150g Greek Yoghurt / 150g cream in the sauce & resist the parmesan. This will result in a slightly tarter/ less creamy taste which may be less appealing to younger kids, but I like it both ways & good for a variation.
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 10-15 minutes
Makes: 6 large servings (any leftovers just as delicious reheated in the microwave the following day)
500g dried pasta - works particularly well with rigatoni, penne & bowties, but other varieties also fine, so just use what you have on hand
200g smoked salmon
1 x large onion - brown or purple both fine, purple gives a slightly sweeter taste
1 or 2 large cloves of garlic (I use 2 as I *LOVE* garlic)
Juice of 1/2 lemon or 1 lime (optional)
4 x tomatoes - I prefer Roma or Vine Ripened, the riper & juicier the better
1 x large capsicum - any colour is fine but green makes a lovely contrast to the tomatoes
3-4 sprigs of fresh dill (finley chopped should make approx 1 generous Tbsp)
200g fresh, raw English spinach leaves or rocket or mixture of both
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sweet paprika
Black pepper to taste
250-300 ml fresh cream
Freshly grated or shaved parmesan or pecorino cheese to serve
Wash the tomatoes, capsicum , spinach/ rocket & dill & set aside.
Put a medium pan of cold water on high heat to bring to boil while you prepare the vegetables/ sauce. Use plenty of water to prevent pasta sticking - about 1400ml should be plenty for 500g pasta.
While the water heats for the pasta, chop the onion & garlic finely.
Dice the tomatoes into approx 1 cm chunks.
Core & de-seed the capsicum, strip inner membrane & chop into approx 1 cm chunks - set aside.
Heat olive oil in a wide non-stick pan. When the oil starts to bubble, toss the pan slightly to coat the surface evenly & add the finely chopped onions. Stir gently a couple of times. When the onion starts to soften, add the garlic, the paprika & a dash of celery salt. If you want a citrus tang, add the lemon/ lime juice now. (If you add at the end, the sauce may curdle).
While the onion/ garlic softens, chop the dill very finely. Include leaves & stalks.
When the onion/ garlic is soft, but not brown, add the tomatoes & dill, stir through & reduce temperature slightly.
By now, the water for the pasta should have boiled, or be close to it. Add a few drops of olive oil to the boiling water to prevent pasta sticking, then add the pasta. Stir. The water should cover the pasta completely - add more water if necessary & bring pasta to the boil, uncovered.
Add a ladleful of water from the pasta to the sauce mix & stir through gently. Add a dash of black pepper to taste, then add the diced capsicum.
Stir again to distribute ingredients evenly.
Get the parmesan & bowls ready to serve.
Test the pasta - it should now be al dente, slightly firm to the bite. Turn off the heat if al dente or leave on the boil for a minute or 2 longer if required.
Remove the smoked salmon from the fridge & cut criss-cross into large squares or chunks, approx 2cm each side.
Slide the salmon in sections on top of the sauce, add the cream & stir through gently. When the cream starts to bubble, (almost immediately), but before it boils, fold through the ingredients again & turn off the heat.
Leave on the element for approx 20-30 seconds to allow the salmon to finish heating through, (it will change from orange to a lighter pink) but do not overcook.
Arrange the raw spinach/ rocket evenly on top of the sauce, then use a slotted spoon to gently transfer the pasta on top of the spinach/ rocket. Do not stir until all the pasta has been transferred - allow some of the water from the pasta (but not too much) to drain into the sauce to make a smoother texture. The heat from the pasta will allow the spinach/ rocket to wilt slightly, but still retain maximum flavour, texture (& goodness).
Serve immediately - use a large serving spoon to scoop from the bottom of the pan upwards & ensure a good mix of sauce, veg, pasta & salmon chunks in each bowl. Sprinkle parmesan/ pecorino to taste, but not so much that it overpowers the other flavours. For sauce lovers like me, add a final, extra spoonful or 2 of hot sauce to drizzle over the cheese.
Enjoy with a glass of your favourite sauv blanc, chardonnay or mineral water with a squeeze of lemon.
This is a complete meal in itself, but can be served in smaller portions & complemented with a light salad for variety & fewer calories.