March 01, 2012

Meatless Meals: Creamy Goat Cheese Pasta with Salmon

This is one of those quick and easy pasta recipes that I feel almost ashamed to post.  But I'll use this post as a chance to talk a bit about pasta technique.  Pasta was, perhaps, the very first thing I ever cooked, and it is shockingly easy to make.  But there are a couple common mistakes that are made when it comes to pasta, things that people should never ever do, but that are part of accepted practice.  Mostly, I just never learned these things:

1) Pasta water really ought to be salted, especially if you are using cheap pasta.  You can add the salt after the boiling point, and be generous. It gets diluted in the water, so you need a fair amount (I usually put in a tablespoon for a big stockpot). This will permeate your pasta as its cooking, giving it more flavor, and masking any bad flavors in cheaper pastas. (TJ's, I love you, but your pasta...)

2) Do not ever ever ever add oil to your pasta water.  This was done commonly to stop long stringy pasta from sticking together, but just give your pasta a couple stirs throughout the cooking time (and plenty of water) and they won't stick.  The trouble with adding oil is that then nothing will stick to the pasta: not the sauce you spent hours simmering (or minutes), not salt and pepper and cheese, not fresh herbs for a quick pesto.

3) When draining the pasta be sure to reserve at least one cup of the cooking water. This starchy water is used to liquefy thick sauces and emmulsify cheesey sauces, and it's just invaluable.  Keep a measuring cup near by and dip it in the water before your drain it. You rarely use the whole cup, but it never hurts to have extra. Plain hot water will not do--what you need here is the liquefied starch.

4) The only time you want to rinse your pasta with cold water is if you are making a pasta salad and need it to be cool and dry.

Now, on to the recipe:


12 oz rigatoni, macaroni, gemelli, or other short ridged tube pasta
5 oz creamy goat cheese
1 tbl olive oil
5 oz smoked salmon, shredded
1 tbl drained capers
1 chopped scallion or 1 tbl fried onions
Salt and Pepper and, if easily obtained, a pinch of fresh lemon zest

Bring a large pot of salted* water to boil, and, cook the pasta as needed. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid, and drain.

While the pasta is cooking, mash up your goat cheese with a fork, mixing in the olive oil.  (Do this in the base of the bowl you plan to serve the pasta in.) Prep the salmon, capers, and scallions or onions, and lemon zest and set aside.

Pour the pasta and 1/4 cup of the reserve cooking liquid into the bowl, tossing to incorporate.  If you goat cheese is very dry, you'll need to add more cooking liquid too make the sauce more runny and creamy. Toss in the capers, salmon, and scallions.  Serve with freshly ground pepper.\

UPDATE: For a truly meatless alternative: saute or steam some fresh spring veg--asparagus, peas, kale or chard, and mix in.

Photo: mine, from film.


  1. I still didn't know how to cook pasta but after reading your post and I am gonna try this recipe.

  2. Anonymous2:53 PM

    After searching for a salmon pasta recipe, this is by far the best!