Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends.
This recipe has two hallmarks of a stress-free weeknight pasta: a pre-cooked protein and an easy-to-assemble sauce. It builds on a reliable French technique of whisking milk into a roux (a thick paste of butter and flour) to create a béchamel sauce. This white sauce is a wonderful foundation for creamy pasta dishes like macaroni and cheese, with more thickness and less fat than you’d get from using heavy cream.
Here, you’ll undercook the farfalle by a minute or so to avoid mushiness when it’s returned to the pot at the end, and the reserved starchy water will help encourage the marriage of pasta and sauce. Though alternatives like rigatoni and penne would work just fine, the bowtie shape mimics the flakes of fish, which nestle comfortably in its grooves.
Typically, a recipe with lemon juice and dairy should raise a red flag, as acid causes dairy-based sauces to break: The fat separates from the rest of the components, creating an unpleasant result. But the lemon is a much-needed foil for the rich béchamel and a classic complement to the salmon, so I found a work-around, using zest in the sauce itself and squeezing the juice over each portion to finish the dish instead of fully incorporating it during cooking. The salty, smoky nature of the fish bridges the gap between seafood and cheese, another two components that aren't traditionally paired but make sense here.
This pasta needs a wine that’s on the lighter-bodied end of the spectrum but still full enough to stand up to the creamy sauce, with sufficient flavor to pair with the smoked salmon. Good underlying acidity is also essential as a counterpoint to the fish, much like the squeeze of lemon. For me, the ideal candidate was a cool-climate white that had undergone moderate oak aging, the Lakewood Chardonnay Finger Lakes 2017. With juicy fruit flavors rounded out by the notes of toasted oak, it shows a balanced combination of richness and freshness that echoes and enhances the dish.
Farfalle in Cream Sauce with Smoked Salmon and Peas
Pair with a juicy Chardonnay such as Lakewood Chardonnay Finger Lakes 2017 (88 points, $15).
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes
Approximate food costs: $25
- 16 ounces farfalle
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 medium shallot, diced small
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan
- 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
- 8 ounces smoked salmon, flaked into bite-size pieces
- 1 lemon (juice and zest)
1. In a large pot, bring 1 1/2 gallons of water to a boil with 1/2 tablespoon of salt. Add pasta and cook for 10 minutes (or 1 minute less than the package instructions). Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
2. Microwave milk for 30 seconds and set aside.
3. Melt butter in the large pot set over medium-low heat. Add shallot with a pinch of salt and cook until softened, 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Whisk in flour to form a thick paste, then gradually whisk in the milk. Bring mixture to a boil and then reduce heat to low.
4. Stir in parmesan, peas, pasta and half of the reserved pasta water. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the smoked salmon and cook for 2 minutes more until the pasta is fully coated and the salmon starts turning a lighter pink; if the sauce is too thick, add more of the reserved pasta water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Remove from heat and stir in zest.
5. Plate pasta and finish each serving with a squeeze of lemon juice. Serves 8.