Crème Fraiche Pasta with Peas and Scallions (and Smoked Salmon)

A perfect weeknight dish that comes together in little more time than it takes to boil the pasta.
A perfect weeknight dish that comes together in little more time than it takes to boil the pasta.

When my good friend Elaine gifted me a slab of moist, flaky hot-smoked salmon from Washington state for the holidays, I knew I wanted to highlight it in a simple yet special way.

I found the perfect vehicle in ” Crème Fraiche Pasta with Peas and Scallions.”

The recipe from the archives of the New York Times is by food writer Hana Asbrink, a former senior editor at Food52 and cook at Jean-Georges’ ABC Kitchen in New York.

This easy pasta dish didn’t originally have smoked salmon in it. But it sure made for a delectable addition. What’s more, I think even canned salmon would work well in this dish.

This fabulous weeknight dish comes together easily in just about the time it takes to boil the pasta.

Three bunches — yes, bunches — of green onions get sliced, then caramelized and charred in a cast-iron pan. That may seem like a lot of green onions, but once wilted, they don’t amount to that much. Plus, once you taste the irresistible sweet onion-y flavor they add to the pasta, you’ll wish you had sauteed even more green onions.

As the pasta cooks, whisk together creme fraiche, lemon zest, olive oil, a generous amount of grated Parmesan, and 1/2 to 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. The recipe calls for 3/4 cup or 6 ounces of creme fraiche. If you happen to buy an 8-ounce container of creme fraiche as I did, you can just use all of it without fear it will overwhelm the pasta.

Just before the pasta is cooked to al dente, throw in a cup of frozen peas, give it all a stir, then drain everything together. Toss the pasta and peas with the creme fraiche sauce, then gently stir in the smoked salmon, if using. Shower on some raw, thinly sliced green onions, and a big squirt of fresh lemon juice.

Three whole bunches of scallions might seem like too much for one pasta dish, but take my word that it's definitely not.
Three whole bunches of scallions might seem like too much for one pasta dish, but take my word that it’s definitely not.

What you end up with is a lightly creamy yet not overly heavy pasta with pops of sweetness from the peas and charred green onions, along with smoky, briny, flaky bits of salmon, and the bright, zingy taste of lemon that ties everything together.

It’s even wonderful eaten cold the next day, as a pasta salad.

Think of it as a gift that keeps on giving.

Be sure to get a little bit of everything in every forkful.
Be sure to get a little bit of everything in every forkful.

Crème Fraiche Pasta with Peas and Scallions (and Smoked Salmon)

(Serves 4 to 6)

Kosher salt and black pepper

3 bunches scallions (about 12 ounces)

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound medium shells pasta

1 cup finely grated Parmesan

¾ cup crème fraîche

1 lemon, zested (about 2 teaspoons zest), then quartered

1 cup frozen peas

8 ounces to 1-pound hot-smoked salmon, flaked into bite-size pieces (optional)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.

Trim the scallions. Thinly slice 1 or 2 scallions on the diagonal and set aside for garnish. Cut the remaining scallions into 1/2-inch-long pieces.

In a large cast-iron skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high. Add the 1/2-inch scallion pieces, season generously with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until scallions start to caramelize, soften and brown in spots, about 6 to 8 minutes. Set aside.

Once the water comes to a boil, add the pasta and reduce the heat to medium-high. Cook until al dente according to package instructions. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.

While the pasta cooks, prepare the sauce: In a large bowl, add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, the Parmesan, crème fraîche and lemon zest; whisk to combine. Stir in 1/2 cup of the hot reserved pasta water until the sauce is smooth. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the charred scallions.

When the pasta is done, add the peas to the water and turn off the heat. Immediately drain the pasta and peas together, and add them to the sauce in the large bowl. Toss thoroughly to combine, adding more reserved pasta water as desired to loosen the sauce to a silky texture. Gently mix in the smoked salmon, if using. Season to taste.

Serve immediately. Divide among bowls and top with more pepper and reserved sliced scallions. Serve with the lemon wedges, for squeezing on top.

Adapted from a New York Times recipe by Hana Asbrink

Plus A Smoked Salmon Pasta Recipe with Cold-Smoked Salmon: Chilled Smoked Salmon Spaghetti with Capers and Avocado

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