Asparagus and Smoked Salmon: What a Pair

Asparagus springs up daily in the garden this time of year, as welcome a sight as any I can think of. We indulge in it now while we can and while I never weary of plain asparagus lightly sautéed in olive oil, or roasted in the oven, or steamed and served with butter, salt and pepper, or a swish of vinaigrette, still, it’s a treat to incorporate it into various dishes, giving it a starring role.

I don’t remember any more when I first ate asparagus with smoked salmon, but the memory of the two together cropped up this week when I was trying to figure out a quick supper. It may have been as an appetizer: a stalk of blanched asparagus with a thin slice of smoked salmon wound around it. Was there a bit of cream cheese inside, perhaps with a touch of horseradish? Maybe. Was it the two of them baked into a quiche? Can’t recall for sure. In an omelet? Perhaps. I just know I did not invent the combination.

Smoked salmon is very handy stuff and it can be a bit of a splurge. I usually have some on hand to whip out for an easy company appetizer. I blew an entire four-ounce package to make this asparagus, salmon, and pasta dish I offer you here.

Sometimes you can find rough salmon trimmed ends in small containers at a lower price and they would work just fine in this dish because the neat slices needed for wrapping or laying on crackers aren’t required. Those ends, by the way, are what I use when I make smoked salmon and cream cheese spread: just whomp them together in a food processor, a bit of horseradish or a spoonful of capers and you are in business. Wouldn’t a gently blanched asparagus tip look elegant on top of a baguette round spread with smoke salmon and cream cheese?

So this quick supper came together in the amount of time it took to bring a pot of water to boil and cook the pasta. I sliced the salmon in julienne-style strips, chopped the asparagus and blanched it in the pasta water (before adding the pasta) and fished them out with a strainer. Next time, I’ll chop up a shallot and add it. Salad on the side. Bang. Supper is served.

Asparagus and Smoked Salmon Pasta Sauce
Serves: 3-4
  • Sufficient well-salted water to cook enough pasta for three to four servings
  • Your choice of pasta (linguine, fettuccine, spaghetti)
  • 1 pound asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into one-inch lengths
  • 4 ounces of smoked salmon, cut into strips or chopped coarsely
  • ¼ cup all-purpose cream
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Set well-salted pasta water to boil.
  2. Meanwhile, pare the tough ends of the asparagus and cut into inch-long pieces.
  3. Cut the salmon into strips.
  4. As soon as the pasta water boil, dunk the asparagus into it and blanch for one minute, remove it, and add the pasta to the water to cook.
  5. Put about half the cream into a heavy bottomed sauté pan and stir in the salmon to heat it through.
  6. Add the asparagus and stir gently to combine.
  7. Add more cream as needed to keep the sauce a little loose.
  8. Grind in black pepper to taste.
  9. Drain the pasta when it is done, add olive oil to prevent clumping.
  10. Toss the pasta gently with the asparagus and salmon sauce or serve the sauce on top of the pasta.
  11. Grate Parmesan over each serving to taste.


Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

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 Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.