Salmon Poached in White Wine with Penne and Asparagus

This delicious seafood pasta dish comes together in about 45 minutes, is simple to make and relatively inexpensive.  Its clean, bright flavor profile yields a result greater than the sum of its parts and it is therefore both perfect for a weeknight dinner and elegant enough for a romantic dinner for two.

Time: 45 minutes
Level: Easy
Cost: Approximately $4/plate
Serves: 4


  1. 1 large salmon filet, approximately 1lb, cut into four pieces and skin removed
  2. 2 TBSP Kosher salt
  3. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 1 small shallot, minced
  5. 1 TBSP unsalted butter
  6. 1 TBSP olive oil
  7. zest of 1 lemon
  8. 1 TBSP capers (optional)
  9. 1lb asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
  10. 1/3 bottle cheap but drinkable dry white wine
  11. 1 box (1lb) penne pasta, cooked according to package directions
  12. Handful (approximate 1/3 – 1/2 cup) fresh parsley, finely chopped
  13. juice of two lemons
  14. grated parmesan cheese (optional, for serving)


  1. Begin by heating water for pasta and blanching asparagus.  Make sure it is at a rolling boil and then add a good 2 TBSP of Kosher salt.  Blanching the asparagus will turn the water green, but also impart a vegetal favor to your pasta which is subtle and quite nice.
  2. Heat butter and olive oil in a large sauté pan until melted over medium low heat.  While butter is still foamy, lower the heat to low and add the shallots, garlic and lemon zest.  Cook until fragrant and shallots are soft, 2-3 minutes.  If the garlic starts to brown, you’ll have to start over, so go slowly and use very low heat.
  3. When aromatics (shallot, garlic, lemon zest) are just barely sizzling, add white wine and capers, if using.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer.  Add the salmon filets to the liquid, cover the pan, and allow to sit at a bare simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until salmon reaches an internal temperature of 130°F.  If you are using a very good pan with excellent heat retention, you may be able to off the heat entirely and allow the salmon to poach in the residual heat.  Bottom line:  The lower and slower the better.
  4. While salmon is poaching prepare asparagus and pasta.
    1. Add asparagus to boiling water, return to a boil, and cook 3-4 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon and rise immediately under cold running water (or shock them in an ice bath) to stop the cooking process.  Set aside.
    2. Cook pasta according to package directions.  If salmon is still not done once pasta is finished, drain in a colander and set aside.  Be sure to reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water.
  5. Once salmon is up to temp, carefully remove to a cutting board and allow to rest.  Be careful, it will be very tender and flakey and you don’t want it to fall apart just yet.
  6. Add penne and asparagus to sauté pan and toss in the sauce until well combined.  Add a couple tablespoons of pasta water to thicken the sauce if neccessary.
  7. Slice salmon filets into small, bite-sized pieces and add to the pan with the sauce, asparagus and penne.
  8. Squeeze the juice of two lemons into the pan and add a handful of chopped parsley.  Use salad tongs to gently toss until combined and serve.  Pass parmesan at the table.

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