Served warm or hot, Salmon and Asparagus Pasta Salad is a complete meal with so much flavour and texture! The fresh asparagus, lemon juice, and freshly grated parmesan cheese come together to elevate the inexpensive and humble canned flaked salmon!
I have something very exciting to share with you, Dear Reader. I may have mentioned this in an earlier post, but it’s worth mentioning again. Something big – really big! – has happened in the Thomas-Ewing household. Actually, two things!
The first thing is that McKenna is no longer practicing a vegetarian diet. She decided to become a vegetarian just over two years ago for reasons that were valid to her. She was strong-willed and didn’t pay any attention to those around her who scoffed at her vegetarian choice. To be honest, I was so proud of her, since she was so young and had made such a big decision on her own.
This past Christmas, I prepared a whole turkey for the first time in my life. I had all of the fixings on Christmas day. There was a big bowl of Herb Butter Mashed Potatoes, a platter of Savoury Roasted Carrots, a bowl of Whole Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pecans and Cranberries, some Roasted Jumbo Carrots, and also, Sauteed Green Beans with Caramelized Shallots.
Of course I also made my Vegetarian Mushroom Gravy so that we could smother all of those veggies in its goodness! So, all in all, it was a complete meal. I had even baked one of those Tofurkey’s for John.e and McKenna. The whole roasted turkey was for me and my dad.
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MY TURKEY BRINGS ALL OF THE VEGETARIANS TO MY YARD!
When I placed the turkey on the table, McKenna commented that it looked and smelled so good. She decided to have just a small piece, because it was Christmas. That, Dear Reader, was the start of her rapid withdrawal from the vegetarian diet. So, blame me if you will, but I make a damn good turkey!
The second piece of news is that it took me about seven years to convince John.e to incorporate fish into his vegetarian diet. It’s been a long road with many arguments, debates, Google searches, and whatnot. But, he finally agreed. For our first fish meal, I wanted to make something that wasn’t overly fishy, so I opted for Parmesan Crusted Baked Tilapia. It was a hit!
I then incorporated some other fish recipes. I made Baked Cod Fish with Lemon and Capers, and two spicy fish recipes, which included Sriracha Lemon Garlic Tilapia and a Sriracha Honey Lime Salmon. All in all, John.e was happy with all of them.
Up next, I decided to incorporate canned fish into our weekly meal plan. I’m a sucker for canned salmon and tuna and I’m sure in the eyes of some people, that makes me seem less sophisticated when it comes to food, but quite frankly, if it’s delicious, I’m going to eat it! Salmon and Asparagus Pasta Salad was the perfect dinner option. It was so fast and easy to make and is certainly filling, healthy, and good for you.
INGREDIENTS NEEDED FOR THIS RECIPE:
The following is a list of the ingredients needed to prepare this Salmon and Asparagus Pasta Salad. For exact amounts and measurements, refer to the printable recipe card located near the bottom of this post.
- Pasta – Any short pasta will do, like macaroni, penne, fusilli, etc. Cook and drain the pasta well. See my notes on cooking perfect pasta below!
- Asparagus – You will need about one pound, which is equal to one bunch. Trim the hard bit at the bottom, wash and cut the spears into one inch pieces.
- Canned Salmon – The next section will discuss canned salmon in detail.
- Sun Dried Tomatoes – The type packed in oil has so much more flavour!
- Parmesan Cheese – Use freshly grated parmesan cheese if it fits into your budget. Otherwise, you can use the canned type as well.
- Olive Oil – Extra virgin light olive oil is muted, which is my preferred olive oil.
- Parsley – This will add both freshness and act as a garnish.
- Lemon Juice – Freshly squeezed lemon juice is the best way to go. The bottled stuff is great for canning, but not for a pasta salad.
- Salt & Ground Black Pepper
- Dried Dill – Dill and salmon are a match made in heaven. In this salad, I’m using dried dill because it packs more intense dill flavour.
- Dried Red Chili Flakes – These are optional, but if you like a little bit of heat, go ahead and add some!
CANNED SALMON FOR THE WIN!
When I came up with this pasta salad option, I decided that the salad should be eaten cold. Canned salmon is often used in cold dishes, such as dips or in sandwiches. Pasta is good cold anyway. And, I’ve never shied away from eating cold asparagus or sun dried tomatoes. So, a cold pasta salad is how the recipe below is written up.
Now, John.e, on the other hand, thought that the pasta salad had more flavour when it was warm. Once the photographs were taken for your viewing pleasure, John.e transferred some of the pasta salad to a skillet and just re-heated it until the pasta was just warmed through. McKenna also felt that the warmed version was better. (That could be due to the fact that she piled on about an additional quarter cup of parmesan cheese!)
At the end of the day, I’m just glad to be able to prepare dishes with fish – even if it is of the canned variety! It’s opened up a whole new world of dinner possibilities for me. And, it makes me super happy that I can buy canned salmon or tuna from Costco in abundance! Does anyone else get super happy because of a well-stocked pantry?
Warm or cold, or even at room temperature, Salmon and Asparagus Pasta Salad is a great dinnertime option. It’s filling and hearty, yet light and refreshing. The combination of the salmon, sun dried tomatoes, parmesan, and asparagus with the canned salmon is a delightful combination. And, of course, with a simple salt and pepper seasoning, a bit of olive oil, some dried dill and a fresh squeeze of lemon – all in all, a dish fit for a King or Queen! (And a Lord too!)
HOW TO MAKE SALMON AND ASPARAGUS PASTA SALAD
In a pot of salted water, boil the pasta, drain well and rinse under cold water until pasta is completely cooled. Normally, I would not recommend rinsing off the starch, but this recipe is better without sticky pasta. Set aside. Next, add 8 cups of water to a pot and add 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a hard boil over high heat. Add chopped asparagus and reduce heat to medium-high. Stir and blanche the asparagus for two minutes. Remove the asparagus from the pot with a slotted spoon and place directly into a bowl of ice cold water. Set aside.
In a large salad bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, ground black pepper, dried dill, and dried red chili flakes. Add the cooled pasta and toss to combine. Next add in the sun dried tomatoes and asparagus. Toss together.
Flake in the salmon; add the parmesan cheese and chopped parsley. Toss lightly to combine all ingredients. Don’t over mix. Try to keep the salmon from breaking up too much. Garnish with parsley and parmesan. Serve immediately, or refrigerate for 2 hours to chill.
Let me talk to you a bit about how to get the pasta just right without overcooking it. Someone once told me that I prepare pasta like an old Italian grandma. That has stuck we me for so many years. You see, Dear Reader, I’m far from perfect, but cooking pasta is one thing I can certainly do perfectly. I don’t care what the back of the pasta package says, cook your pasta according to taste and texture. Ignore everything else. Here are my 4 steadfast rules:
Rule #1: Say no to oil!
Do you add oil to your pasta water before adding the pasta? Stop that right now! I don’t know who’s responsible for that, but I have seen some TV chefs do it! If you add oil to your pasta water, do you know what happens when you put the sauce on it? The sauce won’t stick as well as it should. It will slide off, because the oil prevents it from sticking.
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Rule #2: Add extra salt!
Salt the water. I used to be so afraid of salting pasta water, because I thought it would be too salty to eat. Salting the water, before you add the pasta, is the only chance you get to season that pasta. Let the water come to full boil before adding your salt. The water should taste like the ocean. Don’t dump the salt in; stir it in. Preventing the salt from settling at the bottom of your pot will keep your pot looking shiny and new. If you have pots with what looks like a tarnished or unpolished interior bottom, it’s because salt sat at the bottom of your pot.
Rule #3: Get that pasta moving about immediately!
Stir the pasta for a good minute when you first add it to the water. This helps to wash off some of the starch and prevents the pasta from sticking to the pot and to itself. I always pull out a piece of pasta 4 minutes before the package says it will be ready. Taste it. Chew it. It shouldn’t be completely soft. If it has a bit of bite left in the center, get it out of the water and drain it immediately. You can thank me later!
Rule #4: In this case, rinse!
So many of us are tempting to rinse pasta under running water after it’s been drained. I think it comes from the notion that it gets rid of starch. Well, it does in a way. But, when pasta begins to cool off and dry, it becomes a little sticky. That stickiness soaks up pasta sauce, so don’t flush it out! A quick drain is all you need. In this case, we are preparing a room temperature pasta salad, so we need to cool down the pasta and stop it from continuing to cook in its residual heat. Therefore, in this case, rinse the pasta under cold running water.
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Salmon and Asparagus Pasta Salad
- 450 grams rigatoni pasta cooked and cooled
- 16 spears asparagus, cut into 2 inch pieces
- 14 ounces canned salmon, drained, flaked, and bones removed
- 3 ounces sun dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish (optional)
- 1/4 cup parsley, freshly chopped, plus more for garnish (optional)
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried dill
- 1/2 teaspoon dried red chili flakes, (optional)
- In a pot of salted water, boil the pasta, drain well and rinse under cold water until pasta is completely cooled. Set aside.
- Next, add 8 cups of water to a pot and add 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a hard boil over high heat. Add chopped asparagus and reduce heat to medium-high. Stir and blanche the asparagus for two minutes.
- Remove the asparagus from the pot with a slotted spoon and place directly into a bowl of ice cold water. Set aside.
- In a large salad bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, ground black pepper, dried dill, and dried red chili flakes.
- Add the cooled pasta and toss to combine.
- Next add in the sun dried tomatoes and asparagus. Toss together.
- Flake in the salmon; add the parmesan cheese and chopped parsley. Toss lightly to combine all ingredients. Don’t over mix. Try to keep the salmon from breaking up too much.
- Garnish with parsley and parmesan. Serve immediately, or refrigerate for 2 hours to chill.
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