This recipe is brought to you in partnership with Milk Life.
Few ingredients go together as well as a creamy whole dairy milk-based sauce and tender pasta. Add in flaky salmon and vibrant green peas, and you've got a pretty memorable meal on your hands.
This recipe is great for those long days when the daunting task of cooking dinner seems unbearable. Because everything can cook at the same time and you assemble before serving, it's our new favorite go-to weekday dinner.
Video: Creamy Pasta with Salmon and Peas
Creamy Pasta with Salmon and Peas
Start With Béchamel
The creamy sauce known as a béchamel is one of the five classic French “Mother Sauces,” meaning it can be used to make many other sauces. Béchamel is one of the easiest to prepare as it doesn’t require a pre-made stock.
The traditional way to prepare the sauce does require a bit more time and prep-work, but with this version, we’ve managed to simplify things and streamline the process!
Real Milk Is Key!
Real whole milk is a must in this recipe. Not only does it give the béchamel its amazing flavor, but its proteins also provide the structure needed to create a silky-smooth sauce by combining with the thickening agent we’re going to use: a cooked paste of flour and butter, called a roux.
The Best Pasta for the Job
We prefer to use a tubular pasta because it’s a great way to get the most out of this flavorful real milk sauce. You want a pasta where the sauce can really gather and fill the grooves and divots -- a chunky, shaped pasta is the way to go.
If you can't find rigatoni, feel free to use penne, rotini, ziti, or tagliatelle instead.
How to Store and Reheat the Pasta
You can make this sauce in advance and store it in the fridge for up to three days. To reheat it, just warm it in a saucepan over low heat until it’s hot.
If you need to thin out the sauce a bit, just add more whole milk (start with 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time until you reach the desired consistency)!
Leftovers? Store them covered in the fridge for up to 2 days. Reheat by adding leftovers to a medium pan with a splash of real milk, and warming over low heat, stirring constantly until warmed through.
Check Out These Other Creamy Pasta Dishes!
- Easy Make-Ahead Alfredo Sauce
- Easy Chicken Mac and Cheese
- Creamy Ziti Florentine
- Cheesy Hamburger Pasta Skillet
- Fettuccine Alfredo with Mushrooms
Creamy Pasta with Salmon and Peas
- 3 cups whole dairy milk
- 1 bay leaf
- Pinch ground cloves
- Zest of 1 lemon (about 1 tablespoon), divided
- 3 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- 1 teaspoon black pepper, divided
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 filets fresh salmon (4 ounces each)
- 1 pound rigatoni pasta (or other shaped pasta)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 small shallot, minced (about 1/4 cup)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 12 ounces (2 cups) green peas, fresh or frozen
- 2 ounces shredded parmesan cheese to garnish (optional)
- Chopped fresh parsley to garnish (optional)
Preheat the broiler:
Place your oven rack about 6 inches from the heating element of your oven. Set your oven's broiler to high.
Cook the pasta:
Set a 6-quart pot of water over medium-high heat. Bring water to a boil.
Add the rigatoni to the water and cook according to the package instructions (usually 8 to 9 minutes) until tender. Be sure to stir the pasta occasionally to prevent clumping.
Scoop out and reserve one cup of the pasta cooking water in case you need it to thin the sauce later. Drain the pasta and set aside.
Warm milk mixture:
While you’re waiting for the pasta water to boil, warm the milk: Set a small saucepan over low heat and add the milk, bay leaf, and ground cloves. Stir occasionally; Do not let the milk boil.
Prepare the béchamel:
In a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Once the butter has melted, add the shallots and garlic and cook until they appear glossy, about 3 minutes.
Whisk in the flour. This is your roux. Cook the roux for at least 1 minute to eliminate any starchy taste.
Remove the bay leaf from the simmering pot of milk and slowly ladle or pour the warmed milk into the pot with the roux, whisking constantly to prevent clumping.
Once all of the milk has been stirred in, allow the sauce to gently simmer, over low heat for 3 to 4 minutes, or until thickened to the consistency of corn syrup.
Once the béchamel has thickened, add half of the lemon zest, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, nutmeg, and peas. Reduce the heat to low to keep the sauce warm, stirring occasionally.
Prepare the salmon:
In a small bowl, combine the remaining lemon zest, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper. Set aside.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Pour the olive oil onto the lined baking sheet and use your fingers to spread it evenly over the foil. Add the salmon fillets to the pan, turning them to coat them completely with oil. Leave them skin side down.
Rub equal amounts of the lemon-spice mixture onto each salmon filet.
Broil the salmon:
Broil for 5 to 6 minutes or until the flesh is an opaque pink.
Flake the salmon:
Once your salmon has finished broiling, remove it from the oven and carefully flake the flesh into walnut-sized pieces. Discard the skin.
The salmon will break down into smaller pieces when you fold it into the pasta at a later step. Set the salmon aside.
Combine salmon, pasta, and béchamel:
Fold the pasta into the pot with the béchamel sauce and the peas. Make sure it's coated completely.
Gently fold in the salmon. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. If the pasta seems too thick or clumpy, stir in a few splashes of the reserved pasta cooking water until the pasta is creamy.
Serve with Milk!
Garnish with Parmesan cheese and parsley and serve while hot.