Creamy lemon vodka sockeye salmon pasta with arugula. So simple. So good.
Thanks to Copper River Salmon for sending me a few pounds of their amazing sockeye salmon to make recipes to share with you all.
Salmon is a staple in my house. As you can see from the many salmon recipes already on my blog. Salmon is the most versatile fish to cook with too. We are particular to wild Alaskan salmon – the quality and flavor is unmatched.
I love simple dinners that pack a ton of flavor like this salmon pasta. And this recipe is made with a few simple ingredients, so there is less prep time to get dinner on the table fast. Which definitely helps for busy weeknights. Both of my daughters have loved salmon since they were very young, which I am very grateful for. Salmon is so healthy and good for you. My older daughter calls it “big brain food”.
Salmon and lemon go so well together. I make most of my salmon recipes with lemon. I have a huge Meyer lemon tree and they are all almost overripe now. I am picking several at a time, zesting them, freezing the zest in tablespoon sized amounts on wax paper before storing in a freezer bag.
I am also juicing them and saving half the juice in a jar in my fridge and freezing the other half in ice cube trays. Once frozen I pop them out and store in a freezer bag. A great way to have lemon juice and zest all year round.
What ingredients are in salmon pasta:
- Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon
- Meyer Lemons
- Pasta – I used spaghetti – linguine, fettuccine, penne or even bucatini would work great here.
- Spices – salt, pepper, red pepper flakes
- parmesan cheese
How do you make salmon pasta?
This dish is prepared in a couple pans. One for the pasta and sauce, one for the salmon. The salmon is seared and added to the pasta and lemon vodka sauce as soon as it is done cooking. Which doesn’t take long at all.
Searing salmon in a cast iron pan is one of my fave ways to prepare salmon whether we are having it as is or adding it in to recipes like salads or pastas. I start off a lot of my salmon recipes with this simple way of cooking the salmon. I just vary the seasonings, flavors depending on the dish I am making.
This sockeye salmon pasta dish can be made with just enough sauce to coat the noodles or more sauce to make it a, well, saucier dish. I love it both ways. My trick to making it saucier is to add more pasta water to the lemon cream mixture. Salty, starchy pasta water is a great “secret ingredient” to many amazing pasta dishes and sauces.
A few notes before the recipe:
- If you don’t have fresh or frozen sockeye salmon you can substitute canned. Drain and flake into the pasta towards the end of the dish
- I used Meyer lemons from my tree, feel free to use traditional lemons. Meyers tend to be a little less acidic, strong of a flavor so start off with a little less lemon juice and go from there.
- I used Pau Maui Vodka in my dish. I love vodka pasta sauces from this lemon cream sauce to traditional tomato sauces. Pau is my go-to vodka.
- Use any kind of noodles you like, have on hand. I happened to have spaghetti noodles. Cooking times will vary for the type of pasta you use.
- If you don’t have or care for arugula feel free to substitute fresh basil. Slice the basil if the leaves are large, leave whole if small.
- 1 pound pasta - spaghetti, linguine, penne, rigatoni etc. (453 grams)
For the Salmon:
- 1 Tbsp oil
- 1 1/2 lb sockeye salmon
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
For the Sauce:
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter,
- 5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 cup heavy cream (360 ml)
- 1 1/2 cup half n half (300ml)
- 3 tablespoons vodka (not flavored)
- 1/4 cup meyer lemon juice (60 ml)
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
- 1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 cup arugula ( or more if you like)
- 1/2 cup shredded parmesan
- additional red pepper flakes
- Lemon wedges
Cook pasta according to package directions in a large pot of salted water until al-dente, strain reserving one and a half cups (or more - see notes) of the cooking water. The time for this will depend on the kind of pasta/noodles you use.
While the pasta is cooking, heat a cast iron pan, or other large sauté pan. Cut the salmon into 3-4 pieces to fit into your pan. Season with salt and pepper. Cook skin side up for 2 minutes, carefully turn over and cook another 3-4 minutes until just cooked and the skin can be easily removed. Set salmon aside and keep warm.
In a large sauté pan heat the butter and add the sliced garlic. Cook for 2 minutes, while stirring constantly. Add in the cream, half and half, vodka, lemon juice and zest. Bring to a simmer. Add in pasta water and cook until thickened slightly, about 4-5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Add in the cooked pasta and stir until pasta is coated well with sauce. Gently stir in the arugula. Cut the salmon into 2 inch sized pieces and gently stir into the pasta.
Divide into 4-6 servings. Top with parmesan, more red pepper flakes if desired and serve with a lemon wedge.
This works great with not only salmon, but shrimp and chicken as well. You could also use canned salmon if you don’t have fresh or frozen. Just drain well and flake into the pasta and sauce towards the end of cooking to heat.
If you don’t like or have arugula you can replace with basil.
I like this dish on the slightly less saucy side, but if you want a dish with a thinner sauce reserve up to two and a half cups of the pasta water after it is done cooking and add in a little at a time until you reach the consistency that you like. Taste and season as you go so you don't end up with a less flavorful sauce. I tend to add a little more salt, red pepper flakes and lemon juice when I make it saucier.
Hope you enjoy this cream lemon vodka sockeye salmon pasta as much as we do! Don’t forget the red pepper flakes for a bit of a kick to this dish!.