Heart-Healthy Nutrition Disguised as Comfort Food

Easy Penne Pasta with Salmon

Penne with salmon in a tarragon cream sauce is a winter pasta dish that is both comforting and good for you! This deceptively-easy pasta recipe provides just the right balance of heart-healthy nutrition in a rich, creamy and satisfying savory herb sauce. It's a great dish to serve during the dark, cold winter months when we crave comfort food as it helps us stay healthy and nourished with just enough creamy goodness to feel indulged.


Pasta with salmon
Credit: © Eugene Bochkarev | Dreamstime.com

Add More Superfoods to Your Diet

Wild Salmon has long been considered one of the "superfoods". This high-quality protein is loaded with heart-healthy omega-3s, vitamins and minerals and tastes great!  

"Superfoods are easy-to-eat foods that are packed with multiple nutrients to help you stay healthy. These multitasking "superfoods" provide multiple disease-fighting nutrients, fill you up so you can enjoy plenty of food without excess calories, and are easy to include in everyday meals. "- WebMD


Fresh Tarragon Cream Sauce Adds a Silky, Light Finish

The delicate tarragon cream sauce, with just a hint of fresh lemon, brings out the succulent flavor of this cold-water fish without overwhelming it. Add just a few capers for a touch of brininess that accents the dish nicely.  

Savor your meal...Italian style!

For the perfect blend of texture and flavor, do as the Italians do and use just enough cream sauce to coat the pasta. You don't want the pasta swimming in the sauce. Then, eat slowly, savoring every delectable bite. Put your fork down between bites for a sip of crisp, white wine or a morsel of bread. You may just find that a small portion is enough to satisfy you. 

Recipe: serves 4 for dinner, 6 for lunch


  • 1 lb. penne pasta (or similar bite-size shape)
  • 2 medium filets of cooked salmon, (or 1, 4 oz. package of smoked salmon), broken into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced or crushed
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 (7 oz.) container of crème fraiche (or heavy cream)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon, plus some whole sprigs for garnish
  • 1/4 cup capers (optional)
  • salt and fresh-ground black pepper
Fresh-caught wild salmon
Credit: © Justyna Kaminska | Dreamstime.com


  1. Put a large pot of water on to boil (4 quarts or liters per pound of pasta). Add a lid to bring to a boil faster but then cook the pasta without it.
  2. Poach or bake the salmon filets, if using, until just barely done, 7-10 minutes depending on thickness. (See the video below for removing the pin bones from salmon) Allow to cool slightly and break carefully into bite size pieces, discarding the skin. If using smoked salmon, slice the salmon into bite size pieces and set aside.
  3. When the pasta water is at a rolling boil, add 2 heaping tablespoons of salt and drop in the pasta. Give it a good stir to prevent sticking. Cook according to package instructions until al dente. 
  4. While the pasta is cooking, put 2 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan and turn the heat to medium low. Add the garlic and sauté gently for 2-3 minutes. Don't let the garlic brown or it will become bitter.
  5. Add the crème fraiche, minced tarragon, lemon juice and lemon zest to the saucepan and stir to blend. Stir in half of the salmon and heat through. Season carefully with salt and pepper (smoked salmon is quite salty so taste the sauce before adding more).
  6. Turn the heat to low and keep warm.
  7. When the pasta is al dente (still firm to the bite), carefully reserve 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water and set aside. Drain the pasta and return it to the hot pot, off the heat.
  8. Using a rubber spatula to get every delicious morsel, scrape the cream sauce into the hot pasta and stir gently to coat. Add the capers and the remainder of the salmon.
  9. Add enough of the reserved pasta water to smooth out the sauce to a satiny consistency. Stir gently to heat through.
  10. Plate into warm bowls (warm in the oven at 200 degrees for 3 minutes) and garnish with additional capers and sprigs of fresh tarragon. Serve immediately.

Notes and Substitutions

Add fresh, steamed asparagus or petite peas for a bright, refreshing taste. Fresh dill can be substituted for the tarragon - just go easy as dill can be overwhelming. A blend of sour cream and cream cheese can be substituted for the crème fraiche - just heat it carefully and don't allow it to boil or it may curdle. A crisp green winter salad, hearty slices of artisan bread and a lovely dry white or rosé wine makes this the perfect winter meal. Try it tonight!

Video: How to remove pin bones from salmon

Rosle Fishbone Tongs
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As seen in the video...
Amco Rub Away Bar
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Removes the odor of fish, garlic and onion from your hands quickly and easily!