My version of Penne al Salmone is a salmon pasta without cream. Instead, it is a fresh, light, summery dish highlighting sweet and savory burst cherry tomatoes in a white wine sauce with thyme.
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Summer is the perfect time to enjoy fresh cherry tomatoes from the garden or farmer's market.
I am not the biggest fan of raw tomatoes, but I absolutely love cooked tomatoes in every form: baked, roasted, in sauces, or tossed on a grill until charred. In warm weather months, I won't go more than a day or two without eating tomatoes.
Cherry tomatoes top my list, and cooking them in the pan with olive oil, garlic, shallots, and just a bit of salt produces the sweetest, most delicious little bursts of flavor in every bite of this pasta.
Combined with a lemon, white wine, and thyme sauce, you have a wonderfully bright and lively dish anchored by the rich, savory salmon and olive oil.
What You'll Need
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- Fresh Salmon Mowi is a sustainably sourced and consistently good quality salmon
- Penne You can also use other short, tubular pasta such as rigatoni, mostaccioli, ziti, or even fusilli or farfalle - you'll want a pasta with lots of surface area to be coated in the delicious sauce.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil I always recommend using the best quality you can when there are few ingredients in the dish. This is my favorite brand.
- Garlic Fresh garlic is important in this sauce. I would not recommend substituting garlic powder. If you don't have fresh garlic, I would use just a bit more shallot.
- Shallot A shallot on the larger side is great here, but a small one will work just fine too.
- Lemon If you'd like a slightly sweeter dish, try a Meyer lemon!
- White Wine Any kind of white wine will do. I like using a Sauvignon Blanc or something light that I would actually drink.
- Fresh Thyme You could also use about half of a teaspoon of dried thyme or Herbs de Provence.
- Kosher Salt I like to use the brand Diamond Crystal because the salt is small flakes as opposed to larger grains. This coats the food better, and offers greater protection against oversalting.
- Fresh Herbs This is optional, but fresh parsley or basil over the top of this dish is a really lovely touch.
How to Prepare
Step One Slice the shallot into thin rings.
Step Two Slice the garlic thinly, about the same width as the shallot.
Step Three Set out your mis en place (French for "put in place") - the ingredients you will need to make your dish: cherry tomatoes, penne pasta, salmon, olive oil, sliced shallots, sliced garlic, white wine, lemon juice, thyme, and lemon.
Step Four Place a pot of salted water over high heat. Once boiling, add the penne and cook to box directions.
Step Five Meanwhile, start your salmon.
If using a stainless steel frying pan, place over high heat. Once hot, add the olive oil. Season the salmon with salt.
Pan fry the salmon skin side down until the skin separates from the pan and it is three-quarters of the way cooked, then flip and finish cooking.
If using a nonstick pan, heat over medium heat. It's not recommended to use nonstick cookware on high heat. Cook three quarters of the way through and then flip to finish.
Remove salmon from heat when the internal temperature reaches 125°F. This is considered medium rare. If you prefer your salmon more well done, continue cooking to 140°F. Let the salmon rest on a cutting board.
Step Six Flake the salmon apart with a fork.
Step Seven Bring the pan down to medium heat. Add your garlic and shallots to the pan. Cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and white wine, deglazing the pan (scraping up the brown bits) and add a pinch of salt.
Step Eight Add the tomatoes, thyme, and a pinch of salt.
Step Nine Cook the tomatoes until they have burst and created a sweet, rich sauce, about 15 to 20 minutes. To speed up the process, prick the skins of the tomatoes with a paring knife.
Step Ten Once the pasta is finished cooking, drain. Add a bit of oil and stir so it does not stick.
Step Eleven When the tomatoes are ready, take out the thyme stems, add the pasta, and stir. Finish with fresh herbs like parsley or basil if you have them.
Different Pasta Shapes Try this dish with ziti, rigatoni, fusilli, mostaccioli, or any other small tubular pasta.
Add Fresh Herbs Try adding fresh parsley or basil for an even more summery dish.
Different Protein In place of salmon, try adding some pan-fried or grilled shrimp or chicken.
How to Store
Cooked Penne al Salmone can be stored for 3 to 5 days in the fridge.
To reheat, place in a saucepan over medium heat and cook until it reaches the desired temperature. You can also heat the dish in the microwave, but I prefer the pan method to avoid any unwanted aroma.
See FAQ below for freezing recommendations.
Try half of a teaspoon of dried thyme or Herbs de Provence.
Cooked Penne al Salmone can be stored in the fridge for 3 to 5 days.
I do not recommend freezing cooked fish. If needed, freeze the past and sauce in one container and cook the salmon once you have defrosted the pasta. Cool down to room temperature before freezing and store for up to 2 months.
How to Serve
This pasta can definitely be a full meal on its own.
This is great with a pitcher of Cucumber Lemon Ginger Water with Jalapeño.
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If you're in the mood for more seafood, try these recipes:
Penne al Salmone
- Slice the shallot and garlic.
- Place a pot of salted water over high heat and bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, add pasta and cook to box directions. When cooked, strain and add a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking.
If Using Stainless Steel Pan for Salmon
- Place pan over high heat. Once hot, add oil and turn down to medium heat.
- When the oil is shimmering, add salmon skin side down until it is cooked ¾ of the way through and the skin lifts easily from the pan. Flip and cook until salmon reaches internal temp of 125°F.
- Remove salmon from pan and let rest on cutting board. Flake with a fork.
If Using Nonstick Pan for Salmon
- Place pan over medium heat. Add olive oil.
- Once shimmering, add salmon, skin side down until it is cooked ¾ of the way through. Flip and cook until salmon reaches internal temp of 125°F.
- While the salmon rests, turn heat on the frying pan to medium low. Add shallots, garlic, and more olive oil if the pan seems a bit dry. Cook until softened, about 2 minutes.
- Squeeze lemon juice into pan and add white wine. Deglaze the pan (scrape up the brown bits).
- Add tomatoes and thyme and cook for 15-20 minutes, until tomatoes are burst and create a sauce with the white wine and lemon juice. To speed up cooking, prick the tomatoes with a paring knife.
- Once the sauce is slightly thickened, taste for seasoning. Remove thyme stems. Add pasta and salmon to the pan, stir, and top with fresh herbs if desired.
- You can replace the penne with any short, tubular pasta, like rigatoni, ziti, or mostaccioli.
- Fresh thyme can be replaced by ½ teaspoon dried thyme or Herbs de Provence.
- Use any white wine that you would drink yourself - something light and dry will work well here.
- If you prefer your salmon well done, cook to 140°F.