Pasta used to be a staple of my existence…as well as a comfort food. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of making fresh pasta with my father. He’d take out the pastry board, scoop out a heap of flour (he never measured), cracked in a couple of eggs and mix with two knives, just the way his grandmother had taught him.

Today, of course, I know that eating huge mounds of pasta isn’t healthy. But that doesn’t keep me from enjoying it—in moderation. My approach now is to make pasta an ingredient of the dish, but not the focus, and instead to load up on vegetables plus whatever added protein.

The recipe here could be mixed into any whole grain—farro, quinoa, barley, buckwheat, brown or black or wild rice, etc.—or with spiralized veggie noodles (you can buy them pre-spiralized in the supermarket, although I do it myself with a Vegetti, which takes up very little space in my cabinet)…or whole-grain or bean pasta…or mixed in with sweet potato (baked first and then cut into bites). Here, I used a gluten-free fresh egg fettuccini from Trader Joe’s, which cooks in only four minutes and (best part) doesn’t taste gluten free.

I also discovered that Trader Joe’s has a nitrite-free “ends and pieces” wild sockeye smoked salmon that is much less expensive than sliced smoked salmon and perfect for a recipe like this. I bought several extra packages to freeze. I don’t know if other stores sell similar items but keep your eyes out for it.

I use vegan “mayo” for my creamy sauces instead of real cream since I’m dairy free. For a dish like this, I want the extra thickness, which a nondairy milk doesn’t provide.

The smoked salmon and the capers really rule the day here, but feel free to get creative with your vegetables. Any vegetable will work here, so go with whatever you’ve got in the fridge or is on sale at the store.

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, halved and sliced
1 box (8 to 10 ounces) mushrooms (any variety), sliced, or 1-1/2 ounces dried mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, chopped
8 ounces smoked salmon, chopped
1 large zucchini, quartered the long way and then sliced
1 Tablespoon capers
Juice of 1/4 lemon
4 Tablespoons mayo (regular or vegan)
2 Tablespoons dry white wine
Black Pepper to taste

Directions:

Once you start cooking, this recipe goes very fast, so have all ingredients (onion, mushrooms, garlic, zucchini, smoked salmon) ready to go. In between all of these steps, you can cook your grain or pasta. Or cook up a big batch in advance and just serve out what you need.

If you’re using dried mushrooms, they need about half an hour to reconstitute. You can add some of the extra liquid to the dish or save it for a soup.

  1. Warm up a large stainless steel sauté pan on medium heat.
  2. While that comes to temperature, in a small bowl, mix together mayo, lemon juice, wine and capers.
  3. Add olive oil to the pan and swirl to coat
  4. Add onions to the pan, and sauté for two minutes
  5. Add mushrooms and garlic and cook another two minutes
  6. Add lox and turn up the heat slightly (I went from 5 to 6 out of 10). Cook about three minutes.
  7. Add the mayo mixture and mix thoroughly to distribute throughout the pan ingredients.
  8. Add zucchini and cook for about a minute…longer if you prefer it softer.
  9. If necessary, add a bit more water or broth (or the reserved liquid from dried mushrooms) to make it a bit saucier.

The smoked salmon adds more than enough saltiness to the dish, but I like this with a lot of black pepper. It’s best to let individuals do the pepper to their own taste at the table.