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Penne with Smoked Trout, Cream and Asparagus

The Splendid Table (Recipe by Sally Swift)

Serves 4 as a main course

Moist chuncks of smoked fish, nubs of tender asparagus and handfuls of fresh herbs come together in this pasta that sings of spring. All you have to do is assemble the ingredients, boil the pasta and toss everything together in what is essentially an uncooked sauce. Best prepared and eaten immeditately.

1 lb. penne pasta

1/2 lb. asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces, tough ends discarded

Extra-virgin olive oil

6 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 lb. smoked trout, broken into bite-size pieces (bones removed)

1 cup tightly packed mixed fresh herbs like dill, basil, tarragon, chives, mint and thyme (any combination will work), roughly chopped, plus 1/4 cup more for garnish

1 Grated zest of 1 large lemon, plus lemon juice as needed

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Bring 6 quarts of heavily salted water to a boil in an 8-quart pot.

2. Drop the pasta into the boiling water. Add the asparagus 1 minute before the pasta is done (check the box for timing). Once the pasta is tender but still has a little bite (al dente), scoop up 1/2 cup of the pasta water and set aside. Immediately drain the pasta and asparagus in a colander.

3. Return the empty pasta pot to the burner and reduce the heat to medium-low. Film the pot with olive oil and add the garlic, sautéing until just fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the cooked pasta and asparagus and the cream, and toss until blended over the heat, about 10 seconds.

4. Add the smoked trout, 1 cup of the fresh herbs, and the grated zest and gently toss. Add small amounts of hot pasta water if more sauce is needed. Taste and season with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice to brighten it.

Serve in individual bowls with a garnish of additional fresh herbs on top.


Sally Swift is the managing producer and co-creator of The Splendid Table. Before developing the show, she worked in film, video and television, including stints at Twin Cities Public Television, Paisley Park, and Comic Relief with Billy Crystal. She also survived a stint as segment producer on The Jenny Jones Show.

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