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This lemony pasta with smoked salmon is a low-lift, 30-minute recipe

Ann Maloney

THE WASHINGTON POST – In her third cookbook, Pip Payne, aka the Slimming Foodie, writes that one of the biggest obstacles to eating healthy foods that you make at home is time.

It’s so true. In an effort to stop myself from going on autopilot and ordering out when I’m tired and hungry, I deleted food ordering apps from my phone so that I have to go to the app store and download them again.

That extra step makes me stop and think about cooking something like this lovely, lemony pasta dish that is just right for spring but adaptable to any season – and it can use up leftovers and perishable odds and ends of produce.

In The Slimming Foodie in Minutes, Payne’s recipes – all of which she claims come in at fewer than 600 calories – for the most part are excellent examples of how to streamline your cooking to make it work for you on a weeknight, especially on those days when you’re too harried to fuss over dinner.

For this pasta dish, Payne advises that the first step is to put a pot of water on to boil for the spaghetti. While the water comes to a boil and while you boil the pasta, you zest and juice your lemon, grate your parmesan cheese and cut smoked salmon into strips.

A few minutes before the spaghetti is ready, you drop frozen peas into the pasta pot to warm them up. Then you drain both together, reserving a little of that pasta water.

You return the pasta and peas to the same pot; add in the lemon juice, crème fraîche, parmesan, salmon, salt, pepper and a bit of that reserved pasta water; and stir it all up until everything has a bit of a sheen.

Dish the mixture out and sprinkle it with the lemon zest, fresh parsley if you have it handy and maybe a little more black pepper and you’ll have a scrumptious dish in less than 30 minutes.

Payne uses smoked salmon rather than fresh, which saves time and delivers great flavour, but if you have leftover grilled or pan-seared salmon, use that.

If asparagus is in season, she suggests greening the dish up with fresh spears, which you can cut into pieces and throw into the boiling pot along with the peas.

With short ingredient lists and efficient instructions, Payne’s recipes encourage home cooking by offering easy paths to getting dinner on the table, but they may inspire you, too.

With the format that this recipe provided, I’ve created a similar dish with a different flavour profile. While the pasta boiled, I cut up leftover roasted chicken. I tossed a half bag of frozen mixed vegetables in with the pasta. To the drained pasta and vegetables, I added the chicken chunks, crumbled feta and a dollop of Greek yogurt, and right at the end I tossed in a handful of wilting spinach. To finish, I sprinkled the dish with fresh dill.

I felt thrifty and virtuous making good use of leftovers, and the dish was delicious, too.

Cutting waste is something Payne promotes as well. In the back of her cookbook, she lists which recipes use what ingredients. So if you buy a big bunch of kale and don’t use it all in one recipe, you can look for another one that calls for it. She also offers tips for freezing and heating.

It’s just another example of her smart approach to cooking at home.


The original recipe called for one lemon, but we suggest increasing that to two for brighter flavour.

Storage: This dish is best eaten the day it is made but can be refrigerated for up to four days.

NOTE: This dish is best with crème fraîche, but you can substitute an equal amount of mascarpone or, in a pinch, Greek yogurt.


– One-eight teaspoon fine salt, plus more to taste and for the pasta water
– 12 ounces spaghetti
– Nine ounces fresh or frozen peas (if frozen, no need to defrost)
– Six ounces smoked salmon, cut into one-inch strips
– Four tablespoons crème fraîche
– Finely grated zest and juice of two lemons (see headnote)
– Generous one tablespoon (half ounce) finely grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
– Freshly cracked black pepper (optional)
– Handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, for serving (optional)
– One lemon, quartered, for serving (optional)


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the spaghetti and cook for about seven minutes. Add the peas and cook until the pasta is al dente, another two to three minutes. Reserve one cup of the pasta water and drain.

Return the spaghetti and peas to the pot and add the smoked salmon, crème fraîche, lemon juice, parmesan, salt and two tablespoons of the reserved pasta water.

Stir everything together thoroughly until the spaghetti strands are coated and the salmon is well distributed, adding more pasta water as needed.

Divide among four warmed plates or bowls, and scatter the lemon zest, pepper and parsley, if using, over the pasta. Serve with lemon wedges, if using, and more parmesan on the side.

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