Full of fresh flavours and blanketed with a layer of crispy golden crumbs, this delicious vegetable and salmon pasta bake is simple to make but fancy enough to serve on YomTov.
It’s nearly Shavuot, and I think I’m finally ready to talk about what happened at Pesach.
Or rather, what didn’t happen.
The best laid plans…
We were supposed to go to Israel for Pesach. My whole family was going to be there – my Mum, my brothers, their wives and children. We had hotels booked and trips planned and meals with friends in the diary. We had been looking forward to the trip for weeks. Months, even.
And we were all packed and ready to go. Suitcases waiting by the front door. Taxi booked. Travelling clothes laid out ready for the morning.
You know what’s coming, right?
With just hours to go before our flight, I got sick. And I mean really sick.
I’ll spare you the details, but one thing was certain, we weren’t going anywhere.
Imagine her disappointment
Poor Kipper, my daughter, was devastated. She had been abuzz with anticipation of seeing all her cousins, and visiting the Dead Sea, and eating in restaurants ON PESACH! There were tears, there was wailing. There may have been the seven stages of grief.
I hope one day she can forgive me.
But now that we were stuck at home, having done no Pesach cleaning, no preparation, and no shopping, my poor DH had to spring into action. (I was quarantined in the bedroom.) The kitchen received the most cursory but “good enough” clean. A few phone calls garnered him and Kipper invitations for Seder and yomtov lunch. And he headed to Sainsbury’s to buy emergency rations to see us through at least until chol hamoed.
We ate a lot of matza with jam. And eggs, in variety. Also ready-made fishballs, salad, and potatoes in numerous not-very-inventive guises. Exciting, innovative Pesach fare it certainly was not, but it was only a week, and we definitely didn’t starve. To be honest, I wasn’t eating very much anyway, as my insides were still pretty dodgy, so it all worked out.
And those canned macaroons actually aren’t that bad!
Unexpected item in the cooking area…
But, DH’s last-minute, adrenaline-fuelled, frantic emergency Sainsbury’s dash left us with a few random items that are still hanging around, weeks after the festival. One of those things was a can of salmon.
I rarely buy canned salmon, I think because it’s the sort of thing my grandma would have used, which isn’t a bad thing, but it just seems a bit old fashioned by association. So it was sitting in the cupboard looking at me, challenging me, and finally as we approach Shavuot I’ve managed to outsmart it.
One night a week we always have a pasta bake, and the canned salmon was a perfect addition.
Tasty and nutritious!
Canned salmon is actually a much underrated food – it’s high in Omega 3 fatty acids, rich in protein, and contains high amounts of vitamin D, vitamin B12, calcium and phosphorus. And it also tastes pretty good! You can just mash it up with mayonnaise as a sandwich filling (like tuna) or you can put it to use in a delicious pasta dish, like I’ve done.
I used fresh herbs to compliment the flavour of the fish, and plenty of vegetables to make sure this salmon pasta bake didn’t require any accompaniment but was a complete meal in itself. The garlic crumb topping added another layer of flavour but also gave a lovely crispy golden top without the addition of any more cheese – arguably healthier, who knows?
As a measure of how delicious this vegetable & salmon pasta bake was, I’ll just say that not only did Kipper – the world’s slowest eater – clear her plate at roughly the same time as her Dad and me (!) she also went on to devour a generous second helping. And she asked for the leftovers in her lunchbox the next day.
Good enough for guests
I made this broccoli, tomato & salmon pasta bake for a random weeknight dinner, but it’s totally fancy enough to serve as part of a yomtov meal on Shavuot, for instance. It’s deliciously dairy, full of fresh flavours, and looks beautiful when it emerges from the oven under its blanket of golden crumbs. Plus, you can assemble it in advance and refrigerate until you’re ready for it. Then simply pop it into the oven for around 45 minutes and Bob’s your uncle. Crispy, golden, salmon-y deliciousness. Yum.
I’d never have made this salmon pasta bake if we’d gone to Israel. Maybe that will help Kipper to forgive me..
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Broccoli, tomato and salmon pasta bake
- 200 g penne or other short pasta (approx. 2 cups)
- 300 g broccoli florets (approx. 1 medium broccoli)
- 25 g butter (2 tbsp)
- 10 g flour (1 tbsp)
- 350 ml milk (1 1/2 cups)
- 85-100 g grated cheese (approx. 1 cup)
- 200 g tin salmon
- 100 g cherry tomatoes (approx. 2/3 cup)
- 3 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
- 1-2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
- 1-2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tsp ground black pepper (or to taste)
For the garlic butter crumb topping
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tsp melted butter
- 15 g panko crumbs (2 tbsp)
Preheat the oven to 180C (350F)
Boil the penne in plenty of water according to the directions on the packet. Add the broccoli florets for the last 4 minutes of cooking. Drain thoroughly.
While the pasta is cooking, make the béchamel sauce:
Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the flour and mix well, then cook, stirring for about a minute.
Add the milk a little at a time, stirring or whisking constantly to prevent the sauce from burning or lumps from forming. Once all the milk is added, continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture bubbles up and thickens slightly.
Remove from the heat and stir in the grated cheese. Set aside.
Drain the salmon and careful remove any skin or large bones (small bones can be left in - they are very soft and a good source of calcium and phosphorus!). Gently flake into pieces.
Halve the cherry tomatoes. Finely dice the drained sun-dried tomatoes.
Carefully combine the drained pasta, broccoli florets and béchamel sauce, then gently stir in the salmon, tomatoes, sun-dried tomato pieces, chopped herbs and black pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Transfer the mixture to a baking dish and gently level the surface.
To make the garlic butter crumb topping, crush the garlic clove and mix with the melted butter and panko crumbs. Sprinkle over the pasta mixture.
Bake the dish at 180C for 30-45 minutes until golden brown on top and bubbling hot. Serve immediately!