Some of the most inspired recipes start in the humblest ways. Take this pretty bowl of pasta. A number of its ingredients bear a striking resemblance to those in my recent savory matzo brei post. Well, that’s because not long after that successful experiment, I was in need of a quick dinner (as usual), and there lurking in my fridge were the leftovers: a half-package of smoked salmon, a half-carton of crème fraîche, and a bunch of garlic chives. I also had a bunch of plump farmers’ market asparagus begging to be used (and still astonishingly fresh after a week in the crisper), a chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano, and some goat cheese.

Within moments of my staring at the open refrigerator, the ingredients seemed to realign themselves into this dish. In the pantry, I found half of an open package of garganelli, one of my favorite egg pasta shapes to use with delicate flavors like salmon and cream.

Believe me, not every quick fix meal is worth repeating, but this one sure is. Here are my notes after dinner that night: Fantastic! Salmon’s nice smokiness went really well with asparagus but didn’t overwhelm. Beautiful colors. Just enough richness from half-container crème fraîche without taking over the top. Would be great with peas too, with or without asparagus. Meant to add an egg, carbonara-style, but forgot. Next time, try that!

Enjoy, and let me know how it turns out.

Garganelli with Smoked Salmon, Asparagus, Garlic Chives,
and Parmesan Cream

Makes 4 main-dish servings

Here’s the deal: You can use leeks or green garlic if you have them instead of the onion. You can use regular chives or green garlic in place of garlic chives. You can use any pasta you have on hand, but egg pastas (fettucine, tagliatelle, tagliarini, garganelli) are really great in this dish.

¼ pound garganelli
1 to 2 tablespoons butter
1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 bunch garlic chives, cut into ¼-inch pieces
4 ounces sliced smoked Scottish salmon, cut into bite-size pieces (1/2 to 1 inch)
½ cup crème fraîche
¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground white pepper
¼ cup fresh goat cheese or a piece of Montrachet-style goat cheese, optional

Put water on to boil for the pasta. In a wide pot large enough to accommodate all the ingredients, sauté onion with salt in butter and oil over medium heat until softened and translucent, about 7 minutes. Add asparagus and chives, season with salt and pepper and cook until asparagus is bright green and tender, 4 to 5 minutes. You can cover the pot to help vegetables steam a bit.

Reserve a bit of the pasta cooking water just before you drain the garganelli. Stir pasta into the vegetable mixture along with the salmon, crème fraîche, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Cook briefly over medium-low heat to blend flavors, adding a bit of pasta water if needed to smooth out the sauce. Spoon into pasta bowls and top each with a spoonful or slice of goat cheese, if desired.