Simple Seafood Pasta Formula

Okay, maybe “formula” sounds a little scientific, but this isn’t really a recipe so much as a guide.  I am not going to give any specific measurements or necessary ingredients, but I promise it will be as simple as the title claims!  I really like making pasta dishes that have the protein and vegetable all mixed in – a whole meal in one bowl – and with the weather getting warmer I am craving more simple fresh dishes and less heavy comfort foods.  Also, I have two little kids and a husband that’s always gone, so I don’t often have time to prepare elaborate meals, or have anyone other than myself to appreciate them.  A meal like this can easily be completed in under 30 minutes and everyone is happy.  Simple is the key to my survival as a “single” fisherman’s wife!

The most important part of this meal is the seafood.  The seafood is the foundation for everything else, so if you choose a quality fish, shellfish, or crustacean, the rest of the meal will fall into place.  You can pick any type of seafood for this dish: salmon, smoked salmon, shrimp, scallops, clams, crab, lobster, but these are only suggestions.  To keep my promise of a simple meal, I suggest using a seafood that requires minimal preparation.  You can grill a filet of fish and cut it into pieces, but it will probably be easier to just throw some shrimp or scallops in a pan with some butter or oil, steam some clams until they open, or chop up some smoked salmon.

The beauty of quality seafood is that the less you fuss with it, the better.  It would be a shame to cover up the fresh and subtle complexities of your seafood with a bold sauce or heavy seasonings.  The Italians are the masters of letting quality ingredients shine through simple preparations and it works for me too!

This is a dish I made recently with brown rice pasta, smoked salmon, zucchini, chives, and Parmesan.

Seafood Pasta Formula : Seafood + Pasta + Vegetable + Herb + Cheese = Awesome

1. Seafood: about one pound.  Make sure frozen seafood is thawed out.  If you are using…

  • shrimp, toss them in a pan with butter and a little salt until pink all over.
  • scallops, sprinkle with salt and sear in pan until golden.
  • clams, place in a pan on the stove top, add some liquid like water or wine, put a lid on and steam until they open.  Or go super-simple and open a can:)
  • smoked salmon, just needs to be cut into bite sized pieces.  If you are on a budget or don’t have access to fresh/frozen seafood, you could easily use canned salmon.

2. Pasta: any kind will do!  Cook about one pound in boiling salted water until it is al dente.  Drain it (saving 1/2 a cup of the pasta water) and toss it with olive oil.

3. Vegetable: at least one pound.  Use your favorite vegetable(s), or do what I do and use up whatever I have in my fridge.  Some good options are broccoli, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, swiss chard, onions, snap peas, or asparagus.  Use one type of veggie or use several, it doesn’t matter.  Chop it up into bite size and saute in some butter or olive oil until softened and slightly browned, but not mushy.  Tomatoes can be added raw if you prefer.

4. Fresh Herbs: It is best if the herbs are fresh not dried, but in a pinch, dried will do.  Some good ones are parsley, basil, chives, mint or dill.  It is best to choose just one.  Chop or tear it into small bits.

5. Cheese (optional): sprinkle some grated Parmesan (or other aged cheese), crumbled feta, or goat cheese on top.

Instructions:  Toss together your cooked seafood, pasta, sauteed veggies, and chopped herbs.  Add the reserved pasta water and drizzle with a little olive oil.  Stir gently and if the pasta seems too dry, add a little more olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Eat.

Optional additions: If you feel so inclined, you could also add…

  • crushed red pepper, to taste
  • garlic, saute a couple minced cloves with your vegetables
  • lemon juice, one or two tablespoons adds a fresh kick, and add the zest for even more zing

I know I gave you a lot of options there, so I hope that wasn’t intimidating.  I know some people prefer to follow an exact recipe, but my cooking style is a lot more spontaneous.  Plus, I think it is hard to go wrong with this formula.

Want some more help?  My favorite combinations are:

  • Clams+ Tomatoes+Parsley+Parmesan+Garlic (a splash of white wine really completes this dish)
  • Shrimp or salmon+Asparagus+Goat cheese (chevre)+Dill
  • Shrimp+Peas+Feta cheese+Mint

Want a recipe?  Martha can help.  Here is a great simple seafood pasta recipe…  with a video to illustrate…

Or check out Martha’s archive of seafood recipes and cooking tips.

If you have a favorite easy seafood pasta recipe, please share it!

7 thoughts on “Simple Seafood Pasta Formula

  1. That pasta looks amazing, Robin! I’m so envious of your access to fresh summer veggies… The produce in Sitka has been especially grim this summer, for some reason. Enjoy the B’ham goodness for me!

    • Oh man, I remember what it was like living in Homer for two years… Expensive bad produce. When we moved back to Bellingham I got giddy every time I went grocery shopping. Hang in there!

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