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!


The Deconstructed Sushi Roll

This recipe has all the elements of a salmon sushi roll, but it is served in a bowl instead of a cylinder.  All the ingredients are chopped and assembled on top of the rice.  Unfortunately I can’t take credit for this invention, it’s called Chirashi, which means “scattered” in Japanese.  Traditionally it is made with sashimi (raw fish), but I make it with cooked salmon, or even canned salmon if I want a quick lunch.

This last time I made chirashi, I used leftover salmon from the night before, which I had glazed with soy sauce and brown sugar.  Here is my recipe for the salmon…

Soy Glazed Salmon

2 lb fillet of salmon, skin on

1/4 cup of soy sauce

1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed

2 TBSP olive oil

1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400°.  Place salmon, skin side down, in a shallow baking dish (do yourself a favor and put a layer of foil down first or you will be scraping that pan for a week!) Mix soy sauce, brown sugar, olive oil and pepper in a small bowl, then pour over salmon, making sure to coat all of the fish.  Bake the salmon in the center of the oven for about 15 minutes or until opaque all the way through.

As I said, I cooked this salmon for dinner the night before and used the leftovers for the chirashi the next day.  The whole point of the chirashi is that it is quick and easy, so feel free to use canned sockeye salmon.

Simple Salmon Chirashi Recipe

Photo: Leo Gong; Styling: Robyn Valarik

Get the original recipe from

Simple Chirashi

1 lb of cooked salmon skin removed, or canned sockeye drained

1 cup of (dry) white rice, cook it according to directions on package

1 cup sliced cucumber

1 cup cubed avacado

1/2 cup chopped green onions

4 small sheets of seaweed ( I use Trader Joes seaweed snacks, 99¢ a pack) torn into small pieces

2 TBSP sesame seeds

1/4 cup soy sauce (I like reduced sodium soy sauce)

2 TBSP rice vinegar

2 TBSP wasabi powder

1/2 tsp sesame oil

Divide the cooked rice between 4 bowls.  Divide the salmon into 4 servings and place a piece on top of each bowl of rice.  Arrange cucumber, avacado, green onion, seaweed, and sesame seeds on rice with the salmon.  Make the dressing by mixing soy sauce, rice vinegar, wasabi powder and sesame oil and drizzling it over each bowl.

I like to mix everything in my bowl together, but my kids like to keep everything separate and eat each piece individually.  However you eat yours – enjoy!

Eat More Seafood Part 3: Quick and Easy Recipes

This is my final post in my series “How to Eat More Seafood.”  My previous posts about working more seafood into your diet can be read here: How to Eat More Seafood: An Introduction, Eat More Seafood Part 1: What to Buy, and Eat More Seafood Part 2: You Can Afford It!

I get lots of questions from people about how to prepare seafood, and I know it can be intimidating if you aren’t used to cooking it (before I married a fisherman, I rarely cooked seafood because I was unfamiliar and uncomfortable with it).  So I’m providing some advice for those who don’t feel comfortable cooking seafood.  These are easy tips and recipes from the perspective of a mother (I need recipes to be easy and fast because I have to cook to the sounds of screaming, crying, whining, and an endless stream of questions like “what is that? Can we have pizza?  Why are you doing that?  Can I have this sharp knife?  Can I have candy?  What about this knife?”).  These are recipes that I actually use on a regular basis…

PASTA DISHES: Many types of fish, and pretty much all types of shellfish go great with pasta.  For example…

File:NCI steamed shrimp.jpg

  • Add a can of salmon, a can of clams, shrimp, or crab meat to any type of pasta sauce, red or white (it’s OK to use a jar of sauce, we don’t always have time to make our own!)
  • Make a simple sauce with olive oil, garlic, white wine, diced tomatoes (canned is fine) and parsley.   Throw in some shrimp or a can of clams, pour it over spaghetti or linguine and you’re good to go.
  • Add a can of salmon or tuna to macaroni and cheese.  My kids love this, so I add frozen peas to make it healthier.

BAKED or BBQ-ED: If you have any whole fish or a fillet of fish, there are endless ways to bake or BBQ it, just as long as you don’t overcook it.

  • If you are concerned about your fish drying out, make a foil envelope to enclose the fish in.
  • Put it on the BBQ on a piece of foil, or directly on the grate (skin side down), or in a pan in the oven (375° – 450° F).  Top it with any combination of herbs, onions, garlic and citrus
  • A classic combo is onions, lemon and dill (especially good on salmon).
  • Go Mexican with garlic, cayenne pepper, cilantro and lime.
  • Try Italian, with onions, garlic, sliced tomatoes, and parsley or oregano (feta cheese is greek, but it would go great with these flavors)
  • Spread a layer of pesto on your fillet, pop it in the oven, and when the fish is almost done, sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on then finish cooking it to melt the cheese.
  • Most fish can benefit from a little olive oil or butter and a generous sprinkling of salt.
  • Check your fish regularly as it cooks and try to pry apart the layers with a fork.  If the layers flake apart easily and the meat looks more opaque than translucent, it’s done!

FISH TACOS: This is one of my favorite ways to eat mild white fish.  Just cut the fish up into chunks, salt it, and fry it in some olive oil (garlic is good too).  Put it in a warm corn tortilla with shredded cabbage or lettuce, chopped onions, cilantro and squeeze on some lime juice.  Deliciously simple!

BIVALVES: I LOVE clams and mussels!  I am also lucky that I live close to a shellfish farm that sells them at a really reasonable price, but I understand that not everyone has access to fresh, live bivalves.  But if you are so lucky, this is my favorite way to prepare them…

  • Heat a couple tablespoons of butter and 1/4 cup – 1/2 cup white wine in a large frying pan or wide saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add as much chopped garlic as you want, more is better and you can’t really have too much.
  • Add a finely chopped tomato or a can of diced tomatoes.
  • Toss in a hand full of chopped parsley
  • Throw in a pound or two of live clams, put a lid on the pot and cook until all the clams open.  If one doesn’t ever open, throw it out, it was already dead.
  • Serve the clams and juice with a loaf of fresh bread.

Steamer clams, photo taken by Paul Keleher

Salmon Burgers: You can use cooked salmon if you have it, but I always use canned salmon, because it’s cheap and easy and I always have some in my pantry.

  • Mix one 7.5 oz can of salmon with,
  • One egg,
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs,
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion,
  • Juice and zest from 1/2 lemon,
  • A tablespoon or so of chopped parsley or dill
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Form into 2 patties and fry over medium heat in a little olive oil for about 5 min on each side or until browned.

FIND MORE SEAFOOD RECIPES!: I have these sites bookmarked on my computer, so I can reference them when I’m planning meals.  (in my sidebar I have more links to sites I use for recipes)

So that’s pretty much it… cooking seafood can be a pretty simple affair.  Simple enough to become part of your regular meal plan, with enough cheap options to find a spot on your grocery list, and with enough sustainable choices that you can feel good about supporting. Seafood is so important for your overall health, there really aren’t any good reasons not to eat more of it.

I would love to try and answer any questions you might still have about cooking seafood.  I’m not an expert by any means, but I love cooking, and I love talking about cooking, so shoot me a question.  If I don’t know the answer, there’s a good chance I know a fisherman who does.

Tis the season for soups

It is definitely winter now.  Here in Bellingham it is above freezing most days, but the constant rain makes it feel colder.  And it makes me want soup!  The nice thing about soup is that it is very forgiving.  You don’t need to get the measurements just right, you can leave out anything you don’t like, and add anything you can’t live without.

Here is another easy recipe from using canned salmon.  I like to add frozen corn or peas at the end because my kids like it, but feel free to personalize it however you like…

I just keep telling myself, in another week the days will start getting longer, so hang in there!

Easy Salmon Chowder

Switching to winter fare, this is a wonderful and easy chowder.  You can make extra soup base (not including the milk or seafood) and freeze it for an extra easy meal later on.  Incidentally, buying clam juice in 48 oz institutional sizes is a bargain.

Saute in a large soup pot until onions are soft.

1 TBSP butter

1 medium onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

When onions are soft, add roux (1 TBSP flour mixed with 1 TBSP melted butter)

Add the following and cook until potatoes are tender, keep pot at a steady simmer, but not boiling;

4 cups of clam juice

2 cups of water

3 or 4 cups of potatoes, scrubbed and cubed, with skin on

2 medium carrots, diced

1/3 cup dried potato flakes

2 TBSP finely chopped parsley

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp dried tarragon

Salt &pepper to taste

Add and warm to serving temperature, but do not heat to boiling!

1 pint of half & half or 1 can of evaporated milk (We use evaporated milk on the boat.)

2 -7.5 oz cans of  Redhead and/or Thinkpink, undrained, as is, in chunks

Serve with crackers and bread and a tossed salad. Yumm.


Salmon Coleslaw Recipe

This is a great recipe from using canned salmon.  Quick and easy and really healthy.  The Pure Alaska Salmon website has lots of other recipes using canned salmon, plus nutritional information, and info on fishing practices.

Shirley and Jim Zuanich own the company and are good friends of mine.  Jim is a life-long commercial fisherman and Shirley runs the company, selling their canned salmon to stores all over the country, including Whole Foods.  Shirley is an awesome friend to have because she knows firsthand how bloody difficult it is raising kids with a fishing husband.  Two seems impossible to me sometimes, but she did it with three kids and survived!

So this a Zuanich family recipe that originally called for shrimp, but canned salmon can be substituted beautifully.

Irma Beulah’s Salmon Coleslaw


  • 4 cups green cabbage, chopped fine, not grated
  • 1 – 7.5 oz can Redhead or Thinkpink, canned wild salmon, chunked
  • 1 green pepper, chopped fine
  • 4 green onions, chopped fine including green part
  • 1/2 can of black olives sliced
  • 6 sliced radishes, if desired


  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 TBSP white vinegar
  • 2 tsp white sugar

Mix and toss into salad, chill and serve.