Smoked Salmon and Spinach Pasta Bake

Inspired by Tom Kitchin’s recipe

I will not lie to you: This recipe requires time, patience, and attention; but the payoff is totally worth it! This pasta bake will feed a crowd, and can be divided into two (one for now and one for later) or can be made and frozen for up to a month. And, aside from having an amazing recipe at hand, you also get to fine tune your bechamel-making skills!

This Scandi inspired recipe, to which I added my own American sensibilities, comes from the cookbook ‘Chefs at Home.’ It’s a great collection of what chefs were cooking in their home kitchens for their families during lockdown, and proceeds from the book go to Hospitality Action.. Check out both the book and the charity – like me, I hope you are inspired by both!

For the Bechamel:

  • 75g (⅓ cup) unsalted butter
  • 100g (¾ cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 950ml (4 cups) whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon grainy mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the vegetables:

  • 25g (1¾ tablespoon) unsalted butter
  • 1 small leek, washed well, and cut into thin half-moons
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 450g (1 lb) baby spinach, washed well and dried
  • Salt and pepper to taste

To assemble:

  • 500g (just over 1 lb) short twirly pasta, cooked and drained
  • 450g (just under 1lb) smoked salmon, cut into small pieces
  • 250g (2¼ cups) cheddar cheese, grated
  • 50g (½ cup) parmesan, grated

To get started:

  1. Make the pasta according to package instructions. While the pasta is cooking, prepare all your ingredients for each stage, ready to go.
  2. Heat oven to 180℃ (350℉)
  3. Lightly grease a 20x30cm (9×13 inch) baking dish or two smaller dishes and set aside.

To make the bechamel:

  1. Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and stir into the butter until they come together, then slowly add a bit of milk at a time, stirring between each addition. Do not add more milk until the previous amount of milk has been absorbed. Keep on adding milk a bit at a time until all the milk has been added.
  2. Lower the heat under the pan, and cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring continuously, until the sauce just starts to bubble or has thickened up.
  3. Take the pan off the heat, add the mustard, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Prepare the vegetables:

  1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the leek and cook for 3-5 minutes until softened add the garlic and cook for a further 30 seconds.
  2. Add the spinach, a handful at a time, stirring between each addition, to help the spinach wilt. Once all the spinach has been added, drain off any excess liquid.
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To Assemble:

  1. Add the cooked pasta to the cooked spinach and leek mixture in the pan and stir well to make sure that the spinach is evenly distributed.
  2. Add most but not all the smoked salmon, reserving some for the top of the pasta bake. Stir well once more, ensuring that the smoked salmon is evenly distributed.
  3. Add in most of the two cheeses, reserving some for to top off the bake, and stir well.
  4. Lastly, add the bechamel to the mixture in the pot and give it one final really good stir.
  5. Pour into prepared dish(s). Top with reserved smoked salmon and grated cheese.
  6. Bake in a preheated oven for 35-45 minutes until the top is golden brown and it starts to bubble.
  7. Serve hot out of the oven. If making ahead, cool completely before wrapping well and storing in the fridge for up to 2 days or in the freezer for up to a month. Bring the pasta bake to room temperature before reheating in a hot oven for 20 minutes.