Fill up a pot with water, place it on the burner, and turn it on. Put a lid on to speed up the boiling process.
Unpack the smoked salmon and - using kitchen scissors - cut into thin strips, ¼” to ½”.
Remove the thyme leaves from the stem but also keep a couple of stems with the leaves on for garnish.
Once the pasta water starts to boil, add a generous amount of kosher salt (about 1-½ tablespoons) and 8 ounces of penne. Cook according to the instructions on the package (or slightly less to keep it nice and al dente).
When the pasta has a couple of minutes left to go, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large saute pan over medium heat.
Stir in ½ cup heavy cream, about half of the salmon, and half of the thyme leaves. Don’t let it boil, just simmer for a minute.
Add ½ cup of pasta water, ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, and ½ teaspoon kosher salt and gently cook for about four minutes. Stir a few times.
Taste and add more salt if necessary but don’t forget: by adding the rest of the uncooked smoked salmon before serving, that will add a little more saltiness anyway.
Drain the pasta and toss into the saucepan with the sauce. Give it a gentle stir until the penne is evenly covered.
Divide among two plates (for a main course) or four plates (for an appetizer) and top with the remaining salmon and thyme leaves.
Serve immediately. I like to have it with a couple slices of french baguette and maybe a nice glass of unoaked chardonnay.