Salmon Pasta bathed in lemon garlic cream sauce is irresistibly delicious and on your table in 30 minutes!
This Salmon Pasta recipe truly is spectacular. From the creamy, luscious, flavorful sauce to the buttery seasoned, oven roasted salmon. It is decadence in a bowl perfect for date night or Valentine’s Day but easy and quick enough for every day! Roast the salmon and broccoli together while you whisk together the easy-to-make sauce then toss it all together-then drool. The resulting Salmon Pasta with its tender, buttery chunks of salmon enveloped in decadently creamy sauce spiked with garlic, lemon juice and pesto truly tastes better than the finest restaurant at a fraction of the price and did I say less than 30 minutes already?
Salmon Pasta Recipe
When it comes to easy, quick-cooking weeknight meals that taste restaurant delicious, pasta is often my answer. Add juicy, rich, buttery tender oven roasted salmon that literally takes minutes to cook and we have achieved Salmon Pasta that is super easy + super elegant + less than 30 minutes!
This creamy Salmon Pasta recipe truly tastes 1000X more intoxicatingly delicious than the sum of its ingredients! It definitely feels like we are cheating somehow, but I promise I won’t tell your Valentine how easy this dinner is! And on that note, if you are still looking for Valentine’s Day inspiration from sides, to salads to desserts then you will find it on my Over 100 Valentine’s Day recipes post complete with other Italian favorite such as World’s Best Lasagna, Chicken Parmesan and Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta.
Now back to this Salmon Pasta recipe, here are just a few more reasons you will fall in love:
MORE REASONS TO LOVE Salmon PASTA Recipe:
- FLAVORFUL. This creamy Salmon Pasta is seasoned at every level to achieve restaurant quality pasta. Seasoning just takes seconds but will transform your cooking and therefore the quality/enjoyment of every recipe you make. The salmon is spice rubbed with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and paprika, then drizzled with lemon juice and topped with butter before being popped in the oven. The sauce is infused with garlic, salty, nutty Parmesan, bright lemon juice and bright, herb-packed pesto.
- CREAMY. Rich, creamy, dreamy, flavorful sauce cradling every nook and cranny of buttery salmon and slurpilicious noodles. True comfort food.
- TENDER SALMON. The acid in the lemon juice tenderizes the salmon while the butter melts and soaks into the roasting salmon, sealing its juicy fate. Baking the salmon in the oven also produces juicy salmon every time as it cooks more evenly and is harder to overcook than on the stove.
- QUICK AND EASY. This deceptively easy Salmon Pesto Pasta can be on your table in 30 Minutes! Baking the salmon and the broccoli is a hands-free no-brainer. Now, just whisk together your dreamy sauce while the salmon bakes so it’s ready to receive your succulent, juicy salmon, tender-crisp broccoli and al dente fettucine.
- VERSATILE. This creamy Salmon Pasta is extremely versatile and works well with all sorts of add-ins. You can swap the broccoli or add to it with zucchini, bell peppers, mushrooms, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, etc. to suit your pantry, fridge or mood.
- LESS EXPENSIVE. You can feed the entire family for the same price as one restaurant entree!
What Salmon Should I use?
The star of this Salmon Pasta recipe is the salmon so don’t shortchange yourself by using the wrong type of salmon. You will want to use wild-caught salmon fillets for the very best flavor and texture. Here’s what to look for:
- Use wild caught salmon. Always look for wild caught salmon (preferably Alaskan) and avoid farm-raised Atlantic salmon. Wild caught salmon includes king, coho and sockeye salmon. King salmon is the richest tasting, but it is also the most expensive, so don’t feel like you have to buy it – the other varieties will also taste delicious.
- What Salmon should I avoid? Avoid farm-raised Atlantic salmon as it is fatty, less nutritious (due to its artificial diet), waterier and can bake up mushy.
- Can I use frozen salmon? You can certainly use frozen fillets; just take care they are wild caught fillets and you defrost them before baking. Wild caught salmon is always better than farmed salmon – fresh OR frozen.
- Where to purchase salmon? I usually purchase salmon at the seafood counter of my grocery store so I know they are fresh and can select fillets of uniform size. My salmon in this Salmon Pasta recipe, however was actually wild caught by my family in Alaska. Costco also has a good selection of salmon and even frozen wild caught salmon fillets in the freezer section.
- Do I use skin on or off salmon? You can use either! Since we are baking the salmon in the oven it really doesn’t matter. Place the salmon skin side down and the skin will peel right off once baked.
- Can I use leftover salmon? Absolutely! You can make this Salmon Pasta recipe with almost any leftover salmon as long as it’s not seasoned with Asian seasonings. Bake, grill or pan sear salmon for dinner one day then make this recipe the next!
What pasta should i use?
- Recommended pasta: Long sturdy pastas such as fettuccine or pappardelle. I love the long silky noodles cradled in rich, creamy sauce and they are also thick enough (as opposed to angel hair) to stand up against the salmon.
- Different pasta shapes: You may also use short pastas such as penne, campanelle, cavatappi fusilli, rigatoni, etc. if that’s all you have on hand but they don’t deliverer the same luxurious experience. Go fettuccine if you can.
- Pastas types: You can use classic fettuccine, whole-wheat fettuccine or gluten free fettuccine. I haven’t tried it with zoodles or spaghetti squash but I imagine it would work well.
What Ingredients for creamy salmon pasta sauce?
The sauce for this Creamy Salmon Pasta is super simple but exploding with intoxicating flavor. You will need:
- Olive oil. Use quality oil for the best flavor. You may also substitute with your favorite cooking oil.
- Butter. Use unsalted butter so we can control the level of salt. You may also substitute with olive oil.
- Flour. I use all-purpose flour but I’m sure gluten free flour would work as well.
- Chicken broth. Is more flavorful than just milk or heavy cream. Make sure you use low sodium broth so we can control the salt.
- Heavy cream. Is also called “heavy whipping cream.” Just ½ cup adds that something-something luxurious that elevates the entire dish.
- Parmesan cheese. Infuses the sauce with its fantastic salty, nuttiness to transform it into an Alfredo-esque sauce.
- Lemon juice. Brightness the entire sauce and cuts through the richness. You can use fresh or bottled, but fresh is preferable.
- Pesto. The pesto adds TONS of flavor to the sauce and transforms it into something otherworldly. You can use store-bought or homemade pesto.
CAN I MAKE THIS GLUTEN FREE?
Yes! It is actually quite easy to make this Salmon Pasta gluten free. First, use your favorite gluten free pasta. Next, swap the flour with your favorite all-purpose gluten free flour. You will also want to double check that your pesto is gluten free.
Do I have to use heavy cream?
Heavy cream adds body and richness to this Salmon Pasta, but if you’re trying to keep it lighter, then you can swap the heavy cream for half and half or milk whisked with 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch.
Can I make it spicy?
Absolutely! Add some red pepper flakes to the oil/butter along with the garlic and saute away!
HOW TO MAKE SALMON PASTA
SEASON SALMON. Add salmon to a piece of foil skin side down and fold foil up around salmon to create a boat (don’t cover); place on a baking sheet. Rub salmon with seasonings, drizzle with lemon juice then top with butter.
SEASON BROCCOLI. Line the remaining pan with foil (optional for easy cleanup). Add broccoli and drizzle with 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Toss to coat then spread into an even layer.
ROAST SALMON & BROCCOCLI. Bake broccoli and salmon at 400 degrees F for 12-15 minutes or until salmon is almost opaque throughout and easily flakes with a fork.
MAKE SAUCE. Meanwhile, melt butter in olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Sprinkle in flour and cook, while stirring for 1 minute. Turn heat to low and slowly whisk in chicken broth, heavy cream, pesto, and salt stirring constantly until smooth. Increase heat to medium high and bring the sauce to a simmer. Simmer until thickened, stirring often, approximately 3-5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and stir in lemon juice followed by Parmesan cheese until melted.
FLAKE SALMON. Flake salmon into large chunks (it will break up more when tossing).
ASSEMBLE. Stir pasta and broccoli until evenly coated. Stir in salmon. Add additional reserved pasta water or heavy cream if needed to reach desired consistency. Taste and season with additional salt, pepper and/or lemon juice to taste.
HOW DO I KNOW WHEN SALMON IS DONE?
It is critical to not overcook your salmon or it won’t be as juicy. You can test your salmon for doneness by sight and texture or with a thermometer.
As salmon bakes, it changes from bright pink (raw) to opaque pink. The outside of the salmon should be completely opaque but the center should still be a bit translucent, but not raw. Cooked salmon will also easily flake with a fork along the muscle fibers.
The most accurate way to test your salmon is with an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the salmon. The FDA advises salmon should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, HOWEVER, if you cook your salmon to this temperature it will be overdone because the temperature will continue to rise after baking.
Instead, America’s Test kitchen suggests cooking your salmon to about 125 degrees F (52 degrees C) to avoid dry, overcooked salmon. I usually cook my salmon to just 130 degrees F and the results are always perfect after a 5-minute rest.
HOW DO YOU THICKEN THE SAUCE?
The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. If it’s not as thick as you would like, you can either thicken with cornstarch or flour.
- Cornstarch: Whisk 1 tablespoon cornstarch with 3 tablespoons chicken broth with a fork until smooth then whisk it back into the sauce. Simmer until thickened. Repeat if necessary.
- Flour and butter: Whisk 2 tablespoons of flour with 1/4 cup chicken broth with a fork until smooth then whisk it back into the Alfredo sauce. Simmer until thickened. Repeat if necessary.
WHAT IF MY SAUCE IS TOO THICK?
The sauce can become too thick if its simmered at too high of heat or for too long. But don’t worry, it’s SO easy to fix! Simply stir in a little milk or chicken broth until it reaches desired consistency.
TIPS AND TRICKS FOR PASTA SALMON RECIPE:
This creamy Salmon Pasta recipe is quick and easy to make but here are a few tips and tricks to guarantee runaway success:
- Remove Salmon from the fridge: Never cook salmon cold straight from the refrigerator otherwise it will cook unevenly. Instead, remove the fish from the refrigerator about 15 to 20 minutes before you’re ready to start cooking.
- Dry fillets: Pat salmon dry with paper towels before seasoning to help the seasonings stick.
- Salt pasta water. You should always salt your pasta water – it is the one chance you have for the flavor to penetrate the pasta and enhance the subtle pasta flavor – you can taste the difference. Use 1 tablespoon salt for 6 quarts of water.
- Don’t overcook pasta. Make sure to cook your pasta just until barley al dente, meaning it has a bite, this is usually a couple minutes before the box says – so set your timer accordingly. You want to avoid over-cooking the pasta because it will continue to cook a little when combined with the sauce.
- How do you know when pasta is done? The only way to know when your pasta is done is to taste it! I remove a strand of pasta with a slotted spoon, rinse it in cool water and then taste. Don’t be tempted to bite into pasta straight from the boiling pot-you will burn your tongue!
- Use a large enough pot. Use a pot that is large enough to eventually hold all of the ingredients, including the pasta, salmon and broccoli, with wiggle room to comfortable twirl and toss without whipping sauce everywhere.
- Use freshly grated cheese. For best results and the BEST Salmon Pasta recipe, use ONLY freshly grated Parmesan cheese. It is much more flavorful and melts into silky oblivion unlike powdered or pre-shredded cheese.
- Use finely grated cheese. Grate your cheese on the finest holes – the small, prickly side of the box grater. We want to produce powdery Parmesan that looks like what comes in the store-bought containers with the green lid. Cheese that’s grated on larger holes will takes longer to melt and is more likely to clump.
- Continue to whisk until cheese is melted. Whisk until the cheese has completely melted over low heat – as long or as little time as required.
- Thin sauce if needed. If the pasta seems dry after it is combined with the sauce, stir in additional pasta water just a little at a time.
- Thicken sauce if needed. If the sauce is still too wet/runny after you add the pasta, gently simmer just until it has reduced enough to cling to the pasta.
- Don’t over-cook salmon. Take care not to overcook your salmon because it will only remain buttery, juicy and tender as long as it isn’t overcooked. It is better for salmon to be undercooked than overcooked in my opinion. Make sure to check your salmon at the early part of the doneness window, especially if your salmon is on the thin side. If your salmon is uneven like my fresh caught salmon was, you may need to remove the thin side from the oven before the much thicker side.
- Don’t flake salmon too small. The salmon will continue to break apart as it’s tossed in the pasta, so don’t break it apart too much initially or you’ll be left with super small pieces. You can also top the pasta with chunks of salmon if you prefer.
- Let the pasta rest before serving. Letting the dish rest briefly before serving allows he flavors to develop and the sauce to thicken.
Salmon Pasta Variations
This Salmon Pasta recipe with its scrumptious sauce can serve as a springboard for all sorts of variations. Here are just a few ideas:
- Swap protein: swap the salmon with sautéed shrimp, chicken or Italian sausage.
- Swap vegetables: swap the broccoli for other chopped vegetables such as zucchini, bell peppers, mushrooms, corn, peas, asparagus, etc. You can also add roasted vegetables directly to the pasta at the end of cooking.
- Add greens: stir in spinach or kale directly into the pasta to wilt.
- Make it spicy: sauté a pinch of red pepper flakes with the garlic for a pop of heat.
- Sun-dried tomatoes: replace the olive oil with oil from the sun-dried tomato jar and sauté chopped sun-dried tomatoes in the butter/olive oil for a minute or so before adding the garlic.
- Fresh or fire roasted diced tomatoes: sauté chopped fresh Roma tomatoes in the olive oil/butter or stir in fire roasted diced tomatoes at the end of cooking and heat through.
- Add Artichokes: sauté chopped artichoke hearts with the butter/olive oil before adding the garlic.
HOW TO STORE LEFTOVER SALMON PASTA
This Salmon Pasta will disappear in a flash but if you are fortunate to claim leftovers, they will keep for 2-3 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
CAN I MAKE SALMON PASTA AHEAD OF TIME?
You can completely make and assemble your Pesto Salmon Pasta ahead of time and gently warm (instructions below) or prepare elements in advance so it can come together super quickly at dinner time. That being said, it already is a super quick meal!
- Sauce: You can make the sauce 100% ahead of time and gently warm it over the stove with a splash of chicken broth or milk when you’re ready to use.
- Salmon and Broccoli: You can bake the salmon and broccoli ahead of time, but I would advise against this as salmon is juiciest if only cooked once. Instead, I recommend preparing the salmon and broccoli on the baking sheet, covering and refrigerating. Make sure to let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before baking.
- Fettuccine: You can cook the pasta al dente, drain with cool water and toss with a drizzle of oil to prevent it from sticking together. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
HOW DO I REHEAT SALMON PASTA?
This Pesto Salmon Pasta recipe reheats well in the microwave or on the stovetop, just make sure you cook your pasta al dente initially.
- Microwave: Add a splash of water to your individual serving; no need to stir it in, yet. Microwave for one minute, stir, then continue to heat at 30 second intervals until warmed through.
- Stove: For larger portions, reheat pasta on the stove. You will need to add a splash of water to thin the sauce as it will have thickened in the refrigerator.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH SALMON PASTA RECIPE?
Salmon Pasta is a show stopping entrée we love with crusty bread and a big salad. We also love it with:
- Bread: every pasta needs bread to ensure no sauce is left behind! We love Salmon Pasta with Garlic Bread, Dinner Rolls, or Garlic Parmesan Butter Breadsticks.
- Salad: The rich and creamy pasta pairs beautifully with a fresh, crunchy salad such as Wedge Salad with Blue Cheese Ranch, Cucumber Tomato Salad, Strawberry Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette, Apple Salad, Pear Salad, Roasted Butternut Squash Salad or Green Bean Salad.
- Fruit: Bright, fresh fruit is always a welcome side with pasta. Go as simple as grapes, melon, etc. or you’ll love Fruit Salad with Honey Lime Vinaigrette, Winter Fruit Salad with Honey Lime Poppy Seed Vinaigrette and Berry Salad in Honey Mascarpone, Tropical Fruit Salad,or Pina Colada Fruit Salad.
LOOKING FOR MORE SALMON RECIPES?
- Blackened Salmon with Creamy Cajun Sauce
- Chipotle Salmon with Mango Salsa
- Baked Greek Salmon with Creamy Dill Sauce
- Sheet Pan Fajita Salmon with Cilantro Lime Butter
- Asian Barbecue Salmon
- Cajun Salmon with Pineapple, Mango Avocado Salsa
- Sheet Pan Asian Chimichurri Salmon with Pineapple and Snap Peas
- Lemon Garlic Butter Salmon with Crispy Panko and Broccoli
- Sheet Pan Cashew Honey Soy Salmon
- Sweet and Spicy Asian Salmon with Blueberry Pineapple Salsa
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