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Salmon Pasta in Lemon Garlic Cream Sauce

Salmon Pasta bathed in a creamy lemon pesto sauce is irresistibly delicious and on your table in 30 minutes! 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 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?
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4 servings



  • 1 pound salmon fillets
  • 1/2 tsp EACH salt, garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp EACH paprika, onion powder, pepper
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter cubed
  • 3 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil


  • 8 oz. fettuccine
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup prepared pesto
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions until al dente. Reserve 1 cup pasta water before draining pasta. Toss drained pasta with a drizzle of olive oil to keep it from sticking. Set aside.
  • 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.
  • 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. Bake broccoli and salmon at 400 degrees F for 12-15 minutes or until salmon is almost opaque throughout (internal temp of 125-135 degrees F) and easily flakes with a fork.
  • 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.
  • Stir pasta and broccoli into the sauce until well combined. Flake salmon into large chunks and toss with pasta (it will break up more when tossing), adding 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.



This creamy Salmon Pasta recipe is quick and easy to make but here are a few tips and tricks to guarantee runaway success:
  • 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.
  • 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.


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.