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This salmon pesto pasta recipe comes together fast and makes an elegant meal that’s great for a quick weeknight dinner. You can either use jarred or homemade pesto!

Love pesto? Try my Creamy Pesto Shrimp Gnocchi or Chicken Pesto Pasta next.

salmon pesto pasta (with penne)

Why you’ll love it

Basil pesto and salmon go so well together, and the buttery pesto pasta sauce with a hint of lemon is easy yet impressive. I also think cream makes pretty much any sauce taste better, and it adds something special while mellowing out the pesto flavor a touch.

This salmon pasta with pesto is fabulously easy and ready in only 30 minutes. One lovely reader said that it should be on a restaurant menu! Flaky salmon with pasta is always a good idea and one that everyone will enjoy.

What you’ll need

  • Pasta – I chose penne to capture the tasty sauce, but feel free to use any kind of pasta for this recipe
  • Salmon – we’re using about a pound of fresh salmon
  • Garlic powder – along with salt & pepper, it’s to season the fish directly
  • Flour – for dredging to get that perfect crust on the salmon
  • Olive oil and butter – for pan frying and the base of the sauce
  • Chicken broth – for more savory depth
  • Pesto – I like using my Easy Homemade Pesto, but a jarred variety works! Use a brand you love since the pesto flavor really shines in this recipe. I like DeLallo.
  • Heavy cream – a hint of luxuriousness
  • Lemon juice – for balance and a little acidity
ingredients for salmon pesto pasta in prep bowls and measuring cups

Pro tips

  • You can buy salmon with the skin on or already removed. If you bought salmon with the skin on and don’t want to eat it, you can simply peel it off after you’ve done the searing step.
  • Some jarred pestos can already be quite lemony, so keep that in mind. You may not need to add the extra lemon juice to the recipe.

How to make salmon pesto pasta

This is an overview with step-by-step photos. Full ingredients & instructions are in the recipe card below.

pan frying salmon and making pesto sauce in a skillet

Cook the pasta al dente. Meanwhile, season the salmon with salt & pepper and dredge in flour. In a skillet, pan fry the salmon in oil and butter until golden on both sides. Transfer the salmon to a plate and pour out the fat from the skillet, but don’t wipe it out. Add the broth and pesto.

breaking up salmon in a skillet into pieces and tossing with penne to make salmon pesto pasta

Cook for about half a minute, scraping up the browned bits. Pour in the cream and lemon juice, letting it bubble for a minute. Return the salmon, and break it up with your spoon. Gently cook until the sauce has reduced and the fish is cooked. Toss with the drained pasta, and add a dusting of parm if using.

Tools for this recipe

Check out Natasha’s favorite kitchen essentials, gadgets, and cookware!

Substitutions and variations

  • I don’t recommend subbing the cream for anything else like half-and-half or milk because the acid in the sauce is likely to make it curdle. Coconut milk will make it too oily, so just leave the cream out if need be (you can always add more pesto to the sauce if you want).
  • Swap out the chicken broth for dry white wine (e.g., sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio) for a special twist.
  • If you’re looking to add some extra veggies to this pesto salmon pasta, chopped asparagus would be a nice addition. You could sear some for 5 minutes or so (until it’s tender crisp) after you’ve seared the salmon, then add it back into the pan at the same time as the salmon. 
close-up of creamy salmon pesto pasta

What to serve with pesto salmon pasta

Leftovers and storage

  • Store leftover salmon pasta in an airtight container for 2-3 days in the fridge.
  • Reheat over a gentle heat so the fish doesn’t dry out. You might need to add another splash of cream when reheating.
  • I don’t recommend freezing this one.
basil pesto salmon pasta in two bowls

Will you give this creamy salmon pesto pasta recipe a try? Questions? Leave me a comment below. If you made this recipe, tag me #saltandlavender on Instagram so I can see it!

salmon pesto pasta (with penne)
4.94 from 49 votes

Salmon Pesto Pasta

This salmon pesto pasta recipe comes together fast and makes an elegant meal that's great for a quick weeknight dinner. You can either use jarred or homemade pesto!
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 30 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients 

  • 8 ounces uncooked pasta
  • 1 pound fresh salmon
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Flour for dredging
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth or dry white wine
  • 1/3 cup pesto (click for my recipe or use your fav jarred variety)
  • 1/4 cup heavy/whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice see note
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese optional

Instructions 

  • Boil a salted pot of water for your pasta and cook it al dente according to package directions.
  • Sprinkle the salmon with the garlic powder and some salt & pepper. Coat it in flour on all sides.
  • In a skillet, heat the oil and butter over medium-high heat. Cook the salmon for about 3 minutes/side until lightly golden.
  • Take the pan off the heat. Remove the salmon to a plate and set aside. Pour the fat out of the skillet, but leave the nice browned bits that are stuck on the bottom of the pan (don't wipe the pan out).
  • Add the chicken broth and pesto and return the pan to the burner. Cook for about 30 seconds while scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
  • Add in the cream and lemon juice and let the sauce bubble for about a minute. Add the salmon back in and break it into pieces with your spoon. Reduce the heat and let it gently cook for another 3-5 minutes or so until the salmon is cooked through and the sauce thickens up a bit more.
  • Drain the pasta and toss it with the sauce. Serve immediately with freshly grated parmesan cheese if desired.

Notes

  • I don’t recommend subbing the cream for milk or half-and-half because the sauce won’t be the same, and they are likely to curdle. You can leave it out if you need to.
  • Some jarred pestos already have lemon in it, so if yours is particularly lemony, you may want to skip it.
  • If you have skin-on salmon and don’t want to eat it, you can easily peel it off after you transfer it to a plate (step 4).

Nutrition

Calories: 567kcal, Carbohydrates: 46g, Protein: 32g, Fat: 28g, Saturated Fat: 8g, Cholesterol: 92mg, Sodium: 349mg, Potassium: 709mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 768IU, Vitamin C: 2mg, Calcium: 68mg, Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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Hi! I’m Natasha.

Salt & Lavender is a recipe blog with a focus on delicious comfort food using everyday ingredients. Beat the weekday grind with hundreds of easy-to-follow and hassle-free recipes!

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125 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Loved, loved, loved this recipe!

    Has anyone tried adding fresh vegetables? Cherry tomatoes? Peas? Spinach?

  2. 5 stars
    I made this and followed the recipe to the T , even buying and using heavy whipping cream and not the half and half that I had in the refrig. I had lots of basil and made my own pesto. This was one of the best recipes and tastiest I have made lately…thanks

  3. 5 stars
    This recipe was super easy to make and so good! I added lemon juice and you’re right, it did end up a tad too tangy since I used a jarred pesto. Loved it anyway and will make more of this πŸ˜‰

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed it!! Yeah, I was kinda surprised how tangy the jarred pesto I tried was.

  4. 5 stars
    So easy and delicious! Can easily be scaled to make larger or smaller. This is a restaurant-quality dish!

  5. 5 stars
    Salmon and pesto…who knew it would be so good?!! Loud yums were heard all the way around when I served this and my husband even volunteered to do the dishes. Hooray and thank you!

    1. I think you could give it a try if you’re looking for a quick pantry meal, but it definitely will taste different.