This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.
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!
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
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
What to serve with pesto salmon pasta
- All it really needs is a slice of fresh crusty bread, a dinner roll, or garlic knots!
- Or pair it with a salad for a fresh complement. Try my Super Simple Parmesan Arugula Salad, or go all out with a Caesar salad with my 10-Minute Caesar Dressing. Want a totally different salad option? Try this Strawberry and Spinach Salad with mango dressing.
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.
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
- 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
- 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.
- 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 information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
© Salt & Lavender Inc. Content and photographs are copyrighted. Sharing this blog post is much appreciated, but copying and pasting full recipes without authorization to social media is strictly prohibited.