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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

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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)
4.92 from 58 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.

© 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.

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Hi! I’m Natasha.

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4.92 from 58 votes (2 ratings without comment)

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142 Comments

  1. Debra says:

    4 stars
    Flavor is great! Only issue was the amount of sauce generated using the recipe doesn’t generate enough “sauce” to coat the pasta. By doubling all the sauce ingredients I was able to achieve enough sauce to ensure the pasta wasn’t dry.
    I used my favorite store bought pesto “Rana Basil Pesto”, sold through Fry’s here in Az.
    I will be adding this to my favorites.

  2. Liz says:

    5 stars
    I have made this multiple times! I love it and it’s great for my teen son. He was hesitant the first time I made it, (bc it’s not chicken strips) but tonight he ate it up!
    I use the good and gather organic pesto, the Barilla brand gives me heartburn for some reason. The GG brand is great though! I end up just using the whole jar bc I don’t measure out my pasta or salmon. Haha.

    1. Natasha says:

      I’m thrilled it’s a favorite! 😀

  3. Tina W. says:

    5 stars
    This was a great find for a weeknight! I was looking for something different to make with salmon and this did the trick. Easy, simple and delicious. My husband loved it!! I sautéed some onions and added asparagus. Two thumbs up!

    1. Natasha says:

      I’m so glad it was a hit, Tina! Thanks for your 5-star review!

  4. Danae says:

    5 stars
    Delicious recipe and easy to make! Definitely adding to our recipe collection.

    1. Natasha says:

      I’m glad to hear that, Danae! 😀

  5. Chris S says:

    5 stars
    I made this tonight and everyone loved it! Thank you for the recipe!

    1. Natasha says:

      You’re very welcome, Chris!

  6. Ja Lo says:

    5 stars
    Good recipe. Delicious.

    1. Natasha says:

      Thank you!! 😀

  7. Dafareal says:

    5 stars
    It was good. I used vegan goat cheese and added more chicken broth to it. Husband liked it. Butter burned on the skillet but everything else was good.

  8. JB says:

    5 stars
    Made this recipe and it is delicious. We had left overs last night and my husband said to me, put this on your make again list. That is a huge compliment coming from him. I consider him my food snob. I will definitely be making this more in the future. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Natasha says:

      Aww I love that!! I’m thrilled it was a hit in your home. Appreciate your review!

  9. Vicky Hobbs says:

    5 stars
    Outrageously good! Made it with your pesto recipe with fresh basil from my garden. Everyone loved it. Me too! Thanks.

    1. Natasha says:

      You are very welcome, Vicky! 😀 Thrilled to hear it!

  10. Michelle says:

    5 stars
    This was fast and yummy! I upped the salmon to 1.5lbs and doubled the sauce and pasta. My family loved it and my swimmer declared this a new fave to have before meets.

    1. Natasha says:

      Excellent!! 😀

      1. Carolyn Daugherty says:

        Can this be made gluten-free? Can I use gluten free flour?

        1. Natasha says:

          Hi! I am not an expert in gluten-free cooking, so I don’t know how gf flour behaves vs. regular flour. I’d probably just skip coating it with flour at all and perhaps if you think the sauce needs a bit of thickening, add in a cornstarch slurry at the end.