20 minutes to make tender and flaky Salmon Pesto Pasta? It really is that easy! Spend just 5 minutes for prep and 15 minutes in front of the stove for a plateful of perfectly seared salmon fettuccine with blistered tomatoes in a deliciously creamy pesto sauce.
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Reasons to Make Salmon Pesto Pasta
- It’s quick! You could even season the fish and prepare the pasta ahead of time to make it even faster come meal time – though, honestly, this salmon pasta recipe is quick enough on its own that it won’t even be necessary.
- It’s the perfect balance of buttery fish and tangy sauce! Salmon has a unique, strong flavor. The pesto brightens the plate perfectly, and the pops of juiciness from the blistered tomatoes breaks bites up with vibrant acidity.
- It’s substitution-friendly – make this dish your own! Swap around types of noodles, veggies, and even the protein to make a meal that your family will love the most.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Salmon – Do your best to get filets of the same thickness so that you’re not flustered during the cooking process. Fish cooks quickly, and you don’t want to have to worry about burning anything!
- Pesto Sauce – You can buy this ready-made right from the shelves of the grocery store, but why not try making your own? It’s quick and tasty – and you’ll never have to buy it again!
- Heavy Cream or Half & Half – This is an optional ingredient for a creamy pesto sauce. Half & half is a good option if you want it just a tad creamy.
Pasta Alternatives for Salmon Fettuccine
We recommend choosing a long, thin variety that can become totally coated in the sauce and scooped up in heaping forkfuls – it just makes for the best pasta experience!
Some of the best alternatives for salmon fettuccine are spaghetti, bucatini, linguine, tagliatelle, and capellini. A special mention to pappardelle, which could also be great, but is a bit difficult to coil on your fork because of its wide, thick shape.
Fan of Fettuccine?
If you enjoy twirling creamy noodles onto your fork, we think you’ll enjoy our recipe for Fettuccine Alfredo with Grilled Shrimp!
Possible Recipe Variations
- Salmon Alfredo – Creamy alfredo or Bechamel cheese sauces can be used directly in place of the pesto in this salmon fettuccine recipe.
- Vegetarian Pesto Pasta – There are a medley of veggies that are delicious with pesto! In addition to tomatoes, try squash of all shapes and sizes, eggplant, and broccoli. Mushrooms are fantastic for maintaining a meaty texture as well.
- Use another fish – Flaky white cod, tilapia, halibut, and rockfish are other fantastic choices. Use what’s in season or what’s on sale… either way, it’s sure to be good!
Need a few more quick dinner ideas like this salmon pasta recipe?
Creating family favorite 30 minute meals is one of our specialties!! One of our most popular is a 20-minute rigatoni Pomodoro. If you’re not in the mood for pasta, maybe a plateful of blackened chicken tenders will do the trick!
Tips for the Best Salmon Pesto Pasta
- Reserve some pasta water for extra flavorful sauce.
The salted pasta water already has additional flavor from preparing the fettuccine. Additionally, the starch left behind by the noodles will help to thicken the sauce, and sort of “glue” the contents of the salmon pesto pasta together. Win-win!
- Be sure the cooking oil is hot before adding the fish.
Waiting for the oil to come to temperature and “shimmer” is key to getting a delicious, beautiful sear on the salmon! This can take up to 5 minutes, so be patient.
Cooked-through fish will be opaque and flaky – the flesh should easily pull away with a fork. This is a pretty surefire test, but you can also go by the internal temperature. The safe internal temperature for salmon is 145° F.
- Adjust the thickness and creaminess of the sauce.
The heavy cream in our pesto salmon recipe is optional. It definitely makes for a different flavor! It’s thicker, of course, with a slightly fatty, milky feel.
This is a pretty thick sauce in general! If it comes out too thick for your liking, just add more pasta water, a tablespoon at a time, until the consistency is the way you like it.
Salmon Pasta Recipe FAQ
Salmon is a delicious, flavorful, and healthy protein that is delicious with pasta. Many other varieties of fish taste great with pesto, too! Other good choices are steak, chicken and turkey.
It varies depending on the contents of the sauce. If the sauce is prepared with the cream, the total calories per serving is 710. Without the cream, the total calories per serving is 678.
This is, of course, with the exact ingredients that we use. Please note that the exact calorie count will depend on the ingredients you use when preparing salmon pasta at home!
Storing and Reheating
Leftover salmon fettuccine can be stored in an airtight container for up to 4 days. And this is a meal that I absolutely love to have for lunch the next day. The pasta soaks up the sauce even more, making it extra flavorful.
It’s tasty cold, but you can also reheat it safely in the microwave in short, 20 to 30 second intervals in the microwave. You may want to reheat the fish and pasta separately so as not to risk overcooking the fish.
Salmon Pesto Pasta
- stockpot - for cooking pasta
- cast iron skillet - or heavy bottomed stainless steel pan
- 1 ½ pounds salmon fillets six 4-ounce filets of same thickness
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt or more/less, to your taste
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or more/less, to your taste
- 1 pound uncooked fettuccine or other pasta of your choice
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil or avocado oil
- 1 cup grape tomatoes or other bite-sized tomatoes
- 1 clove garlic minced (1 teaspoon minced)
- ½ cup pesto sauce homemade or store bought
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- ¼ cup heavy cream or Half & Half (optional, for a creamy pesto sauce)
- ½ cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese or Romano cheese
- 6 large basil leaves finely chopped
- Use salt and pepper to season both sides of salmon. Set aside.
- Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add pasta and cook to al dente (about 2 minutes less than the cooking time shown on the package). When pasta is finished cooking, reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta in a colander and set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat oil in a large cast-iron (or other heavy bottomed skillet) over medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes, or until oil shimmers. This will help develop a good sear on the outside of the salmon. Add tomatoes to the shimmering oil; Let them cook, undisturbed, for 1 to 2 minutes, until the tomato skins begin to blister.
- Using a wooden spoon or heat-resistant spatula, move the tomatoes to the one side of the skillet. Arrange the salmon filets in the available space of the pan.Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, then use a spatula to flip the filets over, toss or stir the tomatoes, and continue cooking for another 2 minutes.Stir in minced garlic and cook for another 1 minute.
- Salmon should be seared on the outside and opaque and flaky inside. Add the salmon to a serving plate and cover it with foil. Transfer the blistered tomatoes to a bowl and set aside to add to the cooked pasta.Pour out any grease in the skillet and return the pan to the stove on low heat.
- Add pasta to skillet, along with pesto sauce and lemon juice, and stir to combine. For a creamy sauce, stir in optional heavy cream. Otherwise, slowly stir in half (1/4 cup) of the reserved pasta water.*If you prefer a thinner sauce, continue adding pasta water, a tablespoon at a time, until it's to your liking.Stir in the blistered tomatoes and toss gently to combine.
- Divide the pasta between 6 plates, sprinkle each with freshly shredded parmesan cheese, then place a salmon filet on top. Garnish with freshly chopped basil, if desired.
- Nutrition shown is for one serving, without cream in the sauce. If using cream, total calories per serving = 710, total fat = 34 grams, and saturated fat = 10 grams.