Give yourself the date-night-out treatment from the comfort of your kitchen via this swoon-worthy Salmon Pasta. Tender flakes of salmon tossed in a creamy lemon sauce with sun-dried tomatoes and whole wheat noodles, this elegant recipe will leave you feeling like a 5-star chef.
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A Special Salmon Pasta Recipe
This easy recipe is decidedly low maintenance (thank goodness!), but it tastes special enough to make your evening feel like an event.
Ben and I intentionally chose to stay in for Valentine’s Day, and salmon is often on the menu (Balsamic Glazed Salmon is one of the first dinners he ever cooked for me).
Don your LBD (Little Black Dress) or your SSP (Super Stretchy Pants) and cook this meal for a special someone.
And yes, that special someone can absolutely, 100% be YOU!
Like my Seafood Pasta, this creamy salmon pasta recipe wants you to light a candle, pour a glass of your favorite wine, and turn on some music.
About this Salmon Pasta Recipe
While this pasta tastes rich and decadent, per usual I pulled out my wholesome tricks, so you can feel great adding it to your regular healthy meal rotation.
- As with this Healthy Shrimp Scampi with Zucchini Noodles, this salmon pasta has no cream.
- Instead, I used the pasta cooking liquid, lemon juice, and freshly grated Parmesan to make it luscious.
- To cook the salmon, I turned to my tried-and-true Baked Salmon, along with several of the tips shared in this comprehensive guide to salmon cooking temperatures. Feeling adventurous? Try this with my Smoked Salmon.
Put it all together: al dente noodles + divine cream sauce (no cream!) + tender, flaky salmon, and you have a weeknight dinner you’ll remember for many nights to come.
How to Cook Salmon Pasta
Think of this creamy tomato salmon pasta recipe like a lighter version of salmon alfredo that will make you feel comforted but not comatose.
To cook white pasta sauce from scratch without relying on heavy cream, be sure to reserve some of the pasta cooking liquid.
Its starchiness will help the sauce thicken, come together easily, and have great texture. This is key for the best salmon pasta without cream.
- Salmon. Tender, perfectly-cooked salmon pieces make this healthy salmon pasta feel especially elegant and add wonderful lean protein. Salmon is rich in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins.
- Pasta. I chose to use whole wheat pasta for its redeeming value, as it’s higher in fiber. Penne, rigatoni, or another similar pasta will work perfectly here. You could even try it with spaghetti or linguine.
- Lemon Zest + Juice. Gives this dish delicious brightness and acidity.
- Butter + Shallot + Garlic. The all-important beginnings of our salmon pasta cream sauce. A touch of butter brings richness, and the garlic and shallot help build deep flavor.
- White Wine. An important part of how you make salmon cream sauce for pasta. It helps deglaze the pan and create the liquid for the sauce. You can use white wine, chicken broth, or vegetable broth for this step.
- Red Pepper Flakes. Adds just the right amount of heat.
- Sun-Dried Tomatoes. Intense tomato lusciousness is packed into each of these little red jewels. Like in Tuna Pasta Salad, they make the dish feel extra special and add beautiful color.
- Fresh Basil. A touch of basil (or fresh parsley) adds freshness and Italian flair to the dish. Basil is also an herb that goes well with salmon.
- Parmesan. For that can’t-resist cheesy, nutty, yummy goodness.
- Bake the salmon at 425 degrees F for 10 to 12 minutes.
- Let the salmon rest, then break it into pieces. Cook the pasta. Reserve some of the pasta water before draining.
- Saute the shallot in butter and oil. Stir in the garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.
- Add the wine, zest, and juice. Let simmer for a couple of minutes. Toss the pasta noodles with the sauce, adding pasta water as needed.
- Stir in the tomatoes, basil, and Parmesan. Gently incorporate the salmon. DIG IN!
Serve this simple salmon pasta recipe with Sauvignon Blanc, crisp Chardonnay, Malbec, or Pinot Noir.
- To Store. This pasta dish is best enjoyed the day it is made, but it can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
- To Reheat. Very gently rewarm leftovers on the stovetop over medium heat or in the microwave.
- To Freeze. Freeze leftovers in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 2 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating. The sauce may separate a little once thawed, but it will taste delicious.
Meal Plan Tip
Bake the salmon up to 1 day in advance, and refrigerate it in an airtight storage container. Let it come to room temperature first, then add it to the recipe as directed.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Dutch Oven. Perfect for making this creamy salmon pasta recipe.
- Citrus Juicer. My go-to for juicing lemons and limes.
- Instant Read Thermometer. The easiest way to ensure your salmon is cooked through.
Time to treat yourself, the salmon pasta way!
Salmon Pasta Video
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- 1 pound salmon fillet* I prefer cooking salmon with skin on, though you can use skinless if you prefer
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil divided
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons, freshly squeezed lemon juice divided
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt divided
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper divided
- 8 ounces whole wheat penne rigatoni, or similar pasta
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 shallot finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic minced (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup white wine or low sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes drained and chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil plus additional for serving
- 1/3 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese plus additional for serving
- Place a rack in the center of your oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place the salmon in a shallow baking dish just large enough to hold it comfortably and pat dry.
- Drizzle the salmon with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 2 tablespoons lemon juice (you’ll need the zest of 1/2 lemon later on, so be sure to plan accordingly). Sprinkle the salmon evenly with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.
- Bake the salmon for 10 to 12 minutes for a 1-inch fillet, until it flakes easily with a fork and reaches 145 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. DO NOT overcook. If your salmon is thicker or thinner than 1 inch adjust the cooking time accordingly (I usually start checking it around 12 minutes, remove it a few degrees early, then cover it and let it rest to allow the carry-over cooking to finish the job). Remove to a cutting board or plate.
- Let the salmon rest 5 minutes, then with a fork, break it into large, bite-sized pieces. Discard the skin.
- While the salmon bakes, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta to al dente, according to package instructions. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain.
- While the pasta cooks, in a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven, heat the butter and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-low heat.
- Add the shallot and cook until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add the red pepper flakes and remaining 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.
- Add the wine, lemon zest, and remaining 1/4 cup lemon juice. Bring to a simmer. Simmers gently for 2 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed.
- Stir in the noodles. Toss the noodles so that they become coated with garlic-lemon sauce. If at any point, the sauce becomes too thick or dry, splash in the reserved pasta water as needed.
- Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes, basil, and parmesan.
- Last, gently stir in the flaked salmon, heating just until warmed through. Enjoy immediately, with a sprinkle of extra Parmesan and basil.
- *You can also swap the 1 pound salmon fillet with four, 4-ounce fillets. Arrange them side-by-side in the baking dish. Start checking the fish for doneness at the 8-minute mark, then adjust accordingly.
- Add capers as a final touch! They’re delightfully salty and briny!
- TO STORE: This dish is best enjoyed the day it is made, but it can be refrigerated in an airtight storage container for up to 2 days.
- TO REHEAT: Very gently rewarm leftovers on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave.
- TO FREEZE: Freeze leftovers in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating. The sauce may separate a little once thawed, but it will taste delicious.
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