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Light Lemon Garlic Pasta with Salmon

Get into summer full swing with this light lemon garlic pasta with salmon. Full of fresh, summer flavors!

Here’s one of my favorite light, summery, sunny type pastas. This light lemon garlic pasta with salmon also has the good fortune of being healthy! It’s all about simplicity and freshness. With fresh basil, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, capers and salmon, you practically have summer on a plate.

Get into summer full swing with this light lemon garlic pasta with salmon. Full of fresh, summer flavors!

And to top it off, for a tiny bit of decadence, we’ll sprinkle some Parmesan loving on it. There’s no cream sauce to carry it so this is all about the goodness and tastiness of high quality olive oil mixed with fresh, awesome flavors.

Shall we?

Get into summer full swing with this light lemon garlic pasta with salmon. Full of fresh, summer flavors!

Start off by cooking the pasta. You can use any kind of pasta you like. Spaghetti, linguine, fettuccine, pappardelle or tube-type pastas. I went with rigatoni for this recipe. If you want it even healthier, sub whole wheat pasta instead.

While the pasta cooks, season your salmon fillets with salt and pepper to taste and bake it until cooked. Baking and cutting the salmon later will result in flakier salmon bits. If you want your salmon to have more form, try cubing it while it’s raw and pan-frying it in olive until cooked about 3-4 minutes per side. However you decide to prep your salmon, make sure to flake or cube it into bite-sized pieces so there’s enough to go around later.

Get into summer full swing with this light lemon garlic pasta with salmon. Full of fresh, summer flavors!

Mince the garlic, chop the basil and get your lemon rind ready while the pasta and salmon cooks. As usual, I’m gonna advocate using a microplane for grating your rind and Parmesan cheese. It’s worth it.

Drain the pasta and mix it all up with some good quality olive oil. You’ll want something high quality because this will be the ‘sauce’ that binds the flavors together, so it has be delicious. I used extra virgin olive oil here. If you don’t really know the difference between regular olive oil, virgin olive oil and extra virgin olive oil, here’s a great guide explaining it. But long story short, extra virgin is the way to go for tossing, dressing and dipping.

Get into summer full swing with this light lemon garlic pasta with salmon. Full of fresh, summer flavors!

Add some fresh basil leaves to the pasta too. I don’t know about you but I love the scent and taste of fresh basil leaves. It’s one of my favorite herbs. Throw in some freshly minced garlic too and salt and pepper to taste, then toss the pasta to mix. If you feel you need more olive oil, go ahead and add another tablespoon or so.

Then we add fresh lemon juice, zest and capers to the pasta for some lemony flavor. Yum. By now the salmon should be cooked, so flake it or if you cubed it before, simply add it to the pasta. Cubing it prior to cooking makes it firmer, so you can toss the pasta and salmon with more gusto. If you flake it after baking it, be gentle during the tossing so you don’t end up with salmon shreds. If you don’t mind salmon shreds, toss away!

As usual, baking time of the salmon will vary depending on how thick your fillet is. The standard rule of thumb is to cook for 10 minutes per inch of thickness which is measured from the salmon’s thickest point. If you start getting whitish stuff, you’ve cooked it too long.

Get into summer full swing with this light lemon garlic pasta with salmon. Full of fresh, summer flavors!

And you’re ready to serve. Now the fun part begins by plating the pasta and topping it with freshly grated or shaved Parmesan cheese. I prefer shaved cause every now and then I find a Parmesan shaving and it feels like you’ve discovered some treasure. Also, if you happen to like olives, this pasta really goes well with it!

Happy eating!

PS: If you enjoy the pairing of lemon with salmon, try out lemon and parmesan crusted salmon.

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Get into summer full swing with this light lemon garlic pasta with salmon. Full of fresh, summer flavors!

Light Lemon Garlic Pasta with Salmon


  • Author: The Cooking Jar
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 20 mins
  • Total Time: 30 mins
  • Yield: 8

Ingredients

  • 16 oz. rigatoni/pasta
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lb. salmon fillet
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons capers
  • Parmesan cheese, shaved or grated

Instructions

  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions
  2. Meanwhile, season salmon with salt and pepper to taste and bake at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, depending on thickness
  3. Once the pasta is cooked, drain and toss with garlic, olive oil, basil and season with salt and pepper to taste
  4. Add lemon juice, zest and capers to the pasta and toss to mix
  5. Flake the salmon into bite-size pieces
  6. Gently toss salmon with the pasta
  7. Dish and serve hot topped with freshly grated or shaved Parmesan cheese

Notes

*If reheating and the pasta is dry, add more olive oil after reheating it to moisten it up.

Get into summer full swing with this light lemon garlic pasta with salmon. Full of fresh, summer flavors!

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60 Comments

  • Reply
    Dorothy Dunton
    June 20, 2015 at 12:55 PM

    Hi Farah! The minute I saw the title of this dish I thought what a great meal this would be, especially in hot weather! I love adding capers to fish and chicken dishes!

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      June 22, 2015 at 3:11 PM

      It’s really one of my favorite non-creamy pastas, Dorothy. We also like adding in some olives every now and then when we have them!

  • Reply
    FoodGeekGraze
    August 13, 2015 at 1:10 AM

    farah, i am not sure if i told you i live in salmon country. i adore the simplicity and yummyness of your construct; i honestly can add capers and lemon to anything and lose my mind over it. i will be making this tomorrow. love love love

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      August 15, 2015 at 5:05 PM

      No, you didn’t but I really love your salmon collection on Pinterest. It gives me so many ideas! Hope you enjoyed this!

  • Reply
    FoodGeekGraze
    August 15, 2015 at 7:47 PM

    i ate it yesterday. i ate it again today. love love love is officially… loved loved loved.

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      August 16, 2015 at 1:04 PM

      That’s hilarious. Probably one of the funniest ways someone has told me ‘Made it, ate it, loved it’!

  • Reply
    Daniel
    May 21, 2016 at 3:13 PM

    I just made this pasta! It is really good! Thanks for the recipe.

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      May 23, 2016 at 4:15 PM

      Thanks for trying it out, Daniel! It’s one of my favorite light pasta recipes 🙂

  • Reply
    Mary Ann Cini
    June 14, 2016 at 8:03 AM

    Full compliments on this recipe Farah. Its simplicity and the flavours make it an absolute winner. you have explained it perfectly well and therefore I find nothing to add to its description. Thank you so much

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      June 23, 2016 at 2:12 PM

      You’re very welcome, Mary Ann!

  • Reply
    Mara
    June 30, 2016 at 7:50 PM

    Dear Farah –

    I have a bunch of lemons in my fruit bowl, a remaining filet of roast salmon from last night in the fridge, a fresh container of shaved parm, and a hankering for pasta. However, I do not have, and I do not even want, heavy cream, which I thought would be necessary to create a good dish with my ingredients. So I went online, thinking I would not actually find a solution and voila! How lucky I am to find you and your fabulous recipe. I know even before making it that it will be incredible! So I am off the kitchen and send you much sincere gratitude! I’ll check-in with an update tomorrow. Cheers, Mara

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      July 5, 2016 at 1:51 PM

      Heya Mara! I’ve always associated salmon with something healthy so heavy cream paired with salmon doesn’t work for me. I’m super glad you managed to find a recipe to compliment your leftovers! Now I’m curious about what search words you used to find it. Must have been super long! 😉

  • Reply
    Mara
    July 1, 2016 at 2:47 PM

    Nothing could have been easier, simpler, more delicious and healthy than this great dish which I served hot last night and turned into a salmon pasta salad for lunch today. I am quite inspired by your recipe, Farah, and can’t wait to try variations such as shrimp and chopped fresh tomatoes with your base of lemon, capers, garlic,basil, and olive oil. Thank you so much –
    Mara

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      July 5, 2016 at 1:55 PM

      Thank you for coming back to let me know how you liked it, Mara. I’m always happy to hear a recipe worked out for someone. Shrimp will be wonderful, I can imagine it chilled tossed in lemon, parsley, salt and pepper and maybe some honey to balance out the tartness. Yummy!

  • Reply
    Charlie
    July 24, 2016 at 7:17 AM

    Hi,
    Can I make this with frozen salmon? Plan to cook in bulk then freeze, now sure if the basil will survive, should I sub it with pesto?
    Thanks,

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      July 24, 2016 at 2:01 PM

      Yes you can. Just thaw the salmon well before cooking it. The basil most definitely will lose its taste, so a little pesto should work with a caveat. Mixing it all with the pasta will alter the taste a little as opposed to strong, isolated bites with basil. Or you can add fresh basil every time you heat up a meal. Hope this helps!

  • Reply
    Erica
    July 25, 2016 at 12:06 AM

    Super yummy. I subbed green and black olive for capers but I had everything else on hand. Thank you!

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      July 30, 2016 at 10:25 PM

      Good call on the sub! Olives work perfectly with this as well 🙂

  • Reply
    Emma
    October 6, 2016 at 2:37 PM

    Delicious! Made this for the first time tonight and it is fantastically tasty and so simple and healthy too!

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      October 8, 2016 at 3:07 PM

      Thanks for letting me know, Emma! Every time I revisit this recipe to answer comments, I always feel like making it again. It’s such a light but rewarding meal and I always get excited finding some shaved Parmesan in there 😉

  • Reply
    Jan
    October 29, 2016 at 9:09 AM

    Found it on line and I made it last night. “Delicious.” Prepped in the morning and put in little ramekins. Came together in a flash while pasta was cooking. Did precut salmon into pieces and cooked for several minutes on the stove in a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Added calamata sliced olives and white wine to the sauce. It was light and heavenly. The shaved parmasean was a nice touch. Thanks, Farah, this is a keeper and I look forward to making again

    especially for small dinner parties. Wish we had leftovers!

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      November 10, 2016 at 1:23 PM

      You’re welcome Jan. I’m glad I’m not the only one enjoying the shaved Parmesan treasures!

  • Reply
    Ali
    December 4, 2016 at 3:05 AM

    Can I make this recipe with KETCH Canned Pink Salmon? I have tons of this however, don’t know how to use it or cook with it.

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      December 4, 2016 at 1:29 PM

      I’m not familiar with the brand so you’ll have to check if it’s cooked or not. If it’s cooked, I would just heat it up and add it to the pasta at the end, if not, cook it over the stove top of whatever cooking instructions they suggest on the can. And if it has skin, remove any skin. Good luck!

      • Reply
        Ali
        December 9, 2016 at 1:12 AM

        Hey, how much 1/2 lb of salmon in terms of 100g cans of fish?

        • Reply
          The Cooking Jar
          January 23, 2017 at 4:25 PM

          Sorry for the late reply, Ali. I’ve been playing catch up since Thanksgiving! 1/2 lb. should be 226 grams is what a conversion tells me. So 2 cans for 1/2 lb. The recipe calls for 1 lb though so I would use 4 cans for that. Good luck!

  • Reply
    Josie
    February 5, 2017 at 2:05 AM

    What a devine summer meal! So fresh and tasty. Loved it!

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      March 26, 2017 at 3:03 PM

      Thank you, Josie! I’m happy you liked it 🙂

  • Reply
    Brent and Toni
    March 23, 2017 at 11:55 PM

    Hi Farah! We just made your recipe and LOVED IT. So simple yet so delicious. We did add a scandalous lil’ parmesan cheese sprinkle and it was totally outrageous. Thanks!

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      March 26, 2017 at 3:05 PM

      I love it! Living life on the edge 😉

  • Reply
    Erin
    May 15, 2017 at 4:59 PM

    This is just what I was looking for, no cream, no sour cream, just nice and light but not wimpy, I have 3 guys to feed.

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      May 23, 2017 at 8:31 PM

      Hope it filled them up, Erin!

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