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Light Lemon Garlic Pasta with Salmon

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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 1x
Scale

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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79 Comments

  • Reply
    Deb
    July 6, 2018 at 7:18 AM

    This great a great recipe, like other readers I wanted a combo without cream(s). All 3 of us loved it and it’s a keeper. My only change was to add about 1 TB of butter and doubled the garlic, because, well, butter & garlic. And used maybe a TB of dried basil since we didn’t have fresh. My husband and I sprinkled a little crushed hot pepper after serving. We make lemon garlic shrimp often and will use this sauce for that too

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      December 18, 2018 at 3:37 PM

      I have made this several times this year and I’ve found I love doubling the garlic and fresh basil ratio. So much kick! Lemon garlic shrimp sounds delicious 😉

  • Reply
    Julie
    July 6, 2018 at 10:39 PM

    I made this using fusilli pasta, really fruity olive oil and leftover salmon. It was delicious. I especially love the almost no cooking; other than the pasta, there was no cooking involved. Since the weather was exceptionally hot today, this was a plus. Light and full of flavor, it’s a perfect summer meal. I will make this again for sure.

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      December 18, 2018 at 3:41 PM

      It’s a great way to re-purpose leftover salmon. Or if you have a ton of salmon from that trip to Costco. Since my Parmesan wedge that I use for Parmesan shavings needed to be used up, I made this a lot this year. I found Gourmet Garden dried basil (which still smells fresh) in tubs that kept very well so I had that on standby too for whenever we wanted to whip this up for a quick meal.

  • Reply
    Chery hayes
    July 18, 2018 at 8:50 PM

    Thank you. Super healthy, subbed fresh dill for capers, but an extra squeeze of Meyer lemon. We liked it a lot!

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      December 18, 2018 at 3:43 PM

      I love fresh dill. I pair it a lot with smoked salmon on crackers over chives cream cheese. It works very well with salmon.

  • Reply
    Janet
    September 4, 2018 at 9:00 PM

    Just tried this with some leftover salmon…left out the garlic because my husband can’t deal with it, AND, it was still seriously delish! Thanks for the recipe….
    janet F

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      December 18, 2018 at 3:44 PM

      You’re welcome, Janet. It’s good to know it still holds its own without garlic!

  • Reply
    Allison
    November 12, 2018 at 3:44 PM

    It’s even good cold! Thank you for the idea.

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      December 18, 2018 at 3:45 PM

      I haven’t tried it cold before but thank you for letting us know! 🙂

  • Reply
    Abigail Ella
    January 12, 2019 at 6:39 PM

    yummy. thanks
    ill be making this more great for dieting

  • Reply
    Yusuf Harris
    January 13, 2019 at 6:56 PM

    The recipe called for 1/2 Cup of Basil finely chopped, well that was way too much Basil so mine turned out awful! I truly believe that with 1 tablespoon of Basil it would be delicious! Please tell me what I did wrong? Thank you

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      January 14, 2019 at 12:31 AM

      The amount called for is for fresh basil. If 1 tablespoon seemed the perfect amount for you, it sounds like you were using dried basil, the stuff that comes in little shakers and jars. There’s a huge difference between fresh and dried and usually you use a lot more of the former and less of the latter as dried herbs are more concentrated. If you were to use dried basil, I would agree with you on 1 tablespoon being enough. If you used fresh, maybe you’re just not a big fan of basil?

  • Reply
    DIane Marston
    February 24, 2019 at 5:41 PM

    This was perfect, thank you!

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      April 17, 2019 at 4:30 PM

      You’re most welcome, Diane. Thank you for trying it out 🙂

  • Reply
    Kim
    April 9, 2019 at 10:39 PM

    I made this for dinner tonight and I couldn’t stop eating it. It’s so good. My husband even went back for seconds!

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      April 17, 2019 at 4:32 PM

      Happy to hear you both liked it! I usually make this batch and it’ll last a couple days for my husband and I. The only thing I do different is add fresh basil as needed to each reheat.

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