Salmon Pesto Pasta is a flavorful, wholesome, and satisfying weeknight dinner that can be ready and on the table in 30 minutes. Thick salmon fillets get topped with both pesto and a Parmesan-breadcrumb mixture. They’re then baked and broiled to create fillets with crispy tops and a juicy, flaky insides. Served over a bed of pesto pasta, made with angel hair and zucchini noodles.
Salmon Pesto Pasta Ingredients
Salmon fillets: look for 1 to 1½ inch-thick skin-on salmon fillets.
Pesto: you can either make the pesto listed in the recipe card, or use prepared refrigerated pesto for less prep work.
Grated Parmesan: it’s important to use grated instead of shredded. Shredded means strands of cheese—imagine what cheese looks like when shredded on a large-hole grater. Grated means cheese that’s been grated over the tiny holes of a cheese grater into itty bitty pieces (almost powder). Buy refrigerated grated Parmesan instead of shelf-stable Parmesan.
Breadcrumbs: if you can find it, we like to use whole-wheat Panko. Regular Panko will also work.
Pasta: we pair angel hair (or spaghetti) with zucchini noodles for a lighter dinner. If you don’t want to use zucchini noodles, double the amount of pasta called for.
Zucchini: spiralize the zucchini to be used in combination with regular pasta.
How to Make Salmon Pesto Pasta
- Spiralize the zucchini and toss it with salt in a strainer. Let it sit while you prepare the salmon and pasta.
- Pat the salmon fillets dry with paper towels (this helps the pesto stick to the flesh) and season lightly with salt and pepper.
- Spoon the pesto over the fillets, spreading it out as needed to cover the top. Some oil from the pesto will drip off, that’s OK!
- Combine the breadcrumbs and Parmesan and spoon it over the pesto on top of each fillet. Use as much of the breadcrumb mixture as you can, then lightly pack the breadcrumbs onto the fish to help it adhere.
- Bake the salmon until nearly done, about 8 minutes (give or take a couple of minutes depending on the thickness of your fillets). You don’t want it cooked through yet!
- Turn the oven to broil and transfer the fillets to the top rack. Broil the salmon until the breadcrumbs are crispy and golden brown, about 3 minutes.
- While the salmon cooks, cook the pasta. Squeeze the zucchini to release excess liquid.
- Toss the pasta, zucchini and pesto together. Serve salmon with pasta.
How to Buy the Best Salmon
For this salmon pesto pasta recipe, look for thick salmon fillets—1 to 1½ inches thick is ideal. If the only fillets you can find are thinner, decrease the cook time by a few minutes. Start checking them at about 6 minutes instead of 8–10 minutes.
The reason we use thicker fillets for this recipe is two-fold; one, it allows use to get a nice crispy crust on the breadcrumbs without over-cooking the salmon. And two, the thickness combined with the weight (4-ounces) creates the ideal ratio of topping to fish.
We also find that 4-ounce fillets are the ideal portion when served with the pesto pasta. If you prefer larger fillets go ahead and use 6-ounce fillets—if you go this route, plan on using more pesto and more breadcrumb topping.
- Avoid salmon filets that have breaks or cracks in the muscle, both within the muscle itself and along the white collagen sheaths. This indicates mishandling and degradation.
- Avoid any packages that have pooling of water, another sure sign of degradation.
- Look for filets that are bright and saturated in color.
- Salmon filets should have a bright contrast between the muscle and the fat.
- Choose filets that are glossy and firm to the touch.
- Avoid filets that are chalky, dry, sticky and soft to the touch.
- Salmon filets should smell fresh and clean, and slightly briny or like the ocean. Fresh fish should never smell “fishy.”
- Check out more tips on buying salmon in my guide on buying salmon!
Tips for Making Salmon Pesto Pasta
- For this recipe you can use whatever pesto you prefer, whether that’s your favorite pesto recipe or your favorite store-bought product. We always prefer homemade basil pesto, so we shared our go-to pesto in the recipe!
- If you’d prefer to use prepared pesto from the grocery store, opt for fresh pesto sold in the refrigerated section. It’s much more flavorful than the jarred stuff.
- Keep an eye on the salmon as it broils towards the end of cooking. All broilers are different and the topping can go from golden to burnt quickly.
Storage and Reheating
If you have leftovers, store the salmon and the pasta separately in airtight containers. Store them in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. We don’t recommend freezing this pesto salmon.
Gently reheat the pasta in the microwave in 30-second increments until heated through. Add additional pesto if needed.
Reheat the salmon on a sheet pan set under the broiler of your oven until warmed through. Alternatively, you could reheat the salmon in a toaster oven.
More Salmon and Pasta Recipes
Salmon Pesto Pasta Recipe
Herb Pesto (or use store-bought)
- 1 ½ cups lightly packed basil
- ½ cup pine nuts, toasted
- ½ cup grated Parmesan
- ¼ cup packed Italian parsley
- 2 tablespoons fresh chives
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- ½ teaspoon Morton kosher salt
- ⅓ cup + 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Pesto Pasta & Zoodles
- 1 ½ medium zucchini or 2 small, spiralized
- ½ teaspoon Morton kosher salt plus more to taste
- 8 ounces angel hair pasta
- ½ cup of the prepared pesto or store-bought*
- 5 skin-on salmon fillets 4-ounces each, 1–1½ inches thick
- ¼ cup of the prepared pesto or store-bought*
- Morton kosher salt and black pepper
- 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
- 3 tablespoons whole-wheat bread crumbs preferably Panko
- Heat oven to 400°F (204ºC) with racks set in both upper third and middle positions. Line a baking sheet with foil.
- For the pesto, pulse basil, pine nuts, Parmesan, parsley, chives, garlic, and salt together in a food processor until finely chopped. With processor running, stream in oil until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Skip this step if using store-bought pesto.
Pesto Pasta & Zoodles
- Toss zucchini noodles with ½ teaspoon salt in a colander set over a bowl; let sit 15 minutes.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil; season generously with salt, add angel hair pasta and cook until al dente according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup pasta cooking water then drain pasta. Add pasta back to now empty pot with ½ cup pesto.
- Meanwhile, pat salmon fillets dry with a paper towel; arrange skin-side down on prepared sheet and season lightly with salt and pepper. (If the ends of the fillets are really thin, slightly tuck them under to encourage even cooking). Spread scant 1 tablespoon pesto over top of each fillet.
- Combine Parmesan and breadcrumbs; spoon evenly over fillets, pressing down lightly to adhere.
- Bake fillets until nearly cooked through and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the centers registers 120ºF (49ºC), 8–10 minutes (start checking at 6 minutes if using thinner fillets). Turn oven to broil, transfer sheet to top rack and broil fillets until topping is golden brown and crispy and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the centers registers 140ºF (60ºC), about 3 minutes.
- Squeeze zucchini noodles to release excess liquid (when you think you’re done, squeeze a bit more), discard liquid and transfer zucchini noodles to pot with cooked pasta and pesto; toss gently to combine. Adjust consistency with reserved pasta water by ¼ cup as needed; season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve salmon over pasta with additional Parmesan, pesto, and a squeeze of lemon juice if desired.