This Lemon Garlic Butter Salmon Pasta recipe is quick and easy to make! You’ll love the light yet luxurious garlic butter sauce with lemon, whole-wheat pasta, and flaky salmon. It’s a wholesome, filling family dinner quick enough to make on busy weeknights and elegant enough for date night at home!
Are you a fan of quick and easy dinners that come together with little effort and simple ingredients? Then you’re going to love this salmon pasta recipe. It’s simple enough to make for busy weeknight dinners and elegant enough to serve to friends at a dinner party.
You know I’m no stranger when it comes to seafood and pasta. And of course, garlic. It’s a flavor-match made in heaven. A few favorites include luxurious Seared Scallops in a Creamy Garlic Sauce, summery Salmon Pesto Pasta, bright and briny Shrimp Picatta, super buttery Shrimp Scampi… and this absolutely lovely combination of garlic, lemon, and butter paired with salmon pasta that we’ve got right here.
As written, it’s a recipe paired down for two servings, which means it’s perfect for date night. But never fear if you have more mouths to feed or want to impress with ease at a dinner party, it can easily be doubled or tripled for more servings.
Now, in just 30 minutes you’ll have a delicious seafood pasta dinner ready. Let’s get cooking!
What You’ll Need to Make Garlic Butter Pasta
There are just a few simple ingredients that come together to make this pasta recipe, which is just one more thing to love about it! Here they are:
- Salmon – fresh or frozen (but thawed) salmon will work in this recipe. Be on the lookout for a sustainably farmed or caught salmon when purchasing.
- Fresh Lemon – fresh lemon juice and zest in this recipe is key! I always advocate for fresh lemon juice as it delivers the most fresh, pure lemon flavor without any aftertaste or additives. Be sure to zest the lemon first, then proceed with juicing.
- Butter – a key component! Use high-quality butter for the most luxurious sauce. I always use unsalted so I can add the amount of salt to my liking.
- Garlic – you can’t have garlic butter sauce without a lot of garlic! Like the lemon, I highly recommend using fresh garlic for the best flavor. Mincing the garlic helps it incorporate evenly throughout the sauce, too. If you need a recommendation this is my favorite garlic press (hands down!).
- Red Pepper Flakes – my favorite way to add more flavor to pastas! A pinch rounds out the flavor without adding too much spice. You can omit if you’d like.
- Yellow Onion – use a yellow onion for a mild, slightly sweet onion addition to the pasta.
- Whole Wheat Spaghetti– using whole wheat pasta for this recipe is a winner and makes it a little ‘healthier’ according to some. While I just love carbs, I enjoy the heartiness that using a whole wheat pasta in this recipe gives. You can absolutely use whatever pasta you have on hand (and any shape will work, too!).
- Parsley– a bright garnish that compliments the lemon and garlic in the sauce.
How to Make Salmon Pasta
This super-simple pasta starts with lemon garlic butter. It’s both in the pasta sauce and in the salmon, infusing the flavor throughout each component of this recipe.
Combine the melted butter with garlic, lemon zest and fresh lemon juice, and a pinch of red pepper flakes for good measure (of course you can omit or sub freshly ground black pepper if you prefer!). This will get divided out in a minute…
Next, make the foil packet for the salmon. I like making the salmon in a foil packet because it’s SO EASY. Like, so, so easy. While we could pan-fry the salmon before we make the sauce, letting it bake with the lemon garlic butter infuses the flavor and creates less mess.
Get a large piece of heavy-duty foil, or layer two pieces of regular foil, and place the salmon in the center. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then spread on half of the lemon garlic butter mixture. Fold the long edge of the foil over itself, and wrap in the ends, creating a packet with all sealed edges.
As the salmon bakes, prepare the pasta and the sauce. The first thing to do is get the salted pasta water boiling, as this will take some time. The sauce comes together quite quickly, so don’t start it until the pasta water is already boiling.
Once it boils, cook the pasta a few minutes shy of al dente, so that it can finish cooking in the sauce without risk of overcooking.
Be sure to reserve some pasta water before draining the pasta! Gently scoop some out with a glass or metal measuring cup that has a handle for easy maneuvering.
As the pasta and salmon cook, prepare the sauce by first sauteing the onion until tender. Then add the remaining lemon garlic butter mixture to create the sauce. Add pasta water to thin out the sauce. Using pasta water also helps ensure the sauce sticks to the pasta because of its starchiness.
Transfer the spaghetti to the sauce directly from the pasta water (again, it’s ok if a little pasta water is transferred over too because we’re using it in the sauce!). Toss it all together, allowing the pasta and sauce to cook together for a minute or two until the pasta is perfectly al dente.
With the salmon tender and flakey, serve it in full filets on top of the pasta or flake it throughout the finished pasta dish for a more cohesive feel.
Garnish with fresh parsley for a pop of color and flavor and enjoy!
Salmon Pasta with Lemon Garlic Butter
- 5-6 garlic cloves minced
- 1 small lemon juiced and zested
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter melted
- Dash red pepper flakes
- 1/2 lb salmon
- 6 ounces whole wheat pasta
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1/3 cup yellow onion diced
- 1/4 cup pasta water as needed
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley chopped, for garnish
- Pre-heat oven to 375°F. In a small bowl, stir together garlic cloves, lemon juice, lemon zest, melted butter, and red pepper flakes. Set aside.
- Salmon Packet: Get one large piece of heavy-duty foil, or two large pieces of regular foil and place them on top of each other. Pat the salmon dry with a paper towel, then place the filets in the middle of the foil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread half of the butter mixture across the top of the salmon (approximately 2-2 1/2 Tablespoons). Top with a lemon slice if desired. Fold together the long sides of the foil and roll up the small edges to create a sealed pouch. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the middle is cooked through and the internal temperature reaches 145°F. I like to remove the salmon around 140°F so it's not overcooked and the temp will continue to rise as it rests. Set aside until ready to add to pasta.
- Meanwhile, cook pasta according to directions, cooking 1-2 minutes shy of al dente. Reserve 1/4 cup pasta water. Prepare the sauce as the pasta boils, it's easiest to transfer the cooked pasta directly into the sauce.
- Sauce: In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat, then add onion and cook for 3-4 minutes, with a pinch of salt. Add the remaining garlic butter mixture to the onion and reduce heat to medium. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the reserved pasta water to the sauce, starting with about 2 tablespoons of it and working your way up until you've reached your desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the just-under al dente pasta to the sauce and toss to coat, continuing to cook for 1-2 minutes. Stir in 1 1/2 tablespoons of the parsley.
- Top the pasta with cooked salmon filets or flake the salmon apart and toss it throughout the pasta. Garnish with lemon wedges and remaining parsley as desired.