Pasta with Pesto and Flaked Salmon

img_20190505_225929_346For whatever reason, the colors in this dish – pink and bright green – just scream spring to me. And after the prolonged winter drizzle we’ve had here in Boston lately, I think any way to bring on the spring is extra welcome. It’s also so easy! Pesto is a great “one ingredient” pasta sauce, and in combination with vegetables – really any of your choosing – makes a great, nutrient packed dish and a great foundation for ADAPTATION. I insist you run to the produce market immediately to give it your own spin!

The details:

Jump to recipe

Thought process:

This dish could not be easier, but here are a couple things to help you get started:

20190505_192227Pesto – I like making pesto to use up the herbs, nuts, and cheeses that might otherwise go bad in my fridge. As a bonus, I portion it out by the tablespoonful into ice cube trays and freeze it for later use. If you don’t have the time or inclination to make your own pesto, you can definitely make this pasta with a jarred version.

Vegetables – I chose fennel, zucchini, leeks, and tomatoes by walking through Haymarket and seeing what was available. Almost any vegetable would work for this – potatoes, squash, spinach, kale, carrots… I would probably avoid beets because they would get red all over everything, but otherwise you’re good. Cook the vegetables you wouldn’t want to eat raw. Bonus points for a beautiful color contrast with the green pesto.


Protein – This salmon was beautiful, but if you don’t want salmon, I can imagine this would also be great with thinly sliced grilled chicken, steak, or cubed tofu.

Below, the recipe:

Pasta with Pesto and Salmon

For the pesto:
Adapted from Joy of Cooking

  • 2 cups loosely packed basil leaves (and/or parsley)
  • 1⁄2 cup grated Parmesan (and/or Pecorino romano)
  • 1⁄3 cup pine nuts, hazelnuts, almonds, and/or walnuts
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and/or garlic scapes
  • 1⁄2 cup extra virgin olive oil, or as needed
  • Lots of kosher salt
  • ground pepper
  1. In a food processor, combine basil, cheese, nuts, and garlic until finely minced
  2. With machine running, stream in oil until pesto is loose and quite wet
  3. Season to taste with salt and pepper. This will require a lot of salt to transform from unpleasant to tasty (see my tips and tricks about the value of salt).

For the pasta:

  • 1 small bulb fennel, fronds reserved
  • 1 leek
  • 3 small zucchini, cut in 1/2 in cubes
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 pound salmon
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 pound pasta, any shape (I used radiatore) cooked according to package directions (don’t forget to salt the water and save some cooking water for leftovers!)
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F
  2. Quarter the fennel, remove the core and slice into 1/4 in thick slices
  3. Remove the root and dark green part of the leek, then cut the leek in half and wash very well between the layers. There is always a ton of dirt trapped in there!
  4. Thinly slice the leek into half moons.
  5. Combine the fennel, leek, zucchini, and tomatoes. Toss with oil, 3/4 tsp kosher salt and 1/3 tsp pepper and spread on a baking sheet.
  6. Cook ~25 min until soft and leeks are brown.
  7. In a saute pan over high heat, melt butter.
  8. Season the salmon with salt and pepper and fry in the butter, flipping once, until just cooked, maybe 5-7 min.
  9. Toss the pasta with 2 cups pesto and vegetables. Use pasta cooking water to get sauce to the desired consistency.
  10. Serve the pasta topped with flaked salmon and the reserved fennel fronds.


5/5 stars.5 stars
This was really fast to pull together, and so springy and delicious! The vegetables really shone, especially the tomatoes in complement to the pesto. The salmon added a nice heft and protein. The only thing I would change is cooking the salmon in vegetable oil instead of butter. The butter burned on the high heat and got very smokey – even though this is something I intellectually knew would happen, sometimes you have to make your own mistakes!

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