We think of this gorgeous lemon salmon pasta as the Audrey Hepburn of pasta recipes given how it graciously brings both elegance and simplicity to the party. The 5-ingredient cream sauce comes together in about 30 minutes. And it quietly repurposes that solitary leftover salmon fillet in the fridge into something inarguably impressive. (No leftover salmon? No problem. See our quick and easy baked salmon cheat sheet below.)–Jenny Howard

*NOTE: How To Make Quick And Easy Baked Salmon

No stash of leftover cooked salmon in the fridge? No problem. Preheat your oven to 350°F (177°C), give a fresh salmon fillet a squeeze of lemon, top with a pat of butter, if desired, and then slide the salmon in the oven until cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet.

A white plate topped with a pile of lemony salmon pasta, sprinkled with chives.

Lemony Salmon Pasta

4.82 / 11 votes
This lemony salmon pasta is an easy weeknight meal that combines leftover cooked salmon with pasta and a creamy lemon sauce. A quick and elegant weeknight winner.
David Leite
Servings4 servings
Calories646 kcal
Prep Time25 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Total Time40 minutes


For the pasta

  • 12 ounces linguine
  • 1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives

For the lemon cream sauce

  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons (1 oz) unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest, preferably organic (from 1 to 2 large lemons)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, preferably organic (from 1 to 2 large lemons), plus more, if desired
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup crème fraîche or buttermilk
  • 8 ounces cooked salmon, * whether roasted, grilled, broiled, or poached (See NOTE above), flaked


Start the pasta

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  • Add the linguine and cook according to the package directions until al dente.

Make the lemon cream sauce

  • While the water is heating, in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the cream and butter to a gentle boil, stirring and watching carefully so that it doesn’t scorch.
  • Reduce the heat to a bare simmer and stir in the lemon zest and lemon juice, along with a pinch of salt and a grinding of pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened and reduced by half, about 10 minutes.
  • Whisk in the crème fraîche or buttermilk and then gently stir in the salmon. Reduce the heat to low and keep the sauce warm while you finish the pasta, being careful not to let the sauce come to a boil.

Finish the pasta

  • When the pasta is al dente, turn off the heat and measure out 1 cup cooking water before draining the pasta. Return the pasta to the empty pot.
  • Place the pot over medium-low heat and pour in the sauce along with 1/4 cup reserved cooking water. Toss well with a wooden spoon or a pair of tongs for about 30 seconds and then add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and toss again to combine. If the sauce seems too thick, add a little more pasta water and stir, repeating until the desired creaminess is achieved.
  • Remove the pot from the heat. Taste the sauce and, if desired, adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, and/or lemon juice. Sprinkle in the chives, stir, and serve hot.
Secrets of Great Second Meals

Adapted From

Secrets of Great Second Meals

Buy On Amazon


Serving: 1 portionCalories: 646 kcalCarbohydrates: 67 gProtein: 27 gFat: 30 gSaturated Fat: 16 gMonounsaturated Fat: 8 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 115 mgSodium: 183 mgFiber: 3 gSugar: 4 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2019 Sara Dickerman. Photo © 2019 Sarah Flotard. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

The lemony lusciousness of the sauce is what nails this perfect weeknight pasta dinner. It’s easy, delicious, and comes together in 30 minutes. The delicate sauce was perfect—not too heavy or rich but just the right consistency to elegantly cling to and coat the noodles. I used buttermilk and after adding it to the thickened cream mixture, the consistency was perfect without needing to add any pasta cooking water.

Like all my favorite pasta dishes, this recipe seems flexible and invites creativity. I wouldn’t hesitate to increase the amount of salmon if you happen to have it on hand. Other add-ins such as roasted cherry tomatoes, pistachios, or olives might also work well if desired, but rest assured, this keeper recipe is satisfying and delightful exactly as written.

This recipe hit my great flavor hot spots: cream, lemon, salmon and pasta. The recipe was fast and easy with easily found ingredients and quick mise en place. I would be happy to serve this at my next dinner party.

This combines some of my favorite ingredients so I can’t say I was surprised that I loved this. The only note that I have is that I wanted it to be more lemony. After adding the pasta water I found that it wasn’t quite as lemony as I had expected it to be so added more. Next time I make this I might just start with more when I mix it with the cream.

I used Meyer lemons and seeded 2 (they were smaller) for the zest but only one for the amount of juice.

This lemony salmon pasta is quick and easy to make and has a delicious lemony flavor which goes great with the salmon. The recipe was easy to follow and the directions were accurate.

I didn’t need to add any extra pasta water as the sauce did not seem too thick. The linguine had a delicious lemony flavor.

Rich, creamy, and bright! This dish is easy to put together and makes a little bit of salmon go a long way. The flavor is great. It was best when first made but it reheated nicely on the stove with a splash of water and some extra gratings of Parmesan cheese. Very tasty!

This pasta dish had great flavor and was rich, creamy, and bright. A little heavy for me to eat a large bowl of but I think if I subbed a little regular lemon juice for a small amount of the Meyer lemon juice that the acidity would’ve helped cut the richness.

The next day when I went to reheat some for myself I added 1/4 cup cream mixed with about 1/4 cup water to help keep it from being too dry. This was helpful but I still added a splash more water (and more Parmesan) when reheating each portion to make sure the pasta heated up and was still creamy.

Overall I really liked the recipe!

Lemony salmon pasta shows how fast a delicious pasta dish can come together! I pulled out some leftover grilled salmon, boiled some linguine, and dinner was done!

We loved the lemony and creamy sauce. I used a regular lemon, but if I had used a Meyer lemon, I would’ve added a little more juice. This was a simple but delicious dish for a weeknight dinner with salad and bread.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

Hungry For More?

Garlic-Butter Shrimp Pasta

Only 30 minutes and a few simple ingredients stands between you and a warm bowl of pasta and shrimp bathed in lemon garlic butter. What are you waiting for?

30 mins

Sticky Honey Garlic Shrimp

Skip the takeout and whip up this fast and easy honey garlic shrimp. Your tastebuds and your wallet will thank you.

25 mins

Champagne Butter Clams with Sourdough Toast

Our testers are raving about these buttery clams that are gently simmered in sparkling wine and roasted garlic butter. We’re willing to bet you will be, too.

1 hr 10 mins

4.82 from 11 votes (4 ratings without comment)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Delicious. If ever there is leftover salmon, it becomes breakfast, so I roasted some. No big deal though since pasta water has to boil.Roasted asparagus on the side for a spring meal.

  2. 5 stars
    When my toddler refuses to eat her salmon fillet, this dish magically shows up the next day. Thank you for a quick and delicious recipe.

    (Quick note: we prefer buttermilk over creme fraiche.)

    1. Thanks, Melissa! It’s always nice to have a great back-pocket recipe for those leftovers. Thanks for taking the time to let us know.