This roasted lemon salmon fillet recipe with pesto pasta is a fresh and wholesome Mediterranean-inspired dish. Perfect for a quick and healthy weekday meal!
Salmon is my weekday staple, why? It’s easy to make, fast and loaded with healthy nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids and protein. One of the simplest ways to prepare salmon is by baking it in the oven. These roasted lemon salmon fillets are done in under 15 minutes and served with a vegetable packed pesto pasta.
This Mediterranean-inspired dish features the freshest wholesome ingredients, so you don’t have to sacrifice taste just because you’re limited on time. Let’s get cooking!
Pesto, a genius way to make green leafy vegetables taste super delish. I used my Vitamix blender to quickly whip up this pesto sauce with ease. It’s a slight variation on my classic pesto sauce as this recipe has a combination of baby spinach, basil, garlic cloves, fresh lemon juice, olive oil, and walnuts. That’s it!
Walnuts are heart-healthy nuts that when blended give a nice creamy texture. I didn’t need to add any cheese with the addition of the nuts, so this is a vegan-friendly pesto sauce. Made in 5 minutes or less, lightening speed!
The tender pasta noodles are tossed with the spinach and basil pesto, then topped with the freshly diced tomatoes. I used brown rice penne pasta to make it a healthy side dish to the salmon, it surprisingly has a very similar texture to regular pasta. I could eat this pasta straight from the pot! Enjoyed alone, or paired up with some lean protein for a total meal like the salmon.
I almost always roast lemons alongside with any salmon dish I make, like my spiced salmon with quinoa. When sliced lemons are baked, it mellows out the citric acid tang, and you get a nice extra sauce to squeeze on top of the fish.
I found that 400°F is the perfect roasting temperature for salmon. The surface gets delicately browned with a tender, flaky flesh. Plus when you have the fish cooking in the oven, it’s easy to put together the pesto pasta, and they are ready around the same time for serving.
This roasted lemon salmon fillet recipe is a healthy, light and quick dinner packed with fresh Mediterranean flavors. Once you get the hang of making the different components, you can serve the salmon with other side dishes like Greek pasta salad or citrus green beans. You can also pair the pesto pasta with other proteins like shrimp or chicken, or keep it vegan. Lots of versatility so that you can have variety each week! How would you create your dream meal?
How do you check to see if the salmon is ready?
When you roast salmon, the cooking time is dependent on how thick the meat is, and you check at the thickest part. A general guide is for every 1/2 inch of salmon, roast 4 to 6 minutes. Typically salmon is about an inch thick, so it’s good to check around 8 to 10 minutes. To check for doneness of food using an instant read thermometer, place the probe in the thickest part of the salmon, about 125-135°F will give you a medium rare fillet, and 135-145°F will give you a medium fillet (USDA recommends cooking to 145°F). You can also check for doneness by seeing how easily the salmon flakes with a fork. When the salmon flakes easily and is no longer translucent, and a moist light pink color, it’s ready. Don’t overcook. Salmon can get really dry very quickly. (Source: The Kitchn)
- 2 pounds salmon , cut into 4 even fillet portions
- 8 lemon slices , 1/8-inch thick
- 2 cups penne pasta , uncooked
- 1 1/2 cups baby spinach , about 1.5 ounces
- 3/4 cup fresh basil , about 0.3 ounces
- 2 cloves garlic , peeled
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/2 cup olive oil , extra-virgin
- 1 cup tomatoes , diced, ¼-inch
- Set oven rack to the middle position. Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to manufacturer's directions. Drain and set aside. Meanwhile, make the salmon.
- Line a sheet pan with foil and lightly coat with cooking spray or olive oil.
- Evenly spread out the salmon fillets on the tray. Generously season the fillets with salt and pepper. Place 2 slices of lemon on each fillet.
- Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 130-135°F. The fish should easily flake apart but not be dry. As the fish cooks, make the pesto.
- Combine spinach, basil, garlic, walnuts, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, ½ teaspoon lemon zest and 1 tablespoon lemon juice in a blender or food processor.
- Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and blend until a paste form, scraping down the sides once. Gradually add the rest of the olive oil, until smooth with some pieces of walnut left for texture.
- Season with more salt and pepper as needed.
- Stir together the pesto, noodles, and tomatoes. Top with remaining lemon zest.
- Serve each portion of fish with the pesto pasta. Leave the lemon slices on the fish so guests can squeeze the juice onto the salmon. Enjoy!
1) This recipe gives 4 generous portions of salmon. You can cut the salmon into smaller pieces (6 to 8 pieces) if you want smaller servings. Check for doneness sooner, about 8 minutes into cooking if you cut smaller fillets.
2) You can use regular, whole wheat, gluten-free, brown rice, quinoa or your favorite penne pasta depending on your preference.