This is one of my favorite light, summery, sunny type pastas. It also has the good fortune of being healthy! It’s all about simplicity and freshness. With fresh basil, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, capers and salmon, you practically have summer on a plate.
And to top it off, for a tiny bit of decadence, we’ll sprinkle some Parmesan loving on it. There’s no cream sauce to carry it so this is all about the goodness and tastiness of high quality olive oil mixed with fresh, awesome flavors.
Start off by cooking the pasta. You can use any kind of pasta you like. Spaghetti, linguine, fettuccine, pappardelle or tube-type pastas. I went with rigatoni for this recipe. If you want it even healthier, sub whole wheat pasta instead.
While the pasta cooks, season your salmon fillets with salt and pepper to taste and bake it until cooked. Baking and cutting the salmon later will result in flakier salmon bits. If you want your salmon to have more form, try cubing it while it’s raw and pan-frying it in olive until cooked about 3-4 minutes per side. However you decide to prep your salmon, make sure to flake or cube it into bite-sized pieces so there’s enough to go around later.
Mince the garlic, chop the basil and get your lemon rind ready while the pasta and salmon cooks. As usual, I’m gonna advocate using a microplane for grating your rind and Parmesan cheese. It’s worth it.
Drain the pasta and mix it all up with some good quality olive oil. You’ll want something high quality because this will be the ‘sauce’ that binds the flavors together, so it has be delicious. I used extra virgin olive oil here. If you don’t really know the difference between regular olive oil, virgin olive oil and extra virgin olive oil, here’s a great guide explaining it. But long story short, extra virgin is the way to go for tossing, dressing and dipping.
Add some fresh basil leaves to the pasta too. I don’t know about you but I love the scent and taste of fresh basil leaves. It’s one of my favorite herbs. Throw in some freshly minced garlic too and salt and pepper to taste, then toss the pasta to mix. If you feel you need more olive oil, go ahead and add another tablespoon or so.
Then we add fresh lemon juice, zest and capers to the pasta for some lemony flavor. Yum. By now the salmon should be cooked, so flake it or if you cubed it before, simply add it to the pasta. Cubing it prior to cooking makes it firmer, so you can toss the pasta and salmon with more gusto. If you flake it after baking it, be gentle during the tossing so you don’t end up with salmon shreds. If you don’t mind salmon shreds, toss away!
As usual, baking time of the salmon will vary depending on how thick your fillet is. The standard rule of thumb is to cook for 10 minutes per inch of thickness which is measured from the salmon’s thickest point. If you start getting whitish stuff, you’ve cooked it too long.
And you’re ready to serve. Now the fun part begins by plating the pasta and topping it with freshly grated or shaved Parmesan cheese. I prefer shaved cause every now and then I find a Parmesan shaving and it feels like you’ve discovered some treasure. Also, if you happen to like olives, this pasta really goes well with it!
- 16 oz. rigatoni/pasta
- 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup basil leaves, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 lb. salmon fillet
- Zest of one lemon
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons capers
- Parmesan cheese, shaved or grated
- Cook the pasta according to package directions
- Meanwhile, season salmon with salt and pepper to taste and bake at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, depending on thickness
- Once the pasta is cooked, drain and toss with garlic, olive oil, basil and season with salt and pepper to taste
- Add lemon juice, zest and capers to the pasta and toss to mix
- Flake the salmon into bite-size pieces
- Gently toss salmon with the pasta
- Dish and serve hot topped with freshly grated or shaved Parmesan cheese