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This savory salmon pasta recipe with pesto, asparagus, and corn makes a dreamy summer meal that comes together on the grill if you like.

salmon pasta with pesto, asparagus, corn, and olives in a bowl with a fork
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Why we love this recipe

This gorgeous bowl of salmon pesto pasta is exuberant and mildly chaotic in all the best ways. It has something for everyone:

  • Lots of succulent wild salmon
  • A perfectly calibrated, savory pesto
  • The sweet, gentle crunch of fresh corn
  • Tender, lightly charred asparagus spears
  • Pops of intensity from briny green olives
  • Basically just pure joy

I first published this recipe here back in 2017. I’ve since updated the post for clarity and made a few very gentle tweaks to the recipe itself.

What you’ll need

Here’s a glance at the ingredients you’ll need to make this recipe.

ingredients on plates
  • I always choose wild salmon over farmed salmon. MSC-certified sockeye, coho, and king (chinook) salmon from Alaska are all great choices.
  • A vibrant batch of pesto does a lot of heavy lifting in the flavor department. I’ve included all the basics about how to make my favorite pesto in the recipe card below, but if you’d like to learn more than the basics, hit up the link to the whole post.
  • You can use any pasta shape you like. If you’re using a short variety, consider chopping the asparagus into 1-inch segments.
  • In the summer, I like to make this recipe with fairly thin asparagus spears, which cook through quickly. If you’d like to make this pasta in a colder season, broccolini works beautifully as a substitute.
  • Fresh corn works beautifully in this recipe when it’s in season, and is my preference. If you’d like to make this recipe at other times of year, you can use a 10-ounce bag of frozen corn instead.
  • You can use any green olives that you like. It’s easiest to start with pitted ones. I tend to gravitate toward briny cerignolas marinated with garlic and lemon.
  • Choose a good-quality, freshly grated parmesan cheese. It adds a ton of complex savoriness.

How to make it

Here’s an overview of what you’ll do to make a fabulous batch of salmon pasta with pesto. You can see the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post, and get all the details in the recipe card below.

step by step
  1. On the grill or in the oven, you’ll cook the salmon, asparagus, corn, and lemon slices.
  2. Flake the salmon and cut the corn off the cob.
  3. You’ll boil the pasta and mix up a batch of pesto, then toss them together.
  4. Gently toss in the salmon and corn, then layer on the asparagus, olives, and lemon slices. That’s it!

Expert tips and FAQs

Can I make this recipe in advance? What about leftovers?

If you like, you can cook all the elements except the pasta itself in advance. Pesto freezes beautifully, so you can make a huge batch in the depths of summer and pull it out as needed — the rest of the elements want to be made within about 24 hours of serving time. Cook the pasta and assemble the dish right before serving.

Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for a couple of days.

More favorite savory pasta recipes

salmon pasta with pesto, asparagus, corn, and olives in a bowl with a fork

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salmon pasta with pesto, asparagus, corn, and olives in a bowl with a fork
4.75 from 12 votes

Salmon Pasta Recipe with Pesto

By Carolyn Gratzer Cope
This savory salmon pasta recipe with pesto, asparagus, and corn makes a dreamy summer meal that comes together on the grill if you like.
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 25 minutes
Servings: 8
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Ingredients 

For the pesto

  • ½ cup (60 grams) pine nuts
  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • 6 gently packed cups, (130 grams) fresh basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ cup (120 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup (60 grams) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

For the pasta

  • 2 pounds (909 grams) wild salmon fillet
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil, divided
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 lemon, sliced thin
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 4 ears corn, shucked (or use a 10-ounce bag frozen corn kernels)
  • 1 pound (454 grams) spaghetti or other pasta
  • ½ cup good green olives
  • Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese to pass at the table

Instructions 

Make the pesto

  • Place the pine nuts in a small, dry pan over medium heat. Toast until lightly browned in spots, stirring or tossing in the pan occasionally, about five minutes. Keep a close eye on them so they don't burn. Let cool slightly.
  • Let cool slightly and pour into the bowl of a 10-ish cup food processor fitted with the blade attachment.
  • Add the garlic, basil, salt, pepper, and lemon juice and pulse just until a thick paste forms. Stop to press any stray or stubborn basil leaves into the whirling action of the blade as necessary.
  • With the motor running, pour the olive oil through the feed tube in a slow stream.
  • Transfer pesto to a mixing bowl and stir in the grated cheese.

Make the pasta

  • Preheat grill to high (about 400-500°F).
  • Place the salmon skin-side down on a double layer of aluminum foil. Rub with half the olive oil. Sprinkle with half the salt and pepper and lay the lemon slices over the flesh.
  • Grill salmon on one side of grill until done to your liking, about 8-10 minutes for just barely opaque in the center, depending on thickness.
  • Meanwhile, place shucked corn directly on grates on available side of grill and grill until nicely browned but still tender, flipping once, about 5 minutes per side.
  • When grill is free, rub asparagus with remaining olive oil, sprinkle with remaining salt and pepper, and grill until nicely charred, 2-3 minutes per side, flipping once. 
  • Cook spaghetti al dente in well-salted water according to package directions. Drain and toss with pesto.
  • Flake the salmon into bite-sized pieces, cut corn kernels from cobs, and gently mix salmon and corn into pasta.
  • Divide pasta among serving bowls and garnish each with a few olives, some asparagus spears and a grilled lemon slice.
  • Serve with grated cheese to pass at the table.

Notes

  1. I always choose wild salmon over farmed salmon. MSC-certified sockeye, coho, and king (chinook) salmon from Alaska are all great choices.
  2. Fresh corn works beautifully in this recipe when it's in season, and is my preference. If you'd like to make this recipe at other times of year, you can use a 10-ounce bag of frozen corn instead.
  3. In the summer, I like to make this recipe with fairly thin asparagus spears, which cook through quickly. If you'd like to make this pasta in a colder season, broccolini works beautifully as a substitute.
  4. You can use any pasta shape you like. If you're using a short variety, consider chopping the asparagus into 1-inch segments.
  5. You can use any green olives that you like. It's easiest to start with pitted ones. I tend to gravitate toward briny cerignolas marinated with garlic and lemon.
  6. Choose a good-quality, freshly grated parmesan cheese. It adds a ton of complex savoriness.
  7. If you like, you can cook all the elements except the pasta itself in advance. Pesto freezes beautifully, so you can make a huge batch in the depths of summer and pull it out as needed — the rest of the elements want to be made within about 24 hours of serving time. Cook the pasta and assemble the dish right before serving.
  8. Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for a couple of days.
  9. If you'd like to use pre-made pesto, you'll need about two cups.

Indoor cooking instructions

If you would prefer not to grill, you can preheat the oven to 425°F with a rack in the top third and a rack in the bottom third. Arrange salmon and lemon slices on one sheet pan and the asparagus on the other, seasoning each as indicated above. Cook for about 10 minutes, until done to your liking. If you have a gas cooktop, you can cook the corn briefly directly on the burner until lightly charred, turning a few times, being careful for any spatters. If you don't have a gas burner, just add the corn to one of the sheet pans and cook it in the oven.

Nutrition

Calories: 478kcal, Carbohydrates: 54.9g, Protein: 25.2g, Fat: 18.4g, Fiber: 4.7g

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

Additional Info

Course: Pasta + Noodles
Cuisine: American
Tried this recipe?Mention @umamigirl or tag #umamigirl!

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About Carolyn Gratzer Cope

Hi there, I'm Carolyn Gratzer Cope, founder and publisher of Umami Girl. Join me in savoring life, one recipe at a time. I'm a professional recipe developer with training from the French Culinary Institute (now ICE) and a lifetime of studying, appreciating, and sharing food.

4.75 from 12 votes (11 ratings without comment)

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8 Comments

    1. Hi Kiki, thanks for this comment — I’ll add a note to the recipe. When you make it from scratch, you’ll have about two cups of pesto, so something in that neighborhood would be about right. Don’t stress over it, though — this is a very flexible recipe.

  1. This is exactly what I wanted to throw together tonight! I’m glad this recipe exists! For dessert I’m going to grill some peaches and put them on top of some Tillamook vanilla toffee ice cream!