When you have some amazing smoked salmon, you want to use it in the most amazing ways. Making some creamy pasta with it is one of the yummier ways to indulge. So much flavor comes from the smoked salmon as the smokiness gets infused into the creamy sauce. It’s also simple and comes together in minutes.

The Ingredients

  • Smoked salmon: It gives an intense flavor that doesn’t overwhelm.
  • Pasta: Fettuccini, penne or you can even go with gnocchi for a totally different texture.
  • Wine and fresh lemon juice: They add acidity and brightness to help cut the creamy sauce and flavorful salmon creating a great balance.
  • Heavy cream: Gives the sauce heft.
  • Butter: Provides silky texture and taste.
  • Onion: For a touch of sharp flavor.
  • Grated Parmesan cheese: The crowning touch of a mellow and rich Italian classic.
  • Optional add-ins:
    • Capers, or black or Kalamata olives provide Mediterranean flavor.
    • Asparagus is another excellent choice to give it an earthy feel and texture. Cook the asparagus in the pasta water and add it with the salmon.
    • Leeks or garlic, or other members of the allium family, like shallots, can be added with — or instead of — the onion.
    • Crispy salmon skin “bacon”: To make it, remove the skin from the filet, crisp in a skillet with a little oil, chop it up and add to the top of the pasta at the end. (Thanks to Jamie Oliver for the tip.)

The star of this dish is the smoked salmon. You can buy it. You can make it (which I totally recommend). Making simple smoked salmon is probably a lot easier than you might think if you own a smoker.

making smoked salmon pasta

How To Make Smoked Salmon Pasta

  1. Cook the pasta al dente, as it absorbs liquid from the sauce. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
  2. Sautee the onion in the melted butter and add a pinch of salt; it should be tender and translucent but not browned, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the wine and reduce until it is almost gone. Then add the cream and cook until it just starts to bubble.
  3. Once it’s bubbling, gently stir in the smoked salmon and warm through. Taste, then season with salt and pepper. Add any asparagus, olives or capers at this point as well.
  4. Add the cooked pasta and continue cooking until the sauce begins to thicken, about 2 to 3 minutes more. If the sauce is too thick, add a little of the pasta water to thin it.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon zest and juice, Parmesan cheese and taste again. Season with salt and pepper as needed.
  6. Garnish with fresh herbs (basil is a winner), toasted pine nuts and more Parmesan, and maybe that crispy salmon skin “bacon.”

Quick Tips for Success

  • Check Smoked Salmon’s Saltiness: Taste your smoked salmon before adding additional seasoning to the dish. If it is cold smoked salmon or cured, it may already have a high salt content, so adjust the amount of salt accordingly to avoid over-seasoning.
  • Add Acidity with Lemon Juice: For a well-balanced flavor profile, add a splash of fresh lemon juice to the dish. The acidity from the lemon helps to cut through the richness of the creamy sauce, creating a harmonious balance of flavors.
  • Utilize the Salmon Skin: If your smoked salmon comes with the skin on, don’t discard it. Instead, crisp it up in a skillet to create a delicious and crispy garnish for your pasta dish.
  • Experiment with Add-Ins: While olives and asparagus are excellent add-ins, don’t hesitate to get creative with other ingredients. Consider adding sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, or spinach for additional flavor and texture variations.

Hot Smoked vs Cold Smoked Salmon

For this recipe, I used hot smoked salmon, which is already fully cooked. Cold smoked salmon is usually cured, which means it will have a different texture, as well as a higher salt content. For this reason, you will likely want to add less salt to the dish if using cold smoked salmon.

Coarse vs Fine-Grated Parmesan Cheese

When grating Parmesan cheese for pasta, opt for coarsely grated Parmesan rather than finely grated. Coarsely grated Parmesan yields more flavor compared to the finely grated version, which tends to dissipate into the air and lacks intensity. Choose a coarse grade to ensure a richer flavor profile in your pasta dish.

smoked salmon pasta on plate close up
smoked salmon pasta on plate side view horizontal

Smoked Salmon Pasta

Quick, easy and irresistibly delicious. Savory smoked salmon melds into a creamy pasta that is bursting with flavors.
5 from 6 votes
Print Pin Save Rate
Course: Main
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 425kcal


  • 12 oz. pasta (such as fettuccini or penne)
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion (about 1/2 medium onion)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 11 oz. smoked salmon (fork torn)
  • Diamond Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice (from about 1/2 a lemon)
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup coarsely grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese (plus more for plating)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs or torn basil (or to taste)
  • toasted pine nuts for garnish


  • Cook the Pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente, then drain, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water.
  • Saute the Onions: In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the chopped onion with a pinch of salt, cooking until tender, about 4-5 minutes.
  • Deglaze with Wine: Pour in the white wine, simmering until almost evaporated.
  • Add the Cream: Stir in the heavy cream, heating until it just starts to bubble.
  • Incorporate the Salmon: Gently fold in the smoked salmon, heating until warmed through. Season with salt and pepper, adjusting to taste.
    You can also add in any optional ingredients like capers, olives, or asparagus at this stage.
  • Add the cooked pasta to the skillet, continuing to cook until the sauce thickens, about 2-3 minutes. If the sauce is too thick, gradually add the reserved pasta water 2 tablespoons at a time to achieve desired consistency.
  • Finish with Lemon: Remove the skillet from the heat. Stir in lemon juice, zest, and grated Parmesan cheese. Taste and adjust seasoning and lemon juice as needed.
  • Garnish and Serve: Sprinkle with fresh herbs, toasted pine nuts, and additional Parmesan cheese before serving.


  • Cold smoked (cured) salmon is usually saltier than hot smoked salmon. Taste before adding too much seasoning.
  • Reserve pasta water to add into the pasta if the sauce needs to be thinned out.
  • If the salmon has the skin on, save it. Crisp it up in a skillet, chop it and use it on top as a tasty salmon skin “bacon” garnish.
  • Add-ins like capers, olives or asparagus add complementary flavors and textures.


Calories: 425kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 33g | Saturated Fat: 19g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 120mg | Sodium: 1178mg | Potassium: 520mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 1620IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 137mg | Iron: 2mg

5 from 6 votes (2 ratings without comment)

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  1. 5 stars
    Thanks for the recipe! Had to use FF half n half as all I had. Organic wide noodles, capers and parsley and parm of course!! I Always add a couple dashes of Louisiana hot sauce. Brown sugar smoked salmon was wonderful addition! This was pretty healthy as only fat was from the butter. Your way was richer Im sure but this was pretty fine! Thanks again!

  2. 5 stars
    Excellent! Whole fam loved it and I made extra for leftovers. Used asparagus, extra lemon zest, sliced garlic and definitely loved the additional suggestion of the capers. I will be adding this one to my list of regulars- it would also make an no stress but impressive meal for guests!

  3. 5 stars
    I had some leftover smoked salmon from Christmas so decided to make this. It turned out excellent. So delicious. I didn’t have lemons so I used bottle lemon juice. I feel like lemon zest would’ve enhanced it a lot. Was still 10/10. Thanks.

  4. 5 stars
    Another delicious meal!!! Have made this also with shrimp, as we didn’t have salmon on hand and it was another win! Thanks for the super easy family friendly meals!