Salmon Pasta with Anchovy-Garlic Sauce
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This Salmon Pasta with Anchovy-Garlic Sauce is easy to make, and full of garlicky, spicy, citrusy and zingy flavors! Flaked pan-fried salmon gets tossed with garlic, chilies, pasta, baby spinach, capers and more in a delectable butter and olive oil-based white wine sauce.
New favorite pasta alert!!
I debated long and hard on whether to include ‘anchovy’ in the title of this pasta dish. I mean, many people (including my previous self) would be averse to eating anything with anchovies.
But I have to say, don’t knock it till you try it. That’s exactly what I did, and I am now completely smitten and 100% in love with this Salmon Pasta with Anchovy-Garlic Sauce! 😍
You guys, this pasta dish is EXPLODING with savory umami notes! We have anchovy paste, soy sauce, and freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese bringing their umami game to this wonderful weeknight pasta dish.
Contrary to what one might think, the anchovy paste is not in-your-face pungent in the garlicky butter and olive oil-based sauce. It simply adds a subtle savory umami flavor and mellow sweetness that you didn’t know your pasta dish needed.
There’s plenty of other wonderful things happening in this easy weeknight pasta that’s made with mostly everyday pantry ingredients.
We have perfectly pan-fried flaked salmon fillets, robust bucatini pasta, plenty of garlic, a few chilies, fragrant finely minced kaffir lime leaves (or you can use lemon zest) and crushed red pepper in a spectacular light-on-the-palate but rich flavored buttery white wine sauce! Hello lovvver!! 😍
Why This Recipe Works
- It’s quick and easy to make on any given weeknight, but is elegant enough for dinner parties and date night in.
- Flaked pan-fried salmon fillets make this light-on-the-palate pasta a satisfying and filling meal.
- Unsalted butter, olive oil, white wine, and pasta water come together to create a light, yet delectable thin sauce that clings perfectly to the pasta and seeps into the hole in the full-bodied bucatini.
- Anchovy paste adds a deep, savory umami flavor without making this pasta dish fishy or pungent.
- Fresh parsley and baby spinach add herby and mellow notes to cut through the rich and savory flavors.
- Capers and fresh lemon juice brightens up everything at the end!
Get ready for this Salmon Pasta with Anchovy-Garlic Sauce to rock your world!
- Salmon Fillets: I used boneless, skin-on fillets. I recommend cooking the salmon with the skin still attached as it prevents the flesh from drying out. You can peel off and discard the skin after pan-frying the fillets.
- Pasta: I used bucatini, which is a long noodle-type of pasta with a hole in the middle so that the sauce can seep in. But any noodle-type of pasta such as spaghetti, linguini, capellini, etc. will be perfect for the sauce to cling on to. If you only have short-cut pasta shapes on hand, you can use it for this dish. You can also use gluten-free or whole-grain pasta if needed/preferred.
- Chilies: I used a couple of Bird’s Eye red chilies for a kick of heat. But feel free to adjust the quantity you use (or omit them if you’re not big on spicy food) based on your heat level preference.
- Kaffir Lime Leaves: This fragrant Thai herb adds a citrusy note and a sweet-ish aroma to this pasta dish. You can find it in Thai grocery stores and some Asian supermarkets. In a pinch, you can substitute with lemon zest if unavailable.
- Dry White Wine: I used a sauvignon blanc. Its acidity and brightness brings out the best flavors in seafood, and I highly recommend it! But any type of dry crisp white wine like unoaked chardonnay or pinot grigio will work.
- Anchovy Paste: This comes in squeezable tubes, and can either be found in the canned seafood section or where they keep the tomato paste tubes in large supermarkets. It’s made with anchovies, salt and olive oil usually, and adds a savory umami note to pasta dishes, stews and soups, and even salad dressings. Once it dissolves into the sauce and combines with the other ingredients, it does not taste pungent or fishy. Don’t be afraid to use it if it’s your first time, even if you’re not a fan of anchovies in other things like pizza.
- Low Sodium Light Soy Sauce: Another Asian umami powerhouse! Use a gluten-free soy sauce if needed.
- Spices & Seasonings: Just some kosher salt, freshly cracked black pepper, crushed red pepper chili flakes, and ground cayenne. Adjust the heat elements to taste depending on your preference.
- Baby Spinach: To add some much-needed greens and cut through the flavors in the robust sauce. You can also use baby kale instead if you like.
- Lemon juice: Use freshly squeezed lemon juice to brighten up the flavors at the end.
- Capers (not pictured): The capers aren’t pictured here as I’ll admit I forgot to add them to the dish on the day of shooting the photos and ended up adding them on top while eating. But they are such a great addition to this salmon pasta, and add a lovely, bright zingy flavor! Stir them in right at the end to let the briny flavors shine.
Full ingredient list and amounts are in the recipe card below.
How to Make Salmon Pasta in Anchovy-Garlic Sauce
1. Cook the pasta. In a large pot of boiling salted water until 1-2 minutes shy of al-dente. Reserve some of the pasta water, then drain.
2. Pan-fry the salmon. Season with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Then pan-fry the fillets in a bit of olive oil in a skillet until just cooked through and crisp on all sides. Transfer to a clean plate and flake the flesh with a fork (discard the skin).
3. Sauté onion and aromatics. Heat unsalted butter and a splash of olive oil in a large deep sauté pan. Once the butter has melted, sauté the onion, garlic, red chilies and finely minced kaffir lime leaves until fragrant.
4. Make the sauce. Pour in the dry white wine, and add the anchovy paste and low sodium light soy sauce. Stir continuously until the paste dissolves and the wine reduces by half.
5. Add the pasta and seasonings. Toss continuously for a few seconds to combine.
6. Stir through baby spinach and parsley. Toss until the spinach has slightly wilted.
7. Add the salmon and freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Pour the reserved pasta water on top and toss continuously for a few minutes, until the sauce thickens and clings to the pasta. Then stir in the lemon juice and capers.
8. Serve! Divide evenly onto plates and garnish with more chopped parsley and freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese if desired. Then enjoy!
Full detailed instructions are in the recipe card below.
- Run cold water over the pasta after cooking and draining. It’ll prevent it from cooking further and sticking.
- Don’t overcook the salmon. You don’t want dry and hard salmon pieces in this pasta dish.
- If using canned anchovies in oil, drain and mince about 6 fillets to get the equivalent of 1 tablespoon of tubed anchovy paste.
- Cook the pasta 1-2 minutes shy of al-dente. It’ll finish cooking to a perfect al-dente doneness later in the sauce and won’t become sloppy and overcooked.
- Use chopped olives or sundried tomatoes in place of the capers to switch up the flavor.
Yes. Drain the tin of anchovies packed in oil and mash the fillets into a paste. Use 1 anchovy fillet per 1/2 teaspoon of anchovy paste needed. So for this recipe, you’ll need 6 fillets.
Besides pasta, you can use anchovy paste in salad dressings such as Caesar dressing, salads, Bolognese pasta sauce, Drunken Shrimp, grilled or oven roasted veggies, chili or other types of stews to add savory umami notes and depth of flavor.
Once the tube is opened, it should be stored in the fridge. It will last for up to a year.
More Delicious Pastas
- Cream Sauce Seafood Pasta
- Garlic Cream Sauce Seafood Fettuccine
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- Brown Butter Miso Pasta
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- Or browse the entire Pasta recipes collection.
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Salmon Pasta in Anchovy-Garlic Sauce
Flaked pan-fried salmon gets tossed with garlic, chilies, pasta, baby spinach, capers and more in a delectable butter and olive oil-based white wine sauce!
- Prep Time: 10
- Cook Time: 24
- Total Time: 34 minutes
- Yield: 4 1x
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Sauté
- Cuisine: Italian-inspired
For the Pan-fried Salmon:
- 4 Salmon Fillets, boneless, skin-on (about 120 grams/4–5 oz. per fillet)
- ¾ TSP Kosher Salt, to taste
- ¼ TSP freshly cracked Black Pepper, to taste
- 1.5 TBLS Olive Oil (or any other cooking oil), for frying
For the Salmon Pasta with Anchovy-Garlic Sauce:
- 8 ounces/227 grams uncooked Bucatini Pasta (or any other noodle-type of pasta such as linguini, spaghetti, capellini, etc.)
- 3 TBLS Unsalted Butter
- ½ TBLS Olive Oil
- ½ Yellow Onion – finely chopped
- 6 Garlic cloves – finely minced
- 2–6 Red Chilies (optional), to taste (Bird’s Eye preferred, but any small hot red chilies will work) – finely chopped
- 6 Kaffir Lime Leaves – destemmed and finely minced into a powder (substitute grated zest of 1 lemon if unavailable)
- ½ cup Dry White Wine (I recommend sauvignon blanc)
- 1 TBLS Anchovy Paste
- 1 TBLS Low Sodium Light Soy Sauce
- 1.5 TSP freshly cracked Black Pepper, to taste
- 1.5 TSP Crushed Red Pepper Chili Flakes, to taste
- ½ TSP ground Cayenne, to taste
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan) Cheese
- 2 TBLS Flat-leaf Parsley – finely chopped
- 2 cups Baby Spinach (or baby kale) – washed, pat-dried with paper towels or run through a salad spinner
- ½ cup Reserved Pasta Water
- 1 TBLS freshly squeezed Lemon Juice
- 2–3 TBLS drained Capers
- To Serve/Garnish: More chopped parsley and freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- Prepare the fresh ingredients: Finely chop/mince the onion, garlic, red chilies, kaffir lime leaves and parsley as indicated in the ‘Ingredients’ section. Wash and dry the baby spinach leaves and set aside.
- Prepare the salmon: Remove the salmon fillets from the packaging they came in and gently wipe them dry with paper towels. Place the fillets on a plate and season with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste.
For the Salmon Pasta with Anchovy-Garlic Sauce:
- Cook the pasta: Cook the pasta 1-2 minutes shy of al-dente according to package instructions in a large pot (or use the same deep sauté pan you’ll use for the pasta dish) of boiling salted water. Reserve ½ cup of pasta water, then drain and set aside. (I like to run water over the pasta to prevent it from cooking further and sticking.)
- Pan-fry the salmon: Heat 1.5 tablespoons of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, place the seasoned salmon fillets skin side down in the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes. Then turn the fillets over and cook for another 3 minutes. Use tongs to turn the fillets onto their sides and cook for 15-20 seconds to crisp them up too. Switch off the heat and transfer to a clean plate. Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes, then remove and discard the skin and use a fork to flake the flesh.
- Sauté: Heat 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter and ½ tablespoon of olive oil in a large deep sauté pan over medium-high heat. Once the butter has melted and is frothing, add the onion and garlic. Sauté for a minute until the onion is translucent and has softened. Add the red chilies and finely minced kaffir lime leaves, and sauté for 30 seconds until fragrant.
- Make the sauce: Pour in the dry white wine, and add the anchovy paste and low sodium light soy sauce. Stir continuously for about a minute until the paste dissolves, then let it simmer until the wine reduces by half.
- Add the pasta and seasonings: Add the pasta, freshly cracked black pepper, crushed red pepper chili flakes, and ground cayenne. Toss for 30 seconds to combine.
- Toss through greens: Add the baby spinach and parsley and toss until spinach has slightly wilted – about 30 seconds.
- Add the salmon and cheese: Add the flaked salmon, freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and pour in the reserved pasta water. (Note: If you’d like to preserve the crispy texture of the pan-fried salmon, skip adding it now and serve on top of the plated pasta later.) Toss continuously for 2-3 minutes, until the sauce thickens and clings to the pasta. Stir in the lemon juice and capers, then switch off the heat.
- To Serve: Divide evenly onto plates and garnish with more chopped parsley and freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese if desired. Serve immediately!
Ingredient Notes, Cook’s Tips, and FAQs
- Salt: I didn’t add additional kosher salt to the pasta as found that the starchy pasta water made it salty enough for my taste. I recommend tasting the pasta before switching off the heat and add more salt if needed based on your preference. Also, tubed anchovy pastes tend to be saltier than tinned anchovies. If using the latter, you may need to add more salt.
- Chilies: Adjust the quantity of chilies you use (or omit them if you’re not big on heat) based on your heat level preference. Same goes for the crushed red pepper chili flakes and ground cayenne.
- Can I use canned anchovies instead of anchovy paste? Yes, drain the tin of anchovies packed in oil and mash the anchovy fillets into a paste. Use 1 anchovy fillet per 1/2 teaspoon of anchovy paste needed – you’ll need 6 fillets for this recipe.
- To make it gluten-free: Use a gluten-free pasta and gluten-free soy sauce.
- See post above for more tips.
Shop the Recipe
- Serving Size: 1 plate
- Calories: 619
- Sugar: 4g
- Sodium: 792.5mg
- Fat: 26g
- Saturated Fat: 9.5g
- Unsaturated Fat: 13.1g
- Trans Fat: 0.1g
- Carbohydrates: 52.7g
- Fiber: 3.7g
- Protein: 40g
- Cholesterol: 96.1mg
The nutritional information provided is approximate and can vary based on several factors. It should only be used as a general guideline. For more information, please see our Disclosure.
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I made this recently and it turned out great. Honestly at first I was squeamish about using anchovies as I’ve never personally cooked them in a dish, but the paste form worked out for me and was easier to work with so thank you!
Great, Jennifer! I’m glad that you enjoyed this pasta dish! Although working with anchovies doesn’t make me squeamish, it’s the fact that I don’t always have ways to use up all the fillets in the tin so prefer the tubed paste version when I only need a little bit. I’m happy that this recipe worked out well for your with it!