This lemony salmon asparagus pasta salad recipe is full of the best fresh springtime flavors, it’s quick and easy to make, and can be served warm or as a cold pasta salad.
Yes, salmon! ♡
I thought it would be fun to mix things up with the usual pasta salads that I tend to make this time of year. So for something different, I flaked up a filet of smoked salmon and tossed it with some chopped asparagus, herbs, pine nuts, Parmesan and a quick lemony dressing. And you guys — this simple orzo salad was such a winner!
The smokiness of the salmon was downright irresistible paired with the rest of those bright, herby, and citrusy flavors. And with a bit of light multitasking, I was doubly pleased to find that the whole dish came together in just 30 minutes or so. It’s the perfect make-ahead dish for easy weekday lunches or weekend dinners on the patio this time of year. And after testing this recipe a few times here at our house, we can vouch that it tastes even better the next day too. ♡
Feel free to use whatever type of salmon here that you prefer — hot-smoked, cold-smoked, baked or sautéed. And if you’re not a big fan of dill, this recipe is incredibly flexible and would work well with fresh basil, parsley, or chives too. Alright, let’s make some pasta salad!
Salmon Asparagus Pasta Salad Ingredients:
To make this lemony salmon asparagus pasta salad, you will need the following ingredients:
Pasta: I used orzo pasta, but any pasta shape or noodle will work here.
Asparagus: I chopped my fresh asparagus into small little pieces, then briefly sautéed them in a drizzle of olive oil until they were crisp-tender.
Salmon: I used hot-smoked salmon, which I roughly flaked into pieces. But you could also chop up cold-smoked salmon, or bake/sauté a salmon filet until it is full-cooked if you prefer.
Parmesan: The more, the merrier, in my opinion. I coarsely-grated my Parmesan using a box grater, and really liked the larger chunks, but you could also use finely-grated Parmesan instead if you prefer. (I forgot to add it to the photo above, by the way, but it is pictured in all of the final photos of the salad here!)
Pine nuts: Which I recommend briefly toasting before adding to the pasta salad, to bring out their best flavor. I just toasted mine in the same sauté pan that I used for the asparagus.
Red onion: You all know me and red onion — I add it (or shallots) to nearly every salad I make. ;) That said, feel free to swap in green onions here if you prefer. And as always, if you would like the onion taste to be a bit more mild, just give it a quick rinse in cold water before adding it to the salad.
Fresh dill: I always love salmon, lemon and dill together. But if you’re not a fan of dill, feel free to add in some fresh basil instead.
Lemon dressing: I just used my everyday dressing for this pasta salad, made with olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon, garlic, salt and pepper. If you would like, feel free to also zest your lemon (before juicing it) and add the zest to the pasta salad too.
How To Make This Pasta Salad:
If you do a bit of multitasking, this pasta salad can be ready to go in around 30 minutes or so. Simply…
Cook the orzo. In salted boiling water until al dente, then drain and rinse with cold water until the pasta is chilled.
Make the vinaigrette. Whisk everything together or shake in a mason jar until combined.
Sauté the asparagus. Sauté until crisp-tender. (Or alternately, you could roast the asparagus!)
Put it all together. Toss everything together until combined.
Serve. Serve and enjoy — sprinkled with extra Parmesan and fresh dill if you would like!
There are so many ways that you could customize this salmon orzo salad recipe, so feel free to play around with it! For example, you could…
Serve it hot: We really enjoyed this as a cold pasta salad, but it could just as easily be served hot! (If doing so, I recommend sautéing the onions and garlic from the dressing with the asparagus.)
Make it chunky: I opted for smaller chopped ingredients for this recipe. But you could use a larger pasta shape, and chop the asparagus and salmon into larger pieces to match the same size.
Add extras: Marinated artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes (or fresh cherry tomatoes), olives, capers, fresh greens (such as chopped arugula or spinach), or other sautéed veggies (green beans, peas, zucchini, etc) would also be delicious in this salad.
Use a different protein: Canned tuna would also be delicious in place of salmon. Or you could use cooked shrimp, shredded chicken or chickpeas instead.
More Pasta Salad Recipes:
Looking for some more great pasta salad recipes to try? Here are a few of my faves:
Cook the orzo. Cook the orzo in a large pot of generously-salted boiling water until it is al dente. Pour the orzo through a strainer and rinse with cold water until the pasta is chilled. Set aside until ready to use.
Make the vinaigrette. Meanwhile, whisk together all of the lemon dressing ingredients together until combined.
Sauté the asparagus. Heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the asparagus and cook for 4-5 minutes until crisp-tender. Remove pan from heat and set aside.
Put it all together. In a large mixing bowl, combine the chilled orzo, cooked asparagus, salmon, Parmesan, pine nuts, red onion and dill. Drizzle evenly with the lemon dressing and toss until combined.
Serve. Serve immediately, sprinkled with extra Parmesan and fresh dill if desired.
Salmon: I used hot smoked salmon for this recipe, but you could also sub in cold-smoked salmon. Or, you are welcome to bake a salmon breast and then add it to the recipe too.
Lemon zest: I also recommend adding the zest of the lemon to the salad too, if you would like it to have an extra lemony kick.
Storage instructions: This pasta salad can be refrigerated in a food storage container for up to 3 days.