Salmon with Pesto and Roasted Cauliflower is an easy 5-ingredient full dinner! Yep, all you need is just five ingredients to create the crispiest, most flavorful salmon meal. We pan-sear salmon filets in a screaming hot cast iron skillet, and serve it over a bed of pesto farro studded with nutty roasted cauliflower. This is honestly the BEST five-ingredient meal you’ll ever make!
Crispy Salmon with Pesto and Cauliflower
You will be hard-pressed to find a dinner more flavorful, hearty, and healthy than today’s Crispy Salmon with Pesto and Cauliflower. And even better? You only need five, very easily accessible ingredients to make it. Yep, that’s right. To whip up this restaurant-quality meal (I actually copied it from one of my favorite Italian restaurants) all you need are five ingredients. It’s a dinner miracle.
Here’s the deal. We’ve gotten quite good at efficiently creating five-ingredient dishes (just see our archives), but sometimes it can be difficult to pull off a meal from start to finish with only a handful of ingredients. This includes your:
But we’ve done it! And we’ve done it very very well, if I do say so myself. The trick to making sure this easy dinner is delicious and not disappointing, is building flavor throughout the cooking process.
How to build flavor with minimal ingredients
We first do that by roasting the cauliflower. By simply tossing cut cauliflower with a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper and roasting it, we already create a base flavor, which is a great place to start. To make sure the cauliflower gets ample caramelization in the roasting process, I make sure to cut the florets off the stalk with a knife instead of pulling them off with my hands. This creates a flat surface for the cauliflower to caramelize – more on that later.
Add texture. Texture is a big thing for me, and we do that by using nutty faro (which also has much more flavor than traditional rice), and tossing some of the roasted cauliflower into it as well. Using multiple ingredients in different ways, is a great way to layer flavor throughout the cooking process.
Sear the salmon. Another great way to add flavor is by searing the salmon in cast-iron skillet opposed to baking it in the oven. Using a cast-iron skillet makes the flesh irresistibly crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Plus, it almost caramelizes the outside, which, of course, created more flavor.
Ingredients in Crispy Salmon with Peso and Cauliflower
Cauliflower. I use a whole head of cauliflower. You can also buy cauliflower florets, but be sure to cut them in half, and then some smaller pieces so they can roast properly.
Olive oil. Any kind of olive oil will work here, nothing expensive or fancy required. We use olive oil both to roast the cauliflower and to sear the salmon.
Farro. If you’re not familiar, faro is an ancient grain, derived from wheat (i.e. not gluten free). It’s similar in size to cooked brown rice, but it’s much chewier in texture and nuttier in flavor. I’m obsessed with it. And you will be too!
Pesto. Buy a really good-quality pesto, or you homemade! You can find our favorite recipe here, but when I made this recipe, it wasn’t time for fresh basil, so I opted for my favorite basil pesto from Whole Foods.
Salmon. You could buy a whole filet of salmon, or buy four center-cut potions. As you can see from the photos, I went with the center-cut portions.
Let’s make Salmon!
Cut the cauliflower. Use a large knife to cut the cauliflower into varying sizes of florets. You want each piece of cauliflower to have at least one flat edge, so no matter how tempting it is to just pull of the florets, just cut it.
Roast the cauliflower. Toss the cut cauliflower with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread on a large baking sheet, if needed two. You want to make sure that no two florets of cauliflower are touching, otherwise they may steam instead of roast. I used two sheet pans just to be safe, so I’d suggest doing the same.
Cook the faro. Your faro package should have some instructions, follow them! 🙂 Be sure you don’t overcook it, the farro SHOULD be very chewy and not mushy at all.
Sear the salmon. Heat a large cast-iron skillet to a medium-high heat. Season the salmon liberally with salt and pepper. Add remaining two teaspoons of olive oil to the skillet. Swirl to coat the pan. Add the salmon, skin-side up (if you want to eat the salmon skin and want the skin to be crispy, start with the salmon, skin-side down). Sear the salmon until golden brown, and crispy, about 2-3 minutes. Flip and turn the heat down to medium, continue to cook until salmon is cooked through, another 3-4 minutes.
Assemble! Once the cauliflower is roasted, leave some pieces whole, and roughly chop about 1/3 of it. Toss the chopped cauliflower, pesto, and a little bit of salt and pepper with the farro. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Spoon some of the farro on a plate. Top with salmon. Arrange a few more pieces of roasted cauliflower around the salmon. Drizzle with more pesto.
Can I make this in advance?
Gosh. I wish you could, but I would not recommend making salmon in advance. However, you can cook the farro in advance. The good news, is this is a fairly quick dinner to throw together, so it’s really not necessary to make it ahead of time.
Do I have to use salmon?
Absolutely not! This would be also be wonderful with scallops, tilapia, or even chicken.
Substitutions and Tips and Tricks for Recipe Success
- Swap out the farro for barley.
- Be sure to season the salmon WELL. A well-seasoned piece of salmon crisps up much better than an under seasoned one. Plus, it’s so darn delicious with that crispy, salty crust!
- A minimal ingredient dish needs to be seasoned in every single step. The cauliflower, the salmon, the farro – all of it.
- If you want to add a sixth ingredient, sprinkle a little bit of parmesan on top.
What to serve with Crispy Salmon with Cauliflower and Pesto
- This Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad is one of our favorite side salads and really easy to throw together.
- Another favorite side salad is our Tuscan Chopped Salad – made with ingredients you can find in the salad bar.
- Let’s double up on our veggies! These Sautéed Green Beans with Brown Butter Pesto utilize an ingredient we’re already in the lineup, so this easy side dish is a no-brainer.
- 1 head cauliflower
- 2 1/2 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 3/4 cup uncooked farro
- 4 5oz filets center-cut salmon
- 3 tbsp pesto, plus more for drizzling
- sheet pan
- Cast iron skillet
- Sauce pan
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Use a large chef's knife to cut the cauliflower into varying sizes. Make sure each piece of cauliflower has a flat surface so it can brown and roast nicely. i.e. Do not pull off florets, use your knife to cut them so they have a flat surface.
- Add cauliflower to a large rimmed sheet pan. Drizzle with two tablespoons of olive oil. Use your hands to evenly coat the cauliflower in the oil. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and just a little bit of pepper. Toss again. Spread the cauliflower out. No one piece of cauliflower shoudl be touching another, if you need to, use two sheet pan. You want the cauliflower to roast and if they are too close together, they will steam instead. Roast for 15 minutes and flip ober, cook anothe 5-10 minutes until caramilized.
- Meanwhile, cook the farro according the package's directions. Season with salt and pepper.
- When the cauliflower and farro are almost done cooking, season the salmon liberally with salt and pepper. Heat a large cast iron skillet to a medium-high heat. Add remaining two teaspoons of olive oil to the skillet. Swirl to coat the pan. Add the salmon, skin-side up (if you want to eat the salmon skin and want the skin to be crispy, start with the salmon, skin-side down). Sear the salmon until golden brown, and crispy, about 2-3 minutes. Flip and turn the heat down to medium, continue to cook until salmon is cooked through, another 3-4 minutes.
- Take about 1 cup of the roastted cauliflower and roughly chop. Add to the cooked farro along with 3 tablspoons of the pesto. Toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
- Arrange farro on the bottom of a plate. Place cooked salmon on top. Scatter extra roasted cauliflower around. Drizzle with more pesto.