Lemon caper pasta with homemade breadcrumbs is big on flavor but so incredibly simple to make. Linguine is tossed with a simple sauce of garlic, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, capers, and pasta water and topped with the most flavorful homemade breadcrumbs ever. This is perfect any day of the week but we especially love it for weeknights because it's so simple!
Lemon caper linguine is a meal that is on our regular pasta rotation.
In fact, it's so full of wonderful briny flavor from the capers that this can be a vegan substitute for linguine alle vongole!
The trick to this dish is making homemade breadcrumbs from day-old bread, garlic, lemon, and olive oil and using them to top the pasta.
This topping is so good you don't even need to add cheese, although we certainly wouldn't blame you if you did. 🙂
First, make the breadcrumbs
Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.
- To a food processor, add 5 slices of day-old bread cut into chunks, 2 minced cloves of garlic, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, ½ teaspoon sea salt, and 2 teaspoons of lemon zest (about the amount from 1 lemon).
- Pulse the mixture until pea-sized breadcrumbs are formed.
- Empty the breadcrumbs into a large pan and over medium-low heat, toast them for about 5-7 minutes or until golden but not burned.
- Once the breadcrumbs are golden but not burned, remove them from the heat and set them aside. Note: Keep an eye on them the whole time because they can burn quickly.
How to make lemon caper pasta
Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.
- Bring a large pot of salted water (2 tablespoons of Morton's kosher salt per gallon) to boil. Once the water is boiling, add 1 pound of linguine or spaghetti and cook until 1 minute less than al dente. While the pasta is cooking, in a very large pan, saute 8 cloves of sliced garlic in a ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil until golden (about 2-3 minutes).
- Add ½ teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds more. Then, add 4 tablespoons of capers that have been rinsed and drained.
- Add 1 cup of pasta water and turn the heat to medium.
- Place the pasta in the pan and toss with the olive oil and caper sauce to coat and emulsify. If needed, add a touch more pasta water to achieve the perfect consistency.
- Once the pasta reaches al dente, remove from the heat and add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and ½ cup of minced Italian flat-leaf parsley and toss again. Give a taste test and make any salt and pepper or lemon juice adjustments if needed.
- If the pasta is at all dry, right before serving, add a touch more reserved pasta water. Serve the linguine in bowls topped with the homemade breadcrumbs and serve immediately. Enjoy!
Top tips for the best lemon caper pasta
- The pasta water. Since the sauce for the caper lemon linguine consists mainly of extra virgin olive oil and a touch of lemon juice, pasta water plays an essential role in this dish. Not only does the pasta water actually make up part of the sauce, but it can be used to reconstitute the sauce if it dries out at all. So be sure to reserve some pasta water!
- The breadcrumbs. Would using store-bought breadcrumbs make this easier? Sure, but it's not too much extra work to make your own and I encourage you to do so. The texture and flavor will be much better!
- The capers. Since capers tend to be very salty, I recommend rinsing them prior to using them in this dish. The brininess of the capers really adds a tremendous flavor to this dish but if you are looking to substitute the capers for another ingredient, try olives or even anchovy.
More easy pasta recipes
Pasta dishes don't need to be complicated to be good, and this lemon caper linguine is proof! Here are a few more of our family's favorites.
- Linguine aglio e olio - Linguine tossed with garlic, oil, and crushed red pepper flakes.
- Easy marinara - The simplest marinara with crushed tomatoes, garlic, and basil.
- Fettuccine with cherry tomato butter sauce - Onions, butter, and cherry tomatoes tossed with pasta.
- Spaghetti with celery - That's right! The combo of crunchy celery, lemon juice, and garlic is easy and delicious.
If you’ve enjoyed this lemon caper linguine or any recipe on this site, give it a 5-star rating and leave a review.
- 1 pound linguine or spaghetti
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 8 cloves garlic sliced
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 4 tablespoons capers drained and rinsed
- 2 cup reserved pasta water will most likely not need all of it
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- ¼ cup Italian flat leaf parsley minced
- salt and pepper to taste
For the breadcrumbs
- 5 slices day old bread cut into chunks
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest about the amount from 1 lemon
- Bring a large pot of salted (2 tablespoons kosher salt per gallon) water to boil.
- Meanwhile, pulse the breadcrumb mixture in a food processor until coarse breadcrumbs are formed. Toast the breadcrumbs in a large pan over medium-low heat for about 5-7 minutes or until golden but not burned. Set the toasted breadcrumbs aside.
- At this time, cook the linguine until 1 minute less than al dente.
- In a very large pan saute the garlic over medium-low heat in extra virgin olive oil until golden (about 2-3 minutes). Add the crushed red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds more.
- Next, add the capers and 1 cup of pasta water to the pan. Turn the heat to medium. Place the pasta in the pan and toss to coat. If needed, add a touch more of the reserved pasta water to get a perfectly emulsified sauce.
- Once the pasta reaches al dente turn off the heat and remove the pan from the burner. Add the lemon juice and the parsley and toss once more. Taste test and make final adjustments to salt, pepper, and lemon juice if needed.
- If the pasta turns a bit dry before serving, just add a touch more of the reserved pasta water to loosen it up. Serve the linguine in bowls topped with the crunchy breadcrumbs. Enjoy!
- Capers are very salty. Rinsing them can help tone down the saltiness.
- Always reserve pasta water. If the pasta dries out before serving, just add a few ounces of the pasta water to bring the consistency right back to perfect.
- Leftovers can be saved for up to 3 days and can be reheated in the microwave.