Fresh herbs, mild green olives, and zesty capers make a brightly-flavored sauce for this quick and easy pasta recipe. Ready in less than 30 minutes!
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This pasta recipe has everything I love. Fresh herbs? I could eat an entire salad made of fresh herbs. Buttery green olives? Yes, please. Salty capers and anchovies? Again, yes. (Do not fear the umami-packed anchovy.) Oh, and you can make it for a quick weeknight dinner in less than 30 minutes.
I've had this linguine recipe torn out of Bon Appétit for like, four years. (OMG, really?) It's been leering at me all this time, and I finally made it on a day when my gluten-free husband was out and about for the afternoon. I ended up eating darn-near the entire bowl.
They call it linguine with green olive sauce, but for me, this pasta is all about the fresh herbs. Herb pasta sauce sounds more like it. There are almost two cups of fresh herbs in here.
What are Castelvetrano Olives?
But let's talk about the olives in this recipe, too. Castelvetrano olives to be exact. The first time I tried them, we were in Vancouver. (Incidentally, it was on that trip that my husband said, "You should start a food blog", and Voilá! - here we are!) We were at a little wine bar called Salt. They brought them out on a cheese and charcuterie plate, and our minds just melted. They are all buttery and creamy. Not briny or salty.
Castelvetrano olives come from Sicily. They have mostly been used to make olive oil, but lately they've gained popularity because of their smooth buttery flavor. They're cured the same way canned black olives are cured.
I love olives of every ilk, but these are something special. If you have among you those who don't like olives, feed them Castelvetrano olives and their lives will change. I've done it. I've seen it happen. With my very own eyes.
The linguine noodles are perfect for this light pasta sauce, it's just an olive oil base, thickened with the starchy pasta water and parmigiano reggiano cheese. You get to taste everything. The al dente pasta, the fresh herbs, the buttery olives, and the salty capers all come through.
Oh, and don't forget about those crunchy breadcrumbs sprinkled on top! Carbs on carbs!!
If you're looking for linguine recipes without tomato sauce, put this one at the top of your list.
Shall we get started? Yes, let's.
This is a light pasta sauce, so the linguine noodles are a key component of the recipe. They need to have a satisfying texture, so it's important to cook the pasta al dente.
What is al dente pasta?
What does al dente mean anyway? Al dente literally means "to the teeth". So how do we apply that to pasta? Well, it means that the pasta should have some bite to it. Some chew. It should not be crunchy, but it should not be mushy like canned noodle soup, either. The texture of the pasta is an important element of the recipe.
How long does it take to cook pasta al dente?
The packaging will recommend a time frame for cooking pasta al dente, it will vary by the type of noodle you are making. But what you really need to do is monitor it and taste it as you go.
Linguine Recipe with Green Olives, Capers, and Fresh Herbs
Adapted from Bon Appétit
Make the breadcrumbs:
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Toast the panko breadcrumbs in the skillet until golden brown. Remove the breadcrumbs and drain on a paper towel. Once cool, toss with lemon zest and fresh dill.
Make the pasta and sauce:
Chop the fresh parsley and tear the basil. (Basil won't get as black on the edges if you tear it instead of chopping it.) Add to a large bowl. I used one of my Pyrex mixing bowls.
Add half of the olives and half of the capers to the bowl.
Place the anchovies and garlic on a cutting board and use the side of a goodchef's knife like this one from Global to mash it into a paste. You may not get it completely smooth, and that is okay. The anchovy will start to melt into the garlic, and the garlic will start to break down.
This is what we want.
Add the anchovy mixture to the bowl with the herbs.
Chop the remaining olives and capers down to a small dice, and add to the bowl with the herb mixture, along with ¼ cup of olive oil, and stir to combine.
Cook the linguine noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water before draining.
How long do you cook linguine pasta?
If the package says 10-12 minutes, that's generally past the point of al dente. I will start checking it around 6 or 8 minutes. Take a noodle out of the pot, let it cool down for a second, and then bite into it. Keep in mind that the noodle will continue to cook in the sauce for a few minutes, so you want to err on the side of underdone.
Transfer the linguine noodles to a large serving bowl with the herb sauce, add ¼ cup of the pasta cooking liquid and mix together, gradually adding the parmesan cheese. Add more water as needed until the pasta is coated with the sauce.
Top with the breadcrumbs and a bit more parmesan - I always use the good stuff, parmigiano reggiano - and serve.
More easy pasta recipes:
Linguine with Green Olives, Capers, and Fresh Herbs
- 1 tbsp olive oi
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs (Japanese-style breadcrumbs)
- 1 tbsp lemon zest (zest of one lemon)
- 2 tbsp fresh chopped dill
Pasta and Sauce
- 12 oz linguine or other long noodle
- 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
- ½ cup torn fresh basil
- 4 oil-packed anchovies
- 1 clove garlic
- 3 tbsp capers
- 1 cup Castelvetrano olives or ripe green olives
- ¾ cup parmigiano reggiano cheese or other high quality parmesan cheese
- Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat.
- Toast panko breadcrumbs until golden brown, then place on a paper towel to drain.
- Once cool, toss breadcrumbs with lemon zest and fresh dill and set aside.
Pasta with Olives, Capers, and Herbs
- Chop the fresh parsley and tear the basil. Add to a large serving bowl. (Basil won’t get as black on the edges if you tear it instead of chopping it.) Add half of the olives and half of the capers to the bowl.
- Place the anchovies and garlic on a cutting board and use the side of a chef’s knife to mash it into a paste. You may not get it completely smooth, and that is okay. The anchovy will start to melt into the garlic, and the garlic will start to break down. Add the anchovy mixture to the bowl with the herbs.
- Chop the remaining olives and capers down to a small dice, and add to the bowl with the herb mixture. Add the ¼ cup of olive oil and stir to combine.
- Cook the linguine noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water before draining.
- Transfer the linguine to the bowl with the herb sauce along with ¼ cup of the cooking liquid and stir, gradually adding the parmesan cheese. Add more water as needed until the pasta is coated with the sauce. Top with the breadcrumbs and a bit more parmesan and serve.