Spaghetti with Capers, Parsley and Lemon Cream

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parsley lemon cream pasta sonia cabano blog eatdrinkcapetown
Pasta al Limone with frazzled capers, parsley, lemon, cream and Parmesan
barilla pasta lemon parsley cream sonia cabano blog eatdrinkcapetown
Pasta al Limone: Barilla spaghettini with parsley and lemon cream, frazzled capers and Parmesan

The original version of this timeless recipe for Pasta al Limone comes from Pasta Fresca, by Evan Kleinman and Viana La Place. It’s sheer perfection, lemony and tangy, and the most delicious light lunch or supper for a summer’s day. I’ve taken the liberty of substituting the anchovies in their recipe with frazzled capers instead, because I know many people loathe those salty little fish.

Making frazzled capers is easy: take a quarter cup of drained large capers, rinse or soak in cold water to get most of the salt and brine off, then squeeze dry with kitchen paper. You want to get as much of the liquid out as possible. The capers are then fried or ‘frazzled’ in the hot olive oil you’ll use to soften the chopped onion and garlic in later. Full instructions given below.

chopped italian parsley pasta lemon cream sonia cabano blog eatdrinkcapetown
Chopping fresh Italian parsley for the Lemon Cream sauce with Barilla spaghettini
barilla spaghettini no 3 sonia cabano blog eatdrinkcapetown
Barilla spaghettini No. 3


Serves 4


300g Barilla spaghetti (I used the spaghettini No. 3, a very thin version)

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup drained large capers, rinsed or soaked in cold water, then squeezed dry. Set aside on kitchen paper until needed.

1 large white onion, very finely diced

2 fat cloves of fresh garlic, mashed to a paste

juice and zest of one large yellow lemon – grate the zest first, then cut lemon in half and squeeze out the juice

1 cup cream

3 slices lemon

salt and freshly ground black pepper

20g roughly chopped Italian parsley

Parmesan shavings to serve


  1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water with the three lemon slices according to the packet instructions, until just al dente. Drain in a colander over the sink, drizzle over a little olive oil and stir it through to prevent clumping. Remove lemon slices and discard.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan or pot until very hot but not smoking. Throw the capers in all at once, and cook while stirring for about a minute or two. The capers will puff up, turn a golden nutty brown and become fairly crisp. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and set aside on absorbent paper to dry. Leave the oil in the pot and the burner on, you’re going to cook the onions and garlic now.
  3. Cook the onion and garlic in the same oil in the same pot, turning the heat down low. Put the lid on the pot and cook gently for about 20 minutes, until very soft and golden. Don’t let the onions brown at all, it will turn bitter, spoil your delicate sauce and you’ll have to start all over again!
  4. Add the grated lemon zest and juice to the onions, stir well and cook gently for another 4 or 5 minutes.
  5. Add the cream and chopped parsley, stir and cook until the cream starts to thicken.
  6. Place pasta in a nice serving dish, pour over the sauce and stir through. Scatter over the frazzled capers, and shavings of Parmesan. Grind over some black pepper and enjoy!

COOK’S NOTE: If you don’t mind anchovies, use 10 chopped fillets instead of the capers, and soften in the oil along with the onion and garlic. You could also use 3/4 cup pitted, chopped black Kalamata olives instead. I prefer it as simple as possible to get all that lemony goodness!

pasta lemon parsley cream capers in bowl sonia cabano blog eatdrinkcapetown
Spaghetti with parsley and lemon cream, frazzled capers and Parmesan
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Celebrating life with food, wine, friends & happiness! Writer, cook and blogger. Author of four cookbooks. Passionately South African, proudly Capetonian.