Spaghetti with Green Olives and Lemon Panko

Since it’s spring and everything is turning green (and yellow and pink), it’s time to take advantage and turn from heavy food to something lighter and fresher. Spaghetti with green olives and lemon panko hits all those buttons. It’s light, it’s green, and it’s a bit of a flavor bomb that will wake up your taste buds.

It’s got zesty garlic, and earthy fresh spinach, paired with tangy capers, briny olives and a burst of citrus. Crispy, golden-brown panko crumbs mixed with dill and lemon zest add a bit of crunch.

In fact, I shared it with some friends and one of them said, “Oh I want that! I want it now! But I’m at work! Sob.”

I hate that the internet doesn’t include a “push here for spaghetti option”!

I found the original recipe on Bon Appetit, but I changed it a bit.  First, it had anchovies. Nope! Nope!  Second, I swapped the original parsley for some spinach instead. One, I had lots of spinach. And two, I don’t like parsley all that much, so there’s no point in buying a whole bunch of it. The spinach I will use for other meals.

One more small thing. The recipe said to cut some of the olives in half and then chop up the rest. It may have said to chop up the capers too (the instructions were a bit unclear). I started to chop the olives and then decided it was silly, so I stopped.

It also occurred to me after I made it that I could prepare the pasta first, then keep it warm while I cooked the panko and mixed everything else together.  Just drain and wipe the saucepan, add the oil and panko, and proceed with the rest of the recipe. That way it’s only one pot!

I used ordinary green olives (because they were handy). I think I will try it next time with castelvetrano olives instead, since they are my favorite olive (and taste great with pasta).

Oh dear, I’m revising and internet commenting my own recipe! Ha!

Spaghetti with Green Olives and Lemon Panko

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Category: dinner

Cuisine: Italian


spaghetti with green olives and lemon panko


  • 3 T olive oil
  • 1 T panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp dried dill (or 1 T fresh)
  • 1/4 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 3 ounces spaghetti
  • 1 garlic clove, mashed
  • 1/4 C fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • 2 T chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup green olives, pitted, halved
  • 2 1/4 tsp drained capers
  • 2 T grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice


  1. Heat one tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium size skillet.
  2. Add the panko and cook stirring, over medium heat, for a minute or two. Watch it closely so it doesn't burn. Once the panko turns golden brown, remove it from the pan and spoon it on a paper towel so it will drain. Add salt and pepper and mix in the dill and lemon zest.
  3. Boil water in a large pot, add salt, and then add the spaghetti. Stir the pasta when you add it, so it doesn't stick. Once the spaghetti is done (about 8-10 minutes), remove from the pot and drain nearly all the water. Keep about 2 T of the water in reserve (this will help thicken the sauce).
  4. While the spaghetti is cooking, mash the garlic. Use the broad edge of a wide knife to smash it, and then smear it around on the cutting board with the side of the knife to make a paste. Put the mashed garlic, spinach, basil, olives, and capers in a large bowl. Now add the rest of the olive oil. Toss it all together and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Add the pasta and the half the reserved cooking water to the spinach olive mixture. Mix it all together so that the pasta is covered. If it's too dry, add more of the pasta liquid.
  6. Squeeze the lemon you used for the zest and add 1 1/2 tsp of juice to the sauce.
  7. Top that with the panko mixture and more Parmesan cheese.

Spaghetti with Green Olives and Lemon Panko Substitutions and Variations

  • like anchovies and parsley? Go for it!
  • use castelvetrano olives instead, they are firmer and more buttery
  • top the whole thing with some red pepper flakes
  • add more garlic
  • use the sauce over cooked fish (such as cod or tilapia)

More Spaghetti Recipes

spaghetti spinach lemon cream sauceSpaghetti with Spinach and Lemon Cream Sauce

A bit of basil, a handful of spinach, and some cream (or diluted plain Greek yogurt), and cooked pasta. You’ve got dinner (only two pots).  A healthy, green way to say hello to spring.


linguine with garlic and olive oilLinguine with Garlic and Olive Oil

Fancy fresh pasta, or standard dried, this meal works either way. And it makes me smile every time.


pasta olives tomatoes capersPasta with Olives Tomatoes and Capers or Puttanesca

Nobody knows exactly how this dish got its name. But, the punchy capers, sweet tomatoes, and briny olives pack a lot of flavor into a few ingredients. It’s fast, and delicious too.


pistachio pasta pestoPistachio Pesto Pasta

Green, earthy, garlicky, and made with pistachios rather than the usual pine nuts (who can pay for those nowadays anyway?).  This recipe came from an unusual source: a book. And, it wasn’t a cookbook either.

Pasta with Olives Tomatoes and Capers Puttanesca

In a hurry for dinner?  Pasta is your friend. This pasta dish with olives, tomatoes, and capers (or pasta puttanesca) has a slightly racy name.  Nobody really knows why.  One theory says the dish was popular with the ladies of the evening because it was easy to cook and the ingredients were cheap.  Another says that the sauce’s aroma helped lure in customers.

Whatever the reason, it certainly is budget friendly and you can make it in about 20 minutes.

Whoever is responsible created a dish that’s packed with flavor. There’s pungent little bits of garlic, slightly briny capers, and nutty Niçoise olives. 

Capers, in case you don’t know, are the buds of a Mediterranean plant that are picked and then pickled (try to say that three times fast).  I always thought Niçoise  olives were a variety, but I found out today that they’re really called Le Calletier.  Niçoise is just the method of curing them.

I adapted this recipe from The Silver Palate Cookbook. They suggested using whole canned tomatoes, and then squeezing them out and chopping them up.  That’s too messy for me. You can use crushed tomatoes, purée, or even tomato sauce in a pinch.

Traditionally, this recipe also includes anchovies.  However, I am a fish wimp. The strongest fish flavor I like is salmon.  Also, anchovies were $32 a pound.  Nope. Not happening. Nuh uh.

The other great thing about pasta puttanesca is that you can use canned tomatoes, jarred capers, dry pasta, and spices you probably already have sitting on your shelf.

Save the rest of the tomatoes for pasta alla norma.

The remaining capers will keep indefinitely in the fridge once opened.  They’re great with smoked salmon, lemon, and dill for a weekend brunch.


Pasta Olives Tomatoes Capers or Puttanesca

Category: entree

Cuisine: Italian

one serving

pasta olives tomatoes capers

Pungent, earthy, and ready in minutes, this pasta puttanesca goes great with a full-bodied red wine. Pour yourself a glass and enjoy a great meal.


  • 1/4 lb spaghetti, linguine or long, dried pasta (about the diameter of a quarter)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 can (use half of the 15 oz size if you can find it), otherwise 1/4 of a 28 oz can pureed tomatoes
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • pinch dried red pepper flakes
  • 2T black Niçoise olives
  • 1T drained capers
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped


  1. Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a wide saucepan (or a Dutch oven)
  2. Add a pinch of salt and the spaghetti; cook the pasta until al dente (tender, but not mushy). Drain right away and transfer to a small pasta plate or bowl.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, combine the tomatoes and the olive oil in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil.
  4. Once the tomato/oil mixture is boiling, individually add the oregano, pepper flakes, olives, capers, and garlic. Stir after each additional ingredient.
  5. Turn the heat down a bit and keep cooking the sauce until it thickens. Adding a bit of the pasta water will help thicken it.
  6. Pour the sauce over the pasta and serve. A chunk of crusty bread will help sop up the sauce.

More Pasta Recipes

Pasta with Broccoli, Mushrooms, and Chicken Sausage

Pistachio Pesto Pasta Recipe

Penne with Feta Cheese, Sun-dried Tomatoes, and Olives

Spaghetti with Spinach and Lemon Cream Sauce

Chicken with Olives and Tomatoes for One

The source of this recipe for chicken with olives and tomatoes will probably surprise you. It’s a North African recipe from a Jewish cookbook.  You probably think of lox and bagels and matzo balls when you think of Jewish cuisine, but it’s really far more varied than that. This is just one example.  My recipe for Moroccan chicken and bean soup was adapted from the same cookbook.

This recipe looks a bit complicated, but it really isn’t.  The flavors of the chicken, olives, garlic, and a bit of ginger make it rich and delicious (with a hint of spiciness).  It’s not a super quick meal though, so save it for when you have more time (or on a weekend).

Castelvetrano olives, by the way, are far different from the sad specimens you get in a can. They’re firm, bright green, sweet, and buttery, almost like a fruit.  I thought I hated olives, until I happened to try these (they were an amuse bouche at a restaurant).  The restaurant is now gone, but the olives are still here!  If you can’t find those, try cerignola olives. They are large, salty/sweet, bright green, and great for snacking or cooking.

Chicken with Olives and Tomatoes for One

Prep Time: 2 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 47 minutes

Category: entree

Cuisine: North African

one serving

chicken with tomatoes and olives

North African chicken recipe with olives, tomatoes, garlic, and ginger. It's probably not what you expect from Jewish cuisine!


  • 1T olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1 chicken thigh
  • 2T pureed tomatoes (or tomato sauce)
  • tiny pinch powdered saffron
  • 3/4 C water
  • 5-6 green olives (take out the pits)
  • squeeze of lemon juice
  • pinch coriander


  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the onions. Cook them until they wilt.
  2. Add the garlic and the ginger and stir thoroughly.
  3. Next add the chicken, turning it regularly, and cook for a minute or two until it browns a bit.
  4. Add the tomatoes and the saffron to the pan..
  5. Season with salt and pepper (not too much salt, because the olives are salty)
  6. Pour in the water (it should just cover the chicken)
  7. Cook on low heat for about 30 minutes.
  8. Turn the chicken every ten minutes or so and check to make sure the water hasn't evaporated. Add more water if necessary.
  9. While the chicken is cooking, heat some water in a small saucepan. When it comes to a boil, add the olives. Cook for 30 seconds or so. Then drain them and add to the chicken mixture.
  10. Cook for another 10 minutes.
  11. Add the lemon juice and the coriander and serve.


A note about the saffron. I realize it's hideously expensive. Someone brought me a container of saffron threads rom the Middle East (where it's dirt cheap), so I don't mind so much. The powdered version is a bit cheaper though.

Tools and Ingredients for Chicken with Olives and Tomatoes

Spanish Saffron

Soak this in a bit of hot water before you use it. Saffron adds a flavor that’s hard to describe, as well as beautiful reddish-yellow color. Use it for Moroccan dishes (like this one), or for Indian food. Just a tiny bit will do the trick.

Castelvetrano Olives

Use the olives for this chicken dish, or the pasta recipe below.  They’re also great with an antipasto platter. Or, add some olive oil, garlic, and rosemary, and marinate them. Serve that with a cheese platter.


The Book of Jewish Food

This is part cookbook and part travel diary. The author includes brief histories of the communities that created the dishes, and how they adapted local cuisine to suit religious restrictions. There’s recipes for the expected kugel, split pea soup, and chopped liver. But then it goes off to Spain, Baghdad, and India. From there you get leek meatballs, eggplant fritters, chicken with rice croquettes, borekas, lamb with raisins and almonds, and pumpkin kofta curry.

More Recipes with Olives or Chicken

Penne with Feta Cheese, Sun-dried Tomatoes, and Olives

Summer Pasta with Green Olives and Feta Cheese

Chili Citrus Chicken Thigh Recipe for One

Chicken Thighs with Peaches and Ginger Recipe for One

Penne with Feta Cheese, Sun-dried Tomatoes, and Olives

This penne with feta cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and olives recipe is fairly hands-off, simple, and delicious. And, of course, it’s just one serving!

It also allowed me to make some progress using the enormous jar of sun-dried tomatoes that’s been in the back of my fridge forever! Add some pasta, a bit of feta cheese, olives, and a few leaves of fresh basil, and you get a tasty lunch with only a few minutes of real work. (I have a basil plant growing in my window, so that basil was really fresh).

The feta was leftover from making a feta and spinach omelette, so it also helps toward my goal of not wasting anything. I just hate having a couple of tablespoons of sauce, or a few random bits of fruit or vegetables turning into a science experiment.

Now, on to more tasty mental pictures.

Since the tomatoes are dried, you’ll have to start by heating them and softening them up a bit.  You can do this overnight (if you’re organized), or just start them a few minutes before you start boiling the water for the pasta.

Once the tomatoes are soaked and the pasta is cooked, the rest of the recipe takes only a few minutes to prepare.  Just cook the garlic, toss the remaining ingredients in the saucepan you used to cook the penne and heat them up with the pasta.

Since the entire meal only uses one pot, it’s also easy to clean up afterwards. I don’t have a dishwasher, so easy cleanup is good!

Penne with Feta Cheese and Sun-dried Tomatoes for One

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Category: entree

Cuisine: Mediterranean

one serving

penne with feta cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and olives

Penne with Feta Cheese and Sun-dried Tomatoes for One Person


  • 3 sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1T olive oil
  • 1T feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1C dried penne pasta
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp fresh basil
  • 2-3 castravelano olives (pitted), optional


  1. Soak the tomatoes in hot water for 20 minutes, until softened. Once they are pliable, cut them into small pieces.
  2. Boil water in a medium saucepan and cook the pasta about 8 minutes, until al dente.
  3. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it, reserving about 1/4 C of the pasta water.
  4. Add oil to the saucepan, cook garlic on low 1-2 minutes.
  5. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, pasta, cheese, salt, pepper, and olives (if using) back to the pot.
  6. Add the reserved pasta water.
  7. Stir to combine and heat through, for 1-2 minutes.
  8. Pour into a serving bowl.
  9. Top with fresh basil leaves.

Substitutions and Variations for Penne with Feta Cheese, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Olives

  • add a handful of fresh spinach (maybe half a cup of torn leaves) at the end, after you drain the pasta; cooking it just a minute or two until it wilts
  • put in some leftover cooked chicken, this makes it more substantial and suitable for dinner
  • add some cooked mushrooms (if you have dried mushrooms, throw them in the hot water when you’re rehydrating the sun-dried tomatoes)

Ingredients and Tools for This Recipe

Roland Sun-Dried Tomatoes

The nice thing about sun-dried tomatoes is that they do last a long time (if you happen to have bought a giant jar because the price was great).  In addition to pasta, you can toss them on pizza, mix them in with eggs, add them to pesto, or put them in meatloaf.


Whole Castelvetrano Olives

My mom only eats black olives and my dad only likes green ones. I never really liked olives of any kind that much until I tried these. They were set out as a bar snack (of all things). They are bright green, mild, and don’t taste sour or briny like most olives do. They’re great with this pasta dish, and also marinated in olive oil with slivers of garlic and rosemary (which is how the bar served them). Delicious and great for a wine and cheese cocktail hour (either just for you or for company).

More Single Serving Recipes with Pasta or Feta Cheese

Strawberry Spinach Salad with Balsamic Dressing and Feta Cheese

Summer Pasta with Green Olives and Feta Cheese

Pistachio Pesto Pasta Recipe (a chance to use more fresh basil)

Summer Pasta with Green Olives and Feta Cheese

After a rather chilly spring, summer is suddenly here in full force. It’s hot, it’s sticky and I do not want to stand over a hot stove for one second longer than I have to. That means it’s time for salads, pasta, eggs, and other quick meals that require as little cooking time as possible.  So, with that in mind, today’s dish is a simple, but delicious summer pasta with green olives and feta cheese.

The feta cheese and olives are slightly salty, while the tomatoes add sweetness.  And really, fresh summery tomatoes (and strawberries) are the best!

I ate my pasta hot, because I was hungry and didn’t want to wait for it to cool, but I suspect it would work just as well as a cold pasta salad. It would probably be great for a picnic. Since there’s no mayonnaise it will travel well to a park or the beach.

It’s easy to make too. Just boil the water, cook the pasta, and chop up a few ingredients. Perfect when you don’t want to cook, but you still have to eat. And it’s a lot easier and cheaper than going out or ordering in to get something.

I kept it simple with just the olives and tomatoes, but you could add other vegetables or swap the tomatoes for other fresh vegetables, such as spinach, bell pepper, or mushrooms. And don’t fuss too much about measuring the vegetables. It’s hard to mess this up!


Summer Pasta with Olives and Feta Cheese

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Category: lunch

Cuisine: Mediterranean

one serving

summer pasta olives and feta

An easy summer pasta meal with olives and feta cheese. This will work well hot off the stove or cooled off as a pasta salad.


  • 4 ounces of pasta
  • 4-5 pitted green olives, cut in quarters
  • 4 leaves basil, torn
  • 1/4 feta cheese, crumbled or cut into small pieces
  • 1 T olive oil
  • generous squirt of lemon juice.
  • 4-5 grape tomatoes, cut into quarters


  1. Boil the water and cook the pasta.
  2. Once the pasta is cooked, drain and pour into a bowl. Add the olives, basil, and feta cheese.
  3. Mix the olive oil and lemon juice together in a small bowl and pour over the pasta mixture.
  4. Add the tomatoes.
  5. Toss the pasta to coat it and combine all the ingredients.


I prefer green castelvetrano olives, but you can use black if you like them better. I add the tomatoes last to stop them from cooking (since I don't like freshly cooked tomatoes). If you aren't bothered by that, add them when you add the cheese.

More Pasta Recipes

Pasta alla Norma with Eggplant

Pasta with Broccoli, Mushrooms, and Chicken Sausage

Pistachio Pesto Pasta Recipe

Spaghetti with Spinach and Lemon Cream Sauce