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 with Spinach and Lemon Cream Sauce

Linguine with Garlic and Olive Oil

Pasta with Olives Tomatoes and Capers or Puttanesca

Summer Pasta with Green Olives and Feta Cheese