Lemon Capellini Salad will blow you away with its tastebud-awakening flavours; as an added bonus, it is quick and easy to prepare so that you will be out of your kitchen in no time. P.S. this is a potluck favourite!
Capellini pasta salad is super easy to make with delicate capellini pasta, tangy capers, chilli & herbs all tossed in in a zesty lemon dressing.
Table of contents
Capellini vs Angel Hair
So, what is capellini, you ask? It is Italian for "little hair", it is a very thin spaghetti very similar to angel hair pasta. The difference between capellini and angel hair pasta is in their diameter:
- Capellini is between 0.85 mm and 0.92 mm thick
- Angel hair is between 0.78 and 0.88 mm thick
They both can be bought in nests rather than in rods as they are easier to handle without breaking that way.
1 - Add the salt to the water after it has been boiled.
The salt will not evaporate, and the pasta will be
well seasoned and flavourful.
2 - Wear gloves when you are cutting the chillies!
If you are like me and no matter how hard you try, you can't help but rub your eyes after cutting up a chilli, then I highly suggest wearing some kitchen gloves for the chilli prep.
I have suffered through this mistake countless times.
Some Serving Ideas
Let’s Talk Ingredients and Substitutions
- Capellini - forms the base of our salad but you could really use any pasta that takes your fancy.
- Red chilli - for some bright colour and some fiery heat, if you don’t like spicy food you can replace with half a diced red pepper instead.
- Garlic - for some pungent aroma, you can always leave it out if you prefer, but I just love it here and heating it slightly will diminish some of its odour.
- Baby capers - for their tangy sour taste, you can try sliced olives instead if you prefer.
- Lemon zest and juice - this adds some lemony aroma and a citrusy hit.
- Parmesan cheese - to add some creaminess and fruity nutty taste, the best are Reggiano. You can also replace it with pecorino or Romano or for something completely different you could try some crumbled feta cheese instead.
- Basil - for its wonderful aroma you can try replacing it with fresh oregano (use half oregano & half parsley), fresh parsley or fresh tarragon instead.
You Will Need
How to Cook Capellini - Angel Hair Pasta
While I love how quick capellini and angel hair pasta is to cook, it is quite notorious for turning into a congealed mess if you overcook it.
Never fear; follow our easy step-by-step instructions, and you won't get it wrong.
1Take out one of your large pots so that the pasta has room to move around while it is cooking and won't stick together, then fill it with water and bring it to boil.
2 Once it starts to boil, add some salt to the water (I like to add the salt after the water has boiled, so it doesn't evaporate and leave me with bland tasting pasta.
3Then add your pasta and a few drops of olive oil to the pot; the oil will stick to the pasta and stop it from clumping together (have you ever tried to pick up something oily, doesn't it just slip, slip away?)
4Stir the pot occasionally and check after 2-3 minutes. Use a fork to pull out a string of pasta, cool it under some cold water, taste it and if it is tender, but with a bit of a bite, this is called "al dente", then it is done. However, if it is still crunchy, then it may still need a minute or so.
5When your pasta is cooked al dente, drain it in a strainer; for this recipe, we will rinse it under some cold water to completely stop the cooking process as it is a salad. If you are using it with a sauce then drop the pasta in the sauce and give it a good stir through.
How to Make It
1 - PREPARE INGREDIENTS
2 - HEAT THE AROMATICS & DRAIN PASTA
3 - ASSEMBLE YOUR SALAD
Common Questions & Tips
You can use whatever pasta happens to be lurking in your pantry.
However, it works best with shaped pasta such as spaghetti, fettucini, linguine, etc., as it makes it easier to stir the ingredients through it.
You will also need to adjust the cooking time as the thicker the pasta, the longer it will take to cook.
Well, that depends. Can you handle the heat?
The chilli seeds are the hottest part, so if you like hot and spicy food, don't bother to remove them. However, if you prefer a subtle heat, I strongly recommend you make the extra effort to remove them.
You can try some fresh oregano but as fresh oregano is quite a potent herb, mix it with some fresh parsley.
Some fresh parsley, tarragon or coriander/cilantro are all great fresh herb alternatives.
Lemon Capellini Salad can be made one or even two days before you want to serve it; just leave out the basil leaves to stir through just before serving.
Store it in an airtight container in the fridge, and it should last three or four days.
Just keep in mind that as basil is a soft herb it may go a bit brown.
To meal prep for lunches, make up the salad without the basil, portion it into your containers and add some very dry chopped fresh basil leaves on top just before taking it for your lunch.
Alternatively, replace the fresh basil with some fresh parsley as it keeps better once cut.
A garlic press for mincing your garlic.
For straining the capellini, it is best to use a large strainer instead of a colander as the fine pasta strands might escape through the bigger holes.
Some more Italian style salads to make
- Non-stick pan
- 250 grams angel hair pasta (approximately 8.82 ounces)
- ¼ cup olive oil, extra virgin
- 3 long red chilli (or diced capsicum if you don’t like it spicy)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ⅓ cup baby capers, drained
- 2 tbsps lemon zest (zest from approximately 2 lemons)
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- ½ cup parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 bunch basil (1 ½ cups chopped leaves)
- Put a big pot of water on your stove to boil, add some salt once boiled then add your pasta with a few drops of olive oil and cook according to packet directions (approximately 3-5 minutes).
- In the meantime wash your chilli and remove the seeds and dice finely, remove the papery skin from your garlic and mince with a garlic press.
- Drain and rinse the capers then pat dry.
- Wash your basil, shake and pat dry, pick the basil leaves from the stems and then roughly chop.
- Your pasta should be done by now, do a taste it and if it is al dente. Take it off the stove and drain it well under cold running water.
- Heat the olive oil on medium heat until it heats up, first add your capers, then the diced chilli, the minced garlic, and the lemon zest.
- Stir until cooked and aromatic.
- Add the cooked pasta, caper/chilli mix, the chopped basil to a large mixing bowl.
- Pour over the lemon juice, season with some sea salt and cracked black pepper and mix well to combine.
- Add the grated parmesan cheese and mix through again.
- Arrange in a salad bowl and some sliced chilli slices on top to garnish and serve when you are ready.