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.
If you need a few more grain style salads, why not try our Mediterranean Couscous Salad, our Asian Wild Rice Salad or our Bulgur Wheat Salad.
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.
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 Long to Boil Angel Hair Pasta Instructions
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.
- Take 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.
- 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 dissolve completely and leave me with bland-tasting pasta.
- Then 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?)
- Stir 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.
- When 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.
Top Tips 💡
- Add the salt to the water after it has been boiled.
The salt will not dissolve, and the pasta will be well-seasoned and flavourful.
- 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.
How to Make It (step-by-step instructions)
Step 1 - Prepare Ingredients
Put a big pot of water on your stove to boil, add some salt once boiled if you add the salt to the water and then boil, it will evaporate, and your past will be bland.
Add your pasta with a few drops of olive oil and cook one minute less than the packet directions (approximately 3-5 minutes). Stir your pasta occasionally to stop it from sticking.
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.
Step 2 - Heat the Aromatics & Drain Pasta
Your pasta should be done by now, do a taste it and if it is cooked al dente. Take it off the stove and drain it well under cold running water to stop the cooking process.
Heat the olive oil on medium heat until it just heats up; not too hot though, as we want to gently heat the ingredients to flavour the oil and not fry them.
First, add your capers, then the diced chilli, the minced garlic, and the lemon zest.
Stir until cooked and aromatic.
Step 3 - Assemble Your Salad
Add the cooked pasta, caper/chilli mix, the chopped basil to a large mixing bowl.
First, pour over the lemon juice, season with some sea salt and cracked black pepper and mix well to combine.
Then we add the grated parmesan cheese last, so it doesn't clump together with the other ingredients and mix through again.
Arrange in a salad bowl, add some sliced chilli on top to garnish and serve when ready.
Common Questions & Tips
Can I Use Any Pasta?
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.
Do I Have to Remove the Chilli Seeds?
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.
Can I Use Other Fresh Herbs?
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.
Make Ahead and Storage Tips!
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.
How Can I Meal Prep This Angel Hair Pasta Salad?
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.
🍽 Serving Suggestions
Lemon Capellini Salad is great for summer barbecues or to take to a potluck. It pairs beautifully with grilled meats, an excellent side for Italian Meatballs or Chicken Cacciatore.
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.
Silvia McHenry says
Turned out delicious! Thank you for sharing.
So glad you enjoyed it Silvia, thank you for letting me know!
Silvia McHenry says
Sounds divine. Going to make tonight to go with steak for tomorrow. Can hardly wait.
This is one of my favourites as well!
Carl Bullard says
Quick but wonderful. So many different flavors that work perfectly together. I made this for a last minute luncheon and it was a big hit.
Thank you Carl!