Last Updated on August 4, 2022
If you love the combination of kale, lemon and caper, my vegan Linguine with Kale & Lemon Caper Sauce will definitely hit the spot! This refreshing pasta has the brininess and tanginess of capers and citrusy and refreshing note from lemon. Not to mention, it’s got lots of greens from kale! Linguine with Kale & Lemon Caper Sauce won’t make you feel guilty about eating a big bowl of pasta!
Inspiration of Linguine with Kale & Lemon Caper Sauce
I can’t remember when I started to truly appreciate the taste of lemon. But I remember, when I was about 12, I had a sleepover (to have an intensive practice of the piano trio. LOL.) At my friend’s house her mom served a dish with lemon water on the side. She said, “lemon water is refreshing and a great beverage to serve with a meal especially with rich & heavy food.”
That was probably my first experience of what lemon can do to our palette.
Fast forward many years, I love incorporating lemon to my savory food. I don’t use it much in Japanese food but I definitely use it often for non-Japanese dishes. By the way, what you may not know about my food (or me) is I have a quite large number of tasty non-Asian inspired pasta recipes!
This Linguine with Kale & Lemon Caper Sauce is definitely one of them. It represents the citrusy, aromatic, and refreshing taste of lemon very well.
Being a Japanese, I grew up eating Japanese food very often but I’ve always loved Italian food, too. Believe or not, Italian cuisine is really big and one of the most popular foods in the Japanese food scene, especially long pasta like spaghetti, linguine, and fettucine.
I enjoy creating pasta dishes that I don’t see in restaurants. In my opinion, those are probably the best kind. Out of all the pasta dishes that I remember eating in Japan or here, I haven’t seen much lemony taste pasta or perhaps not at all. So, I create my own lemony pasta using some of my other favorite ingredients; kale and capers!
I’m not a nutritionist so I can’t give you any specific information on the nutrients of kale. But from a home cook’s point of view, kale is the right choice for this pasta dish compared to using other green leafy vegetables.
For example, spinach leaves are tenderer than kale leaves so they don’t withstand well once cooked. I love the fact that they still have some bite to them that spinach doesn’t.
In this recipe, I use regular curly kale but you could substitute with dinosaur kale which is another one of my favorites! With the freshly squeezed lemon juice and the zest, cooked kale tastes very vibrant.
The Lemon & Caper Sauce
There’s something about the combination of kale and lemon that I love so much. Lemon really brightens up the flavor of anything from salad, grilled veggies to soup. When using lemon, don’t waste the zest which contains the most “lemon” aroma more than the juice itself!
In this pasta, I use lemon juice in the sauce and the zest for the topping. The juice binds the flavor from all the ingredients that goes in the pasta and the aroma of lemon zest hits your nose to waken your senses.
What’s making it even more special is the capers! Capers are pleasantly briny, tangy, has a little earthy-taste bites.
Lemon juice and capers together creates such a refreshing tone to the dish. I do the same combo in my savoy cabbage salad, too. It’s absolutely delicious!
Now, here’s the thing. Why do most capers come in tall and really tall skinny jars? If you use capes often enough, you know it’s a bit annoying to get them out especially when you want to use only a little (well, who uses the whole entire jar of capers all at once anyways?) To describe the frustration, regular spoons won’t fit in so when you tilt the jar in attempt to take out a little, the juice and capers run out everywhere. Ugh.
If you experience the same struggle as I used to, try this organic capers from Jeff’s Garden! The jar is short and wide so you can use as much/little as you like. Any regular teaspoons will fit right in!! It’s a life-changing caper product I’ve ever found! (not sponsored.)
Pasta Water for Non-Saucy Sauce
I’m not a fan of dishes that’s drenched in sauce. I want just enough sauce to coat what’s in a dish.
To make a great non-saucy pasta sauce, using pasta cooking water is the key! The salty and starchy pasta cooking water binds all the sauce ingredients together to make a great sauce.
While I don’t overuse nutritional yeast to put in just about anything, I admit that nutritional yeast does make dishes comforting, rich, and gives more complex flavor!
I have another recommendation of the certain nutritional yeast that I use. I like nutritional yeast from Foods Alive for a specific reason. This nutritional yeast is “non-fortified” means no added B12. While B12 is an essential vitamin, I rather take B12 separately. If you’re wondering, it tastes great, too (not sponsored.)
The Finishing Touch
When it comes to pasta dishes, the finishing touch will often make a big difference! Here is what I do for this Linguine with Kale & Lemon Caper Sauce.
As mentioned, lemon zest really highlights the lemony taste of the dish. The zest contains natural lemon oil which is intensely aromatic and that’s something you can’t get from the juice only.
Be sure to get the zest first, then squeeze the lemon juice afterwards! It’s not easy to zest the lemon once it’s squeezed.
Vegan Parmesan Cheese
Using vegan cheese is optional but I recommend using vegan parmesan cheese like my Brazil Nut Parmesan.
Lemon Infused Oil
To enhance the joy of lemon taste, instead of using regular extra virgin olive oil as the finishing oil, use lemon infused extra virgin olive oil. I use Meyer lemon olive oil from O Olive Oil & Vinegar. This one is my go-to lemon infused oil and it’s made with crushed Meyer lemon instead of added lemon essential oil.
Be sure to check out the “Step-by-Step Instructions (w/ Photos)” after the Printable Recipe!
Linguine with Kale & Lemon Caper Sauce (Vegan)
Kale & Lemon Caper Sauce
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves minced (about 1 1/2 tbsp)
- 4 oz yellow onion thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
- 4 oz green kale leaves chopped or teared
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1 cup water
- 1/2-3/4 cup pasta cooking water
- 3 tbsp capers drained
- 2 1/2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice zest the lemon first then get the lemon juice
- 2.5 qt water
- 2 tbsp sea salt
- 8 oz dried linguine or spaghetti
- 1/2 tbsp lemon zest about 1/2 lemon
- Vegan parmesan-style cheese optional
- Lemon infused extra virgin olive oil (optional) or regular extra virgin olive oil
- First, start making kale & lemon caper sauce. Heat up a frying pan at medium high heat. Pour extra virgin olive oil and add garlic. Cook for 1-2 minute until aromatic and golden brown. Then add yellow onion and cook for 3-4 minutes until softened.
- Next, add kale and season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook for 1-2 minutes. Then add water (1 cup / 240 ml) and reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes or so until kale leaves are tender. Once kale leaves are tender, reduce the heat to medium low and continue to simmer until step 4.
- While kale is cooking, start boiling water for cooking linguine. When the water is boiling, salt the water and start cooking linguine for 7 minutes (or follow the instruction on the package.) Reserve some pasta cooking water (at least 1/2-3/4 cup / 120-180 ml.)
- 2 minutes before the linguine is done, add capers, nutritional yeast, lemon juice and 1/2 cup / 120 ml pasta cooking water to the sauce (save the remaining 1/4 cup / 60 ml for later in case you need it.) Give a quick stir.
- Add the cooked linguine to the sauce. Toss lightly. If the pasta is dry, add the remaining pasta cooking water.
- Serve with lemon zest, vegan parmesan style cheese (optional), and a drizzle of lemon infused extra virgin olive oil (optional) or regular extra virgin olive oil.
Choice of Pasta
- I personally love using linguine for this recipe. Spaghetti or thin spaghetti would be a great choice, too.
- You can substitute with any pasta of your choice.
- I use regular (curly) kale for this recipe
- You can also use dinosaur kale
- I use Organic Capers from Jeff’s Garden. Not only it tastes great but also is user-friendly because of the widemouthed glass jar.
- Lemon is one of the essential ingredients of this recipe.
- I use both lemon juice and lemon zest.
- Lemon may vary in juiciness. While 1 regular to large size lemon should be enough for 2 servings, I recommend buying 2 lemons just in case.
- Be sure to zest the lemon first, then squeeze the juice afterwards.
- Nutritional yeast gives the “cheesy” flavor and umami to vegan cheese alternatives.
- I use Nutritional Yeast (non-fortified) from Foods Alive. I love the fact that it contains no added vitamin B12.
Vegan Parmesan-Style Cheese
- This pasta goes very well with vegan parmesan-style cheese of your choice.
- I use my homemade Brazil Nut Parmesan.
Lemon Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- A drizzle of finishing oil on pasta always adds a special touch!
- I use O California Meyer Lemon Olive Oil from Olive Oil & Vinegar.
- Alternatively, use any high-quality extra virgin olive oil of your choice.
Step-by-Step Instructions (w/ Photos)
Prepare all the ingredients and have them standby (Note: I didn’t put all the ingredients in the photo below such as capers, linguine etc.)
1. First, start making kale & lemon caper sauce. Heat up a frying pan at medium high heat. Pour extra virgin olive oil and add garlic. Cook for 1-2 minute until aromatic and golden brown.
Then add yellow onion and cook for 3-4 minutes until softened.
2. Next, add kale and season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook for 1-2 minutes.
Then add water (1 cup / 240 ml) and reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes or so until kale leaves are tender.
Once kale leaves are tender, reduce the heat to medium low and continue to simmer until step 4.
3. While kale is cooking, start boiling water for cooking linguine.
When the water is boiling, salt the water and start cooking linguine for 7 minutes (or follow the instruction on the package.) Reserve some pasta cooking water (at least 1/2-3/4 cup / 120-180 ml.)
4. Two minutes before the linguine is done, add capers, nutritional yeast, lemon juice and 1/2 cup / 120 ml pasta cooking water to the sauce (save the remaining 1/4 cup / 60 ml for later in case you need it.) Give a quick stir.
5. Add the cooked linguine to the sauce. Toss lightly. If the pasta is dry, add the remaining pasta cooking water.
6. Serve with lemon zest, vegan parmesan style cheese (optional), and a drizzle of lemon infused extra virgin olive oil (optional) or regular extra virgin olive oil.
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