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Ditalini with Tomatoes, Capers & Lemon Oil

Scott Phillips

Servings: eight to ten as a side dish.

This is a simple version of the puttanesca sauce native to Naples, minus the anchovies. You’ll have some lemon oil left over; use it in salads, salsas, or meat marinades.


  • Kosher salt
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • Large pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 can (14-1/2 oz.) high-quality diced tomatoes, with their juices
  • 2 heaping Tsp. drained capers, rinsed and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup tightly packed pitted Gaeta or kalamata olives, roughly chopped
  • 1 lb. dried ditalini (or other small pasta)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced chives

Nutritional Information

  • Nutritional Sample Size based on ten servings
  • Calories (kcal) : 240
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 60
  • Fat (g): 7
  • Saturated Fat (g): 1
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 1
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 4
  • Cholesterol (mg): 0
  • Sodium (mg): 390
  • Carbohydrates (g): 38
  • Fiber (g): 2
  • Protein (g): 7


  • Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Using a peeler, gently skim wide strips of the zest from the lemon. Put the 1/2 cup olive oil in a small saucepan and set it over medium heat. When the oil is about 210°F (it should bubble lightly if you lower a strip of zest into it) — about 1 minute — add the strips of zest and then take the pot off the heat. When the oil is cool, strain it and set it aside.
  • Put a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil; a few seconds later, add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for about 30 seconds, swirling the pan to keep them from burning. Carefully add the tomatoes, capers, and olives (see How to rinse capers). Reduce the heat to medium low. Simmer until the sauce thickens and the tomatoes start to lose their form, 8 to 10 minutes. Reserve until needed.
  • Cook the ditalini in the boiling water until it’s just tender, about 9 min. Drain the pasta and put it in a large bowl. Add the hot sauce and 2 Tbs. of the lemon oil and toss well (if you like a moister pasta, add more lemon oil). Taste and season well with salt and pepper. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature, tossing in the chives just before serving.


Rate or Review

Reviews (4 reviews)

  • grlup | 08/30/2015

    Very nice. Easy to make and leftovers are even better!

  • m2violin | 05/31/2010

    Good summer dish. Easy to make, albeit slightly time-consuming. This is a dish that will impress others at a potluck dinner.

  • kindred | 05/12/2010

    Very fresh and tasty. Easy summer side dish.

  • Pax7 | 06/25/2008

    This dish is easy to make. The flavors are both pungent and flavorful. It always gets favorable comments when served as a summer side dish. The salad has the added advantage that it keeps well in the refrigerator.

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