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Fusilli with Feta & Lemon-Caper Pesto

Scott Phillips

Servings: four as a light main course.

The idea here is to make a tangy, lemony pasta sauce with feta and a few pantry staples. You can make it in the time it takes to cook the pasta. I use a large Japanese mortar and pestle for the sauce—it takes about 5 minutes of pounding—but a blender is even faster.


For the pasta

  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 lb. dried fusilli pasta
  • 1 bunch fresh spinach (10 oz.), stems cut off, leaves washed well but not dried
  • 1/4 lb. feta, crumbled (2/3 cup)

For the pesto

  • 1 small clove garlic; more or less to taste
  • 2 to 3 anchovy fillets (if you can get salt-packed anchovies, even better), rinsed and patted dry
  • 1 Tbs. capers (preferably salt-packed), soaked briefly and rinsed
  • 1-inch strip lemon zest, minced
  • 3/4 oz. feta, crumbled (2 Tbs.)
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 or 3 fresh basil leaves (optional)
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Nutritional Information

  • Calories (kcal) : 420
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 190
  • Fat (g): 21
  • Saturated Fat (g): 6
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 12
  • Cholesterol (mg): 30
  • Sodium (mg): 820
  • Carbohydrates (g): 44
  • Fiber (g): 4
  • Protein (g): 14


  • Bring a pot of water to a boil and add salt and the pasta. Cook until al dente. Reserve about 1/2 cup of the cooking water before draining the pasta, and don’t wash the pot. (see Use pasta water to adjust a sauce’s thickness)
  • As the pasta cooks, wilt the spinach and make the pesto in a mortar or blender as follows:
  • Put the wet spinach in a large skillet over medium heat. Add a dash of salt, cover, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, keeping the lid on; the spinach will wilt and stay bright green.
  • If using a blender, put in the garlic, anchovies, capers, lemon zest, the 2 Tbs. crumbled feta, the parsley, basil, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper and blend until the pesto is creamy. If using a mortar, add the pesto ingredients one at a time, pounding with a pestle until well mashed and blended before adding the next ingredient. Thin the pesto with the reserved pasta water to get the consistency of runny cream; you probably won’t have to use the entire 1/2 cup water.
  • Return the pasta to the pot in which it was cooked; add the spinach (drain any liquid left in the pan) and the pesto, stirring very well to coat the pasta. Stir in the 2/3 cup crumbled feta and serve.


Rate or Review

Reviews (3 reviews)

  • JulieAR | 07/26/2018

    A summer classic in our house for years. I add more lemon zest, juice, basil, evoo, to a full pound of pasta. Pasta water essential to loosening pesto. So very flavorful.

  • JeanmC | 06/17/2008

    Very easy and delicious

  • JanaBerry | 02/22/2008

    Yum! Left out the anchovies and used gorgonzala instead of feta. I also used my food processor instead of a blender.

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