Spaghetti with olives, capers and breadcrumbs


Okay, bear with me here. I know at first glance this doesn’t seem like a hugely child-friendly dish. And, as a rule, olives and capers aren’t Little Lady Swabey’s bag at all. But, honestly, she wolfed this down.

It’s a really quick, tasty meal and is great for the end of the week when all the veg has run out and the slightly-stale bread’s down to the crust, but you need to whip up a family tea pronto. And, as the original recipe points out, you can make a batch of the breadcrumbs and freeze them, making it even quicker. They work on pretty much any pasta dish and, while they’re not exactly a low carb option, they are pretty delicious.

As you can see in the picture, I used basil this time, but I’ve used parsley before. They both work equally well. I didn’t add salt as the capers, olives and parmesan are already quite salty and I didn’t feel it needed it, particularly when I’m serving it up to a toddler. I also left out the ‘hot red pepper flakes’ for the same reason. I guess they mean what I would call chilli flakes but, while I’m sure they’d be nice enough, the kids might find them a little off-putting. Feel free to add them back in if whoever you’re serving it up to is a bit more hardcore when it comes to spicing.

Prep: 5 minutes

Cook: 20 minutes

Serves: 4


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, 2 sliced, 1 minced
  • ½ cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes, with juice
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup pitted green or black olives, chopped 
  •  freshly ground pepper
  • 400g spaghetti, preferably a good whole-wheat brand
  • sprinkling chopped fresh basil or parsley (optional)
  • sprinkling freshly grated Parmesan (optional)


  1. Heat a large pan of water for the pasta (or, as I do, fill the kettle and set that going. Make water hot, basically. I don’t care how you achieve this).
  2. Meanwhile, combine a tablespoon of olive oil and the sliced garlic over medium-low heat in a large saucepan or sauté pan. Fry for about two minutes, stirring often, until the garlic turns golden. Remove the garlic with a slotted spoon and discard, then add the breadcrumbs to the pan. Turn the heat to medium, and cook, stirring, until the breadcrumbs are crisp. Remove fand set aside.
  3. Return the pan to medium heat, and add the remaining olive oil  and the minced garlic. Cook for about 30 seconds until the garlic smells fragrant, and add the tomatoes, capers and olives. Simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the tomatoes have cooked down and smell fragrant. Season with black pepper.
  4. When the water comes to a boil, add the spaghetti (if you boiled the kettle, put it in a pan first, obviously). Cook until al dente. Drain, and toss with the tomato sauce. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs and herbs of choice on top and serve, adding the Parmesan at the table.

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