Dinner Tonight: Pasta with Brown Butter, Capers, Walnuts and Spinach

[Photograph: Blake Royer]

Doesn't it always come back to pasta? Dinner can take many forms and draw from many cuisines, and I love being challenged as a cook and learning new things. Yet sometimes all I want is what I know will be delicious. Something I know I can cook well, that I've loved all my life. For me, that's pasta. Always will be.

This particular recipe is adapted from a recent issue of Esquire magazine, from chef Joey Campanaro of The Little Owl in New York City. They asked him to come up with a trio of pasta dishes with a short shopping list—the other two are a tomato-bacon sauce and one with white anchovies with peppers. I was drawn to this recipe with nutty brown butter and the "tangy punch" of capers. Quick-wilted baby spinach gives it an earthy flavor, and a handful of walnuts are the crunch, while Parmesan brings it all back home. A simple dish, but one with an unexpected depth of flavor and a cooking time as long as it takes the pasta to finish.

Pasta with Brown Butter, Capers, Walnuts and Spinach

About the author: Blake Royer founded The Paupered Chef with Nick Kindelsperger, where he writes about food and occasional travels. After a year in Estonia, he's now living in Chicago.

Dinner Tonight: Pasta with Brown Butter, Capers, Walnuts and Spinach

About This Recipe



  • 1 pound bucatini, spaghetti, or other long pasta
  • 1/4 pound butter
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 5 ounces washed baby spinach
  • 4 torn sage leaves
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and black pepper to taste


  1. 1

    Bring a large pot of salty water to boil and cook the pasta until al dente.

  2. 2

    Meanwhile, in a small pot or large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Once it foams, watch it carefully, stirring often, as the milk solids begin to brown and the butter becomes fragrant and nutty. Scrape along the bottom to prevent the solids from sticking and burning. When the butter is rich and brown, add the lemon juice to halt the cooking, then lower the heat. Add the capers and walnuts and cook for a minute longer.

  3. 3

    Turn off the heat on the butter and add the spinach and sage leaves, tossing to wilt. Add the cooked pasta along with most of the Parmesan and toss. Taste for seasoning and finish with black pepper and the remaining cheese.


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