Spaghetti Piccata with Lemon and Capers

If you’ve never heard of piccata, it’s basically an Italian dish of a buttery lemon garlic reduction poured over meat and sometimes pasta. Although piccata is a cream sauce like Alfredo, the two couldn’t be further apart. Alfredos are thick and creamy, piccata are light and buttery with bright aromatic flavors. I’ve been experimenting with a vegan piccata sauce with all those classic flavors, minus the butter and meat, obviously, and I couldn’t be happier with this recipe – it’s about as close to a vegan butter/cream sauce as I’ve ever tasted.

In my version, we’ll be making a piccata sauce and tossing with spaghetti for a simple 15-minute meal that has incredible flavors. The method is so simple – after reducing the lemon, garlic, and capers in some broth, we’ll add blended sunflower seeds (sunflower cream) instead of butter to balance out the bright lemon garlic flavors with an earthy creaminess. The sauce is then tossed with fresh pasta for a light, delicious meal.



  • 1 lb whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3 tablespoons capers
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste

Step One

Soak 1/2 cup sunflower seeds (shelled, obviously) in water for at least an hour before preparing, to soften them. Then, blend with about 1/2 cup water and a pinch or two of salt until they form a completely smooth sunflower cream. Set this aside for now.

Step Two

With the sunflower cream ready, everything else can be made in a matter of minutes. First, set a pot of water to boil for the spaghetti. Then in a large skillet, heat a tablespoon of olive oil and toss in two cloves of garlic (sliced into small slivers), 3 tablespoons of capers (some of the brine is fine too), and one lemon that has been cut into wedges (just throw in the whole wedges with the peels, they will release essential oils that add a ton of flavor). Give this 5 minutes to simmer over medium heat. Your house will smell amazing.


Step Three

When the water is boiling, add some salt and throw in a package of spaghetti. Back to the sauce, add a cup of vegetable broth along with a bit of salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and then take an 8-minute break while the pasta is cooking and the sauce is simmering.

Step Four

Just before the pasta is done, add some of the sunflower cream into the sauce. About 1/2 cup is ideal, but if you want a thicker, more Alfredo-like sauce, feel free to add a little bit more. Let this sauce simmer for 2-3 minutes with the cream while you drain (but do not rinse!) the pasta. If your skillet is big enough, just throw the pasta right into the finished sauce and toss with tongs to coat. As far as those lemon peels, you can either pick them out or leave in as a kind of garnish. Transfer to bowls and serve with a dash of black pepper.




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  1. This dish screams “summer!” And I’m changing my dinner plans to make this tonight! Thanks for the never ending kitchen inspiration.

  2. I couldn’t wait for dinner, so I made it for lunch. Very delicious! Dre is right, this is summer in a bowl. The only thing I added was some fresh tarragon sprinkled on the finished recipe. I was transported to Southern France. Thanks Andrew!

  3. I forwarded your email to a fellow caper lover even before I read the recipe! I prefer one-dish meals and can think of several ways to build on this – add green peas to pasta, add minced jalapeno to sauce and garnish with chiffonade of basil. I will have this soon, while my basil is so prolific.

    • Very cool! Those sound great, I used basil in the pictures but I didn’t actually try it in the recipe, haha, but I’m sure it would be great.

    • Well, I wanted to try sunflower seeds because 90% of my recipes have cashew cream and I just didn’t have the heart to put you guys through another cashew cream recipe 🙂 and I also didn’t have any cashews, and I really like the flavor of sunflower here, it’s a little more earthy. But yes – cashews would definitely work as well.

        • It’s more like cashew cream than anything (blended with water), whereas tahini is more like sesame peanut butter, if that makes sense.

  4. I have never tried to make a sunflower cream, although I love sunflower nut spread. So, I made this for lunch today, using cavatappi since that is what I had on hand. I liked the idea of tarragon, and it was a great idea, Sabine. I amped up the capers, added the tarragon and sprinkled with a hemp seed ‘parmesan’ I keep on hand (next, Andrew, is the vegan parmesan recipe I just received in your ebook!). This dish was absolutely delicious. I will definitely make this again. Thank you! Dawna

    • Hi Dawna, that is awesome! Tarragon sounds delicious, as does the hemp seed parmesan. I hope you like the new recipes in the book (thank you for purchasing!) 🙂

    • Sorry I didn’t include that on this recipe. It depends on how big the servings are… it’s just a normal 1 lb package of spaghetti, so maybe about 3-4 entree-sized servings?

      • Thank you so much for the speedy response!! Can’t wait to make it tomorrow…love love love capers and the sunflower cream is a pleasant fresh surprise on the usual cashew cream! x

  5. I made this for my mom and brother tonight. It came out great! My brother said he liked it better than the “cheese” version. It was so easy to make and much more easy to digest than cheese.

  6. i might try doing this and adding white beans and dash of fresh basil. The sunflower cream sounds good, but i’ll prob add just a couple tablespoons of dairy cream. That’s really all you need. I can’t wait!

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