You know, it always seems the best restaurants are the ones that aren’t around anymore. I suppose it has something to do with the fact that not being able to have something when you’re craving it makes you want it even more. But that’s for the psychologists to figure out.
What I do know is that there used to be this great little locally-owned spot that had some really unique and delicious dishes – and I miss it terribly. In addition to some delicious bread and killer strawberry cake, the owner made this super delicious caesar salad that had bowtie pasta in it. She called it her Pasta Caesar Salad and it was one of my favorite things she made. It was romaine, bowtie pasta, parmesan cheese, croutons, a delicious and tangy caesar dressing, and she topped hers with chicken. The bold flavors and varying textures were just amazing.
I hadn’t thought about this salad for years and somehow was reminded about it a few weeks back. I set out to recreate her dish and we’ve had it 3 times in the last few weeks. It’s super simple, but crazy delicious. I’ve served it as a side dish, but have also made it a main course by adding some sliced grilled chicken to the top.
Yeah, at first pasta in a caesar salad seems a little strange, but one bite and you’ll see just how genius it really is.
A few things to keep in mind:
A seriously delicious caesar dressing is a must for this. You can grab your favorite at your local grocery store or you can make my ridiculously easy but wickedly delicious homemade caesar dressing to kick it up. This dressing is SO delicious.
It’s important to not overcook your pasta for this. You’ll want to follow the instructions on your pasta to only cook it to al dente. Mushy pasta just won’t be a great texture for this salad.
While in most dishes, especially hot ones, you wouldn’t want to rinse your pasta because the starch on it helps the sauce stick to the pasta, in this case it’s something I always like to do. Rinsing it in cool water helps to stop the cooking process, keeping it from getting too soft. It also washes away excess starch which means the pasta won’t stick together while it rests.
This recipe can certainly be made in advance, but with a few alterations. To start, don’t mix it all together until right before you serve it. You can make the dressing a few days in advance and just store it in the fridge in an airtight container. You can also prep the lettuce the day before, if you’re using a head of romaine – otherwise, the bag will be ready and waiting.
With the pasta, you can cook it in advance and rinse it really well in cool water. Then you can toss it with a little dressing or even a small amount of olive oil to keep it from sticking together. Then store it in an airtight container in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. Then when it’s time to serve it, just toss it all together, add the cheese and croutons, and you’re good to go!
Pasta Caesar Salad
- 10 to 12-ounces uncooked bowtie pasta
- 1 (9-ounce) bag chopped hearts of romaine (or 1 large romaine heart - washed and coarsely chopped)
- 1/2 cup caesar dressing (get my dressing recipe)
- 1/2 cup shaved parmesan cheese
- 1 cup croutons
- Cook the pasta to al dente in salted water according to the package instructions. Drain and rinse in cool water until pasta is cool. Drain well. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, toss the hearts of romaine with the pasta, dressing, parmesan cheese, and croutons. Add additional dressing, if desired. Add salt and generous amounts of freshly cracked black pepper to taste. Toss again and serve immediately.