Pasta Caesar Salad is a simple, bold, tangy salad served as a side dish for summer meals, but makes a great entree when topped with some grilled chicken!
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, and a delicious and tangy caesar dressing. She even topped hers with chicken. The bold flavors and varying textures were just amazing.
When the restaurant closed down, I was determined to recreate this delicious dish. While I’m sure this isn’t an exact replica, I think I have gotten it pretty close to the original, mouthwatering recipe. I hope you enjoy!
What is Pasta Caesar Salad?
At first, pasta in a caesar salad seems a little strange, but one bite and you’ll see just how genius it really is. Pasta Caesar Salad simply put is pasta mixed in a caesar salad. This popular appetizer and side dish salad typically marries the flavors of a traditional Caesar salad with minimally-seasoned pasta, typical bowtie pasta. The salad traditionally features romaine lettuce with bowtie, penne, or fusilli pasta. Some prefer to top their salad with grated Parmesan cheese and croutons after the pasta and salad are tossed with a caesar dressing.
Pasta Caesar Salad is a filling side dish or can be eaten as a main course, especially when adding grilled meat such as chicken, fish, or beef. The fun twist of combining salad with pasta makes this dish a crowd-pleaser and popular feature at potlucks and family meals.
Can Pasta Caesar Salad be made in advance?
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 cold 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!
- Use a great caesar dressing! 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.
- Do not overcook the pasta! 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.
- Rinse your pasta in cool water! 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.
Bowtie Pasta – Some people prefer penne pasta, which is totally fine. I on the other hand, much prefer bowtie pasta for this dish.
Chopped Hearts of Romaine – I’m sure other types of lettuce would work just fine, but in my experience, romaine is by far the best in Pasta Caesar Salad. You will need a 9-ounce bag or 1 large romaine heart washed and coarsely chopped.
Caesar Salad Dressing – You can absolutely use your favorite store-bought variety. If you want to try a delicious homemade option, I highly recommend my caesar dressing recipe!
Shaved Parmesan Cheese – I love any parmesan cheese. However, I do recommend shaved Parmesan for this dish. You could use grated parmesan cheese if you are in a pinch but it can create a slightly different texture for your salad.
Croutons – You pick your favorite! Any kind will do. You will need about 1 cup.
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.
If nutritional values are provided, they are an estimate and will vary depending on the brands used. If calorie count and other nutritional values are important to you, I recommend grabbing your favorite brands and plugging those ingredients into an online nutritional calculator.