Caesar Pasta Salad Combines The Best Of Two Summer Favorites

Not to knock the classic Caesar salad, but sometimes we need a little more sustenance. That's where another summer staple, pasta salad, comes in. Combining the creamy, umami-rich taste of the anchovy-flavored salad with the filling comfort of starchy noodles produces a dish in a league of its own.

Adding a layer of pasta won't add much more work to your plate, other than cooking the noodles; and the whole thing mixes up just as quickly as the usual salad. The quick process and punchy flavor has even led the idea to go viral on TikTok, as many have been posting videos whipping up personalized versions to bring to potlucks or to the office for lunch. Another delicious twist is to throw cooked shrimp or store-bought rotisserie chicken on top to infuse more seasonings and savoriness.

To make the dish, all you have to do is combine cooked pasta, romaine lettuce, croutons, shredded parmesan, and a hefty dose of Caesar dressing in a bowl. Try to make sure the pasta is rinsed and cool before adding, however, or it may become sticky and absorb more than its fair share of the creamy topping. Sprinkle thinly-sliced red onion, large parmesan shavings, or fried capers on top of the salad before serving for extra flavor.

This dish is all about the dressing and creative toppings

When it comes to the Caesar salad dressing to complete this winning dish, store-bought is fine but you can also make the bottled stuff taste homemade with the addition of pasteurized egg yolks. If you have extra time, and want to mix up your own dressing from scratch, use Greek yogurt or buttermilk to add thickness and deliver on tang and body (a squirt of Ranch works well too). Sharp Dijon and aromatic lemon zest can also bring a welcome kick, if you prefer to cut through some of the salad's heaviness.

Also, you may want to top the dish with homemade croutons to add a final textural contrast. If you're keeping the meal gluten-free with an alternative pasta, you can try adding crunchy roasted chickpeas instead. Coastal diners may prefer to draw out the fishy umaminess of the dressing's anchovy paste, in which case flakes of smoked fish could also complement the cool meal. If you're vegetarian, maybe add some sun-dried tomatoes in the dressing or atop the salad for more richness.

Another approach to the seasonally-rich meal is to throw in leftover grilled summer veggies and herbs. Take advantage of the abundance of the growing season with corn, squash, cucumbers, and green beans, or step out of the box with strawberries and grilled stone fruits for another flavor profile. To pair summer fruits, you may need to tone down the traditional salty dressing with poppyseeds and vinegar instead to sweeten things up.

This Caesar pasta salad really holds up in the fridge

Summer is a time when plans go out the window and impromptu adventures and lazy days reign supreme. This is yet another reason to have this creative and hearty pasta salad prepped and waiting in the fridge. To ensure it holds up even when it's made ahead, pull a trick from traditional pasta salad and cook the noodles to just al dente to keep them from getting too soggy and soft over time.

As for the pasta shape, mid-sized starches like penne, rotini, and macaroni will certainly get the job done, as will shells and bow ties. We would recommend adjusting the size of sliced lettuce to match bites of pasta, as it'll make for easier forking and eating. As such, try not to use anything too small like orzo, or too lengthy like bucatini.

Unlike traditional pasta salad, which can sometimes benefit from a soak in the fridge, this Caesar salad combo is best served right after mixing. The coated leaves and noodles will hold plenty of the flavorful sauce. It will also hold up in the fridge for a few days, if that's better for a busy schedule, though it may need a dressing refresh and an extra hit of acid before serving. If you prefer a traditional soft texture, you can also dress the noodles and let them marinate before combining with the crunchy, crisp Caesar elements.