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Caesar Pasta Salad is a fresh, flavorful twist on a classic summertime dish. Imagine tender rotini pasta tossed with crisp romaine lettuce, savory parmesan cheese, and crunchy homemade garlic breadcrumbs, all coated in a tangy, creamy Caesar dressing. It’s the kind of salad you can make in less than 30 minutes that’s perfect for potlucks, barbecues, or just a satisfying meal at home.

Caesar pasta salad in a bowl photographed at an angle.

What I love about this dish is how it combines the bold flavors of a traditional Caesar salad with the hearty texture of pasta. The dressing strikes a balance between rich and bright, with anchovy paste and Worcestershire sauce adding depth and complexity, while fresh lemon juice and Dijon mustard keep things lively. And those garlicky panko breadcrumbs? They’re a game-changer, trust me.

Caesar Pasta Salad Ingredients

Caesar Pasta Salad Ingredients on a granite surface.
  • Rotini Pasta: This short, spiraled shape is perfect for catching the dressing and other mix-ins. Feel free to substitute another short pasta like penne or fusilli if you prefer.
  • Romaine Lettuce: Look for crisp, fresh romaine hearts with no signs of wilting or browning. Wash and dry them thoroughly before tearing them into bite-sized pieces or buy pre-washed leaves for convenience.
  • Mayonnaise: Choose a high-quality, full-fat mayonnaise for the creamiest, most luxurious dressing.
  • Anchovy Paste: This ingredient is optional but highly recommended for that authentic Caesar flavor. Don’t worry, it won’t make your salad taste fishy – it just adds a subtle, savory depth.
  • Parmesan Cheese: I recommend a block of real Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano to grate yourself for the best texture and flavor.

5 Reasons This Recipe Stands Out

  1. Freshly made garlic breadcrumbs: Skip the large, hard store-bought croutons that can overpower the other textures. In this recipe, you’ll make your own garlicky panko breadcrumbs from scratch for a burst of vibrant flavor and satisfying crunch in every bite.
  2. Anchovy paste an mayonnaise in the dressing: While traditional Caesar dressing with raw egg yolks and olive oil has its place, this recipe takes a more convenient approach without sacrificing flavor. Anchovy paste and mayonnaise form a rich, velvety base for the dressing, delivering that classic Caesar taste with minimal fuss.
  3. Rotini pasta: I chose rotini for this recipe because its spirals and ridges are perfect for catching and holding onto the creamy dressing and other mix-ins. Every bite is loaded with flavor and texture.
  4. Quick and easy prep: This salad comes together in just 25 minutes, making it one of the faster Caesar pasta salad recipes out there. It’s perfect for busy weeknights or last-minute gatherings when you need a delicious side dish fast.
  5. Versatility and customization: Feel free to add proteins like grilled chicken, shrimp, crumbled bacon or chickpeas to make the salad a heartier meal. You can also tweak the dressing ingredients to suit your taste preferences. Make this recipe your own and have fun experimenting with different flavors and add-ins!
Overhead photo of caesar pasta salad with a fork.

4 Recipe Tips

  1. Make sure to rinse your cooked pasta with cold water to stop the cooking process and prevent it from getting mushy. Drain it well, shaking off as much excess water as possible.
  2. When making the dressing, taste and adjust the seasonings. Add more garlic, anchovy paste, or lemon juice until it’s perfect for you.
  3. Toast your panko breadcrumbs until they’re golden brown and fragrant for the most satisfying crunch. Remember to keep a close eye on them, as they can burn quickly.
  4. Toss the salad gently but thoroughly to be sure every piece of pasta and lettuce is evenly coated with the dressing.

Storage and Make-Ahead Option

Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Keep in mind that the lettuce may wilt and the breadcrumbs will soften over time, so it’s best enjoyed within a day or two.

For a make-ahead option, you can prepare the components separately and store them in the refrigerator (except the breadcrumbs) until you’re ready to assemble the salad. Here’s how:

  1. Cook the pasta, rinse it with cold water, and drain it well. Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  2. Wash, dry, and tear the romaine lettuce into bite-sized pieces. Place them in a separate airtight container or resealable plastic bag with a slightly damp paper towel to help maintain crispness.
  3. Prepare the dressing as directed, then store it in a jar or airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
  4. Toast the panko breadcrumbs and let them cool completely. Store them at room temperature in an airtight container or resealable plastic bag.
  5. Grate the parmesan cheese and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

When you’re ready to serve, just toss the chilled pasta and romaine lettuce with the dressing, parmesan cheese, and breadcrumbs as directed in the recipe.

Closeup of caesar pasta salad in a ceramic bowl.

I hope this salad becomes a new favorite in your recipe rotation! Let me know how it turns out, and please share any creative twists or additions you discover along the way.

How to Make Caesar Pasta Salad

Cook your pasta; rinse with cold water and drain well. Set it aside while you prep the rest. In a bowl, whisk your dressing ingredients until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Pop it in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble.

Toast your garlic and panko in a skillet with some olive oil until they’re golden and fragrant. Season with a pinch of salt and let them cool.

Toss your cooled pasta, crisp romaine, most of the dressing, Parmesan, and toasted breadcrumbs in a big bowl. Add more dressing if needed, then top with the remaining breadcrumbs and extra cheese. Serve and enjoy!

Recipe Video

Caesar Pasta Salad

5 from 1 vote
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 25 minutes
Course: Salad
Cuisine: American, Italian
Calories: 366
Servings: 8 people
Creamy, tangy, and bursting with bold flavors, this pasta salad is a crave-worthy blend of textures and tastes that'll have you coming back for seconds.

Ingredients  

  • 12 ounces rotini pasta or other short pasta

To make the dressing:

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic minced, or more
  • 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce or more
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste optional but recommended, plus more to taste
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the ‘croutons’:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • pinch kosher salt

For the salad:

  • 2 large romaine hearts washed, dried and torn into small, bite size pieces
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus more for garnish

Instructions 

  • Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain in colander and rinse with cold water. Then drain thoroughly, shaking to remove as much water as possible. Set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together lemon juice, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, garlic, Worcestershire sauce and anchovy paste until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until assembling salad.
  • Heat olive oil until shimmering in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic; cook and stir just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add panko breadcrumbs in an even layer; cook and stir until garlic and breadcrumbs are golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Season with kosher salt and transfer to a medium bowl to cool.
  • Place cool, drained pasta and torn romaine in a large serving bowl. Pour 1/2 of dressing over and add Parmesan cheese and all but a few tablespoons of toasted breadcrumbs; toss to coat evenly. Add more dressing to taste and toss to coat. Sprinkle with remaining breadcrumbs and more cheese if desired; serve.

Notes

  • This recipe makes ~3/4 cup of dressing. You may not need all of it, so add to taste.

Nutrition

Calories: 366kcal | Carbohydrates: 37g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 9g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 0.04g | Cholesterol: 14mg | Sodium: 311mg | Potassium: 206mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 2529IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 87mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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6 Comments

  1. Karen (Back Road Journal) says:

    Pasta and caesar salad, sounds like a winning combination.

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      Thank you, Karen! It’s a “meant to be” combination for sure.

  2. Mimi Rippee says:

    This is fabulous! And I’ve never liked croutons, so I’m loving your breadcrumbs! Great recipe.

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      Thank you, Mimi!

  3. David @ Spiced says:

    5 stars
    Oh what a great idea! I love a good Caesar salad, and I also love pasta salad. This combines the best of both worlds – and it would be perfect for summer picnic parties, too!

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      Thanks, David! It always disappears quick.