Caesar Pasta

Caesar Pasta

Prep time:30 minutes Cook time:15 minutes Servings:6
Here’s a dramatic dish that lets you have your Caesar salad and pasta all in one. The contrast of cold, crisp lettuce with hot pasta – mixed together at the last minute and coated with lots of olive oil, garlic and crisp croutons – is surprisingly good. Penne is a dried pasta shaped like little tubes with pointed ends, like quill pens.

Note: The cook times for the croutons and pasta overlap.


2 cups toasted croutons
4 quarts water
1 tablespoon salt
1 pound penne pasta
1 head romaine lettuce, about 4 cups coarsely chopped
1/4 pound Parmesan cheese

Caesar dressing:
2 large cloves garlic
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper


Preparing the croutons: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Trim the crusts off 2 slices white bread, cut the bread into 1/2-inch cubes, and place on a cookie sheet so the pieces are not touching. Put the cookie sheet in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the bread slices are firm and dry and lightly golden. The croutons can be made well ahead of when you need them.

Cooking the pasta: Pour the water into a large pot, add the salt and set over high heat. Bring to a boil, then add the pasta.

While the pasta cooks, make the dressing and prepare the lettuce:

Peel the garlic cloves and chop them finely.

The easiest way to make this dressing is to use a pint (2-cup) jar with a lid. Put the garlic, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, red-wine vinegar, cream, salt and pepper into the jar, put the lid on, and shake vigorously. You’ll have about 11/2 cups.

Rinse the lettuce in cool running water, and dry using a salad spinner or paper towels. Cut the leaves crosswise into 1-inch pieces, and put back in the refrigerator so they are nice and cold when you add them to the pasta.

Grate the Parmesan cheese, using the smallest holes on a metal grater. You’ll want at least 1/2 cup of grated cheese.

Finishing the dish and serving: After 10 minutes, test the pasta for doneness.

When the penne is cooked, drain it into a colander set in the sink. Shake or gently stir the pasta in the colander to remove more water, which can get trapped inside this tubular pasta. Transfer the pasta to a large bowl.

Pour about 2/3 of the dressing (about 1 cup) onto the hot pasta, and stir well with a large spoon to coat it. Taste a piece of pasta, and if the Caesar flavor isn’t pronounced enough, add more of the dressing.

Just before serving, add the chopped lettuce, the croutons, and the Parmesan cheese to the bowl and toss a few times. Grind some black pepper over the top.

Serve on individual plates, with more Parmesan and freshly ground pepper on the table.

Source: Sacramento Bee newspaper, July 7, 1999