The year after I graduated from college, I had a job as the bakery supervisor in a famous gourmet landmark destination called A Southern Season in Chapel Hill, NC. It was a wonderful foodie education, and I bought and studied the book The Food Lover’s Companion to learn about everything they had there. One of my absolute favorite items on the Weathervane Restaurant menu (and also offered as takeout in the deli) was their Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad. Eleven or twelve years later, it’s still one of my favorite things to make, and it’s so easy. Since today we observe the Ides of March, it’s only fitting that I show you a Caesar-inspired crowd pleaser.
Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad
Start with 16 oz of big pasta…..normally I use Large Shells for this, but I was cleaning out the pantry so I have here 16 oz of various penne, rotini, and Wacky Mac. Boil it up, and meanwhile cook up 2 large chicken breasts and cut into bite sized pieces.
Then, we add some color. Red onion sliced as thinly as you can. They used to slice the onions for this on the deli slicer in the kitchen of the restaurant, and they were SO good razor-thin. Also, throw in a pint container of cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered. You need them for the color.
Next, here comes the good stuff. One 16 oz bottle of Newman’s Own Creamy Caesar dressing (unless you can make your own!). I’ve tried many other brands over the years, and this is the only one that tastes right. Add 3/4 of the bottle to start with. Reserve the remainder for just before serving to freshen it up. Then you need a 5 oz container of good parmesan cheese. Shredded or shaved, whatever floats your boat (but not grated). Finally, some extra touches. Hot sauce to give it some bite….. I do a dozen drops of Texas Pete (it could probably stand more). Also, some seasonings for extra flavor, like oregano, salt, and fresh cracked black.
Now that you have everybody in the pool, gently stir to get it all incorporated and IF you can restrain yourself from standing there and hoovering it right outta the bowl like I do, it’s best to refrigerate it for at least a few hours before serving to let everybody get to know each other. If you’ve got company coming it’s a fancy touch to sprinkle some extra Parmesan cheese on top. I can’t claim to make it nearly as good as they did at A Southern Season back in “the day”, but it’s pretty darn close! Enjoy! And don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad
16 oz large shell pasta, cooked
2 large chicken breasts, cooked and cut into bite sized pieces
1/2-1 red onion, sliced thinly
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
16 oz bottle Newman’s Own Creamy Caesar Dressing
5 oz parmesan cheese, shredded or shaved
To taste: Tabasco, oregano, salt, pepper
Combine all ingredients and chill before serving. But it’s actually wonderful at any temperature.
Thanks for visiting!