Caesar pasta salad is a simple, yet delicious pasta salad that lends itself to be fully customizable. Not only is it simple to make, it's perfect for a potluck, a summer picnic, outdoor BBQ, luncheon, brunch, or as a main dish.
This recipe uses all the key ingredients of chicken Caesar salad with a few twists for the perfect balance of flavors and textures!
I've struggled with pasta salads in the past. They never seem to have enough flavor! Then, it hit me. Use something other than mayonnaise to bring more flavor to the pasta salad. I had just created a recipe for a Caesar salad dressing and had some left over. The rest is history, I used ingredients I had on hand and this chicken caesar pasta salad was created. My struggle is over! This creamy caesar pasta salad is bursting with flavor and it's ready in 30 minutes!
Frequently Asked Questions
The pasta salad will stay good in the fridge for 2 days when all of the ingredients are mixed in. If you want to make it further ahead of time, I would mix the pasta and the dressing ONLY and keep it in the fridge in an airtight container. It will last 3-5 days. Then, before serving, add in your other ingredients and mix well. You may need to add a bit more Caesar dressing before serving.
Technically, yes. While you can freeze the pasta salad after it's mixed with the fresh vegetables, you can freeze the pasta and the chicken. Since we use a creamy Caesar dressing that is made with an emulsion, that might break if frozen. So, if you really need to freeze the pasta salad, I would mix the pasta with the chicken and chill it completely and then freeze in air tight bags. Personally, I recommend making it fresh for the best texture and taste. Once pasta is thawed, it can become a little watery and that will dilute the overall flavor. If you do freeze the pasta, thaw it and let it drain for an hour or so to drain any excess water from it, then mix it with the dressing and the rest of the ingredients.
Of course! Simply bring a large pot filled with salted cold water to a boil, add in the pasta and cook it according to the package directions. For the best texture, I would take the pasta just past al dente. Drain the pasta and then proceed with the recipe.
Absolutely! If you need to feed a large crowd, simply double all of the ingredients. The only thing that will change is if you are pressure cooking the pasta. Because you will add more liquid to cook the pasta, your time to pressure will be greater.
To avoid overcooking the pasta, I would reduce the PC time to 2 minutes and NR for 5 minutes. You may have to drain the pasta if there is extra liquid after pressure cooking.
I used Rotini noodles for this chicken caesar pasta salad recipe and found the pasta shape perfect for grabbing the dressing and the other ingredients. However, you can use any pasta you'd like. Penne pasta, farfalle (bowtie pasta), and fusilli are all great options because they have texture that holds the dressing and the other ingredients for the best flavor in each bite.
You can also use noodle types of pasta if you like, but the experience would be a little different. I would keep the noodles long so you can twirl them around the other ingredients.
If you want to pressure cook your pasta and are using penne, farfalle, or fusilli, I would keep the timing the same. For spaghetti noodles, I would reduce the pressure cook time to 2 minutes and use enough liquid to just cover the noodles and then drain off any excess liquid.
If you wanted to use gluten free pasta, reduce your PC time to 2 minutes with a 4-minute NR to avoid overcooking the pasta.
To make a low carb version of this pasta salad, you can omit the pasta and add in some roasted cauliflower instead. It would be more like my cauliflower "potato" salad recipe, but absolutely delicious!
I really suggest making your own homemade Caesar dressing and here is a simple recipe to follow: Caesar Salad Dressing
You can also use your favorite store-bought Caesar dressing. Make sure to get one that is creamy and not oil-based, if you want a creamy pasta salad.
The chicken is completely optional. The pasta salad is delicious without it. I used boneless skinless chicken breasts and sous vide cooked them for the perfect texture. Leftover rotisserie chicken is also a good choice.
You can also use shrimp instead of the chicken and that would be delicious.
Vegetables & other Ingredients
The Caesar dressing brings all the flavor to this pasta salad and the vegetables and raisins are there for texture and to balance the flavors. You can use whatever types of vegetables you like.
I love the addition of fresh cherry tomatoes for a pop of vibrant color and a touch of sweetness. The cucumber and crisp romaine lettuce provides the perfect balance of textures and the golden raisins add balance to the Caesar salad dressing.
Shaved salty parmesan cheese works so well in this salad and I recommend that over grated. Grated parmesan will blend into the salad too much and I'm afraid the loss of the flavor from the shaved parmesan will be noticed.
I also added some crispy croutons just before serving which added a delightful crunch to the salad. Making your own homemade croutons is so easy, just follow this recipe: Homemade Croutons.
You can omit any of the extra ingredients or add your own. A touch of red onion would be delicious.
Variations of Pasta Salad
I'm a huge fan of taking a base recipe and making it deliciously yours. This pasta salad is perfect for customizing to what you have on hand. Here are a few flavor combinations that I think would be delicious.
Creamy Italian Pasta Salad- Farfalle pasta, your favorite Italian salad dressing, small pieces of fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes cut in half, pepperoni, salami, or prosciutto, fresh basil torn into bite-size pieces.
Greek Pasta Salad- Rotini or fusilli pasta, Greek salad dressing, feta cheese, cucumbers, red onion, roasted garlic, black olives, fresh oregano, red onion and perfectly cooked shrimp.
American Burger Pasta Salad- Elbow macaroni or rotini pasta, Thousand Island dressing, cooked hamburger broken into pieces, cubed cheddar cheese, cherry tomatoes cut in half, red onion, crisp iceberg lettuce
Tips for making Pasta Salad
- Add half of the dressing when the pasta is warm so the pasta absorbs the flavors in the dressing.
- Quick chill the pasta by placing it on a tray or baking sheet in a shallow layer and put it in the fridge or place the pan on a bed of ice.
- Cut up the vegetables while the pasta is cooking and chilling to reduce the time from start to finish.
- Cook your pasta noodles to just past al dente for the best texture.
- Use a large bowl for mixing the pasta salad. Once you start adding in ingredients the volume increases quite a bit.
How to Make Caesar Pasta Salad
If you are making your own Caesar dressing (highly recommended), do that first. The dressing will thicken as it chills and the flavors will have a chance to develop.
Making your own Caesar salad dressing is easy and you can follow this recipe: Homemade Creamy Caesar Salad Dressing
If you want to make your own croutons, here is a video showing you how to do that.
Next up is to cook the pasta. I like making pasta in my Ninja Foodi pressure cooker, but you can use any electric pressure cooker OR boil the pasta on the stove.
To make the pasta in the pressure cooker and not have to drain the water (which I LOVE), add 2 cups of water to the inner pot with ½ teaspoon of fine grind sea salt. Put the pressure lid on and turn the valve to seal. Set the pressure cook function on high for 4 minutes. When the time is up allow the pot to naturally release the pressure for 4 minutes and then release the remaining pressure.
To make the pasta on the stove, boil 10 cups of salted water in a stock pot. Add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions. I would cook the pasta just past al dente for the best texture. Drain the pasta and proceed with the recipe.
While the pasta is still warm, add ½ cup of creamy Caesar dressing and mix well. Pour the pasta out onto a baking sheet so it is in a shallow layer. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator or on a bed of ice to chill quickly. In the refrigerator this takes about 15-20 minutes.
Cut your cherry tomatoes in half, cube the cucumber (I leave the skin on) into 1" cubes, shave the parmesan cheese, cut up the cooked chicken into bite-size pieces. Cut up the romaine lettuce into bite size pieces.
Put the chilled pasta in a large mixing bowl (big enough to hold 10 cups of ingredients and be able to mix), add the chicken, vegetables, shaved parmesan, golden raisins and romaine lettuce.
Add the remaining ½ cup of Caesar dressing and mix well. Refrigerate until serving or dig in right away!
Add the croutons just before serving. Enjoy!
Creamy Caesar Pasta Salad Recipe
- Pressure Cooker
- 8 ounces Rotini Pasta
- 2 cups water
- ½ teaspoon fine grind sea salt
- 1 cup creamy Caesar dressing
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes cut in half
- 1 cup cucumber cut into 1" cubes
- 1½ ounces parmesan cheese shaved
- ½ cup golden raisins
- 1 head romaine lettuce cut into bite size pieces
- 10 ounces chicken, cooked optional
- 1 cup croutons optional
- Add 2 cups of water to the inner pot of the Ninja Foodi or an electric pressure cooker. Add the 8 ounces of pasta. Put the lid on and turn the valve to seal. Pressure cook on high for 4 minutes. When the time is up, allow the pot to natural release for 4 minutes and manually release the remaining pasta. If there is any liquid left, drain the pasta.
- Add ½ cup of creamy Caesar dressing to the warm pasta and mix well. Transfer the pasta to a baking pan or another shallow dish so the pasta is in a single layer. Chill in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes.
- While the pasta is chilling, cut your cherry tomatoes in half, cube your cucumber into 1" pieces, shave the parmesan cheese, cube the cooked chicken, cut the romaine lettuce into bite size pieces and measure out the golden raisins.
- Transfer the chilled pasta to a large mixing bowl. Add the vegetables, cheese, chicken, and raisins. Add the remaining ½ cup of Caesar dressing and mix well.
- Refrigerate until serving or dig in! Add the croutons just before serving for the best texture.
ABOUT THE RECIPE AUTHOR, LOUISE LONG
Louise is a full-time recipe creator and food blogger @ The Salted Pepper. She has over 30 years of experience with cooking and recipe development. She owned a restaurant for several years and was a full-time RN until retiring to blog full-time.
Louise has several very active Facebook groups that help people with the basics of cooking and getting the most out of the Ninja Foodi.
Seeing the need for easy, delicious, and high quality recipes, she is focusing all of her efforts creating recipes specifically for the Ninja Foodi. Her recipes are easy for the home cook to follow and provide step-by-step instructions.
Louise is also a YouTube creator and you can find most of her recipes in video format on The Salted Pepper YouTube channel.
She is very responsive to messages and eager to help in any way she can.
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