Creamy Caesar Pasta – The Perfect Comfort Food for Pasta Lovers
Garlicky Caesar Pasta Recipe
This is a rich and creamy, ultra-flavorful pasta recipe. Caesar pasta is as simple as boiling your favorite noodles, then tossing them in a silky sauce made from lemon, parmesan, anchovies, and garlic. I throw in a pinch of chili flakes, too.
If you’re a pasta lover, you don’t want to miss out on this mouthwatering Creamy Caesar Pasta recipe from Cookies and Cups!
Top everything with crispy toasted breadcrumbs (my makeshift croutons), and you have a hearty meal that always gets rave reviews at dinner parties. The breadcrumbs are my absolute favorite part of this dish. Beyond adding flavor, the crispy crunch is perfection.
Where Does the Name Caesar Come From?
Fun fact: Contrary to popular belief, the Caesar salad wasn’t named after Julius Caesar. It was named after Caesar Cardini, the Italian man who invented the famous salad!
What You’ll Need
Below I’ve rounded up the ingredients you’ll need to make this flavorful Caesar pasta. If you’ve ever made your own Caesar salad dressing, you’ll likely recognize a few of them. Be sure to scroll to the recipe card for the full ingredient amounts.
- Butter: I use salted butter, but unsalted will also work.
- Breadcrumbs: In place of crunchy croutons, top your Caesar pasta with a generous sprinkle of toasted garlic Panko breadcrumbs.
- Garlic Powder: For seasoning the breadcrumbs.
- Pasta: Bucatini or spaghetti are good options, or you can use any type of pasta you prefer.
- Parmesan Cheese: It wouldn’t be Caesar anything without freshly grated parmesan!
- Fresh Lemon: Freshly squeezed lemon juice brightens the sauce. Avoid bottled lemon juice as the flavor just isn’t the same.
- Mustard: Dijon mustard adds a deliciously tangy flavor and mild heat to the pasta sauce.
- Egg: We’re making this Caesar pasta Carbonnara-style with a freshly cracked egg to emulsify the sauce and make it extra rich and creamy.
- Olive Oil and Garlic: You’ll need good-quality olive oil for sautéeing with garlic for aromatics.
- Anchovies: The secret ingredient in a classic Caesar salad. Anchovies have a salty, briny flavor that blends into this sauce, the same as it does in Caesar dressing. Feel free to reduce the number of anchovies if they aren’t your thing (see below).
- Red Pepper Flakes: For a subtle, spicy kick. Add more or fewer chili flakes to taste, along with black pepper for seasoning.
- Garnish: Sprinkle over freshly chopped parsley and more parmesan.
Can I Substitute Anchovies?
Not everyone is crazy about anchovies, and that’s fair enough! If you’re not a fan, you can reduce the amount, or leave them out altogether. Capers make a good substitute (also if you’d like to make this recipe vegetarian).
How to Make Caesar Pasta
Who’s ready to turn a famous salad into a restaurant-worthy pasta dinner? Here’s how easy it is to make Caesar pasta in just 30 minutes:
- Toast the Breadcrumbs: First, you’ll add breadcrumbs to melted butter in a saucepan. Season with garlic powder, and then let the breadcrumbs brown over medium heat, until golden.
- Cook the Pasta: Next, set your breadcrumbs aside while you bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook your choice of pasta according to the package directions. Before you drain your noodles, reserve about 1 and a half cups of pasta water (you’ll use it to make the sauce next).
- Prepare the Sauce: Now, whisk together parmesan with lemon juice, Dijon, and an egg for the base of your Caesar sauce. In a skillet, gently sauté your garlic and anchovies, along with the chili flakes and a few cracks of black pepper. Combine everything in the skillet, followed by 1 cup of pasta water, then allow the sauce to cook until thickened (this happens quickly, about 1-2 minutes).
- Combine: Finally, transfer the cooked pasta to the sauce and toss to coat. If needed, pour in a bit more pasta water to get the sauce nice and creamy. Sprinkle over the breadcrumbs, fresh parsley, and parmesan just before serving, and enjoy!
Tips for Success
This recipe is huge on flavor, but very low effort to make. In a word: Awesome. I’ll impart some final wisdom when it comes to making the best pasta:
- Salt the pasta water. Add a generous spoonful (or two) of salt to the water when boiling the pasta. Salted water adds flavor to your pasta noodles and also to the sauce later on.
- Use pasta water to make this recipe creamy. Pasta water is packed with starch from the boiled pasta, don’t let it go to waste! All that extra starch helps emulsify the sauce and make it creamy.
- Don’t overcook the eggs. Be careful not to boil the sauce once the egg mixture is added to the pan, otherwise, the eggs may scramble.
Who doesn’t love a versatile pasta recipe? Just like a salad, you can adapt this recipe with different add-ins or switch up the ingredients to taste. Here are some ideas:
- Different Pasta: This recipe will work with just about any pasta variety. Try it with linguini, tagliatelle, penne, fusilli, bow-tie pasta, etc.
- Chicken Caesar Pasta: For added protein, stir in cooked Shredded Chicken, or dice up leftover Chicken Tenders to serve over top.
- Shrimp: Make this Caesar pasta Shrimp Scampi-style, and add cooked shrimp.
- Add Greens: Stir in wilted spinach or sauteed kale.
- Add Veggies: Add in cooked mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, or chopped asparagus.
Serve this Caesar pasta with a side of sliced French Bread or fluffy Garlic Knots for mopping up the leftover sauce. It’s also easy to serve with a fresh green salad or spinach salad, drizzled with homemade Greek Dressing.
For a satisfying meal, pair your creamy pasta with juicy Instant Pot Chicken Thighs or these Caprese Chicken Breasts, and your favorite vegetable side dish. We love Air Fryer Asparagus in the cooler months, and Air Fryer Corn on the Cob with herb butter when fresh corn is in season.
Storing and Reheating Leftovers
Leftover Caesar pasta can be kept airtight in the fridge for up to 2-3 days. The breadcrumbs will lose their crunch over time. For this reason, if you’re planning to make this pasta ahead or anticipate lots of leftovers, I recommend leaving off the breadcrumbs and garnishes until you’re ready to reheat and serve.
Reheat your pasta in the microwave or in a saucepan on the stovetop until warm. If needed, add a bit more water to help loosen up the cream sauce.
Can I Freeze Caesar Pasta?
Yes, though I also recommend freezing the pasta before adding the breadcrumbs. Store the cooked Caesar pasta in a freezer-safe container and keep it frozen for up to 3 months. Defrost the leftovers in the fridge overnight before reheating.
A creamy and comforting Caesar Pasta recipe with all the flavors of the classic salad! Made from tender pasta tossed in a flavorful parmesan and lemon sauce with garlic and anchovies, topped with crispy garlic breadcrumbs.
- 4 tablespoons salted butter
- 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 pound bucatini or spaghetti
- 4 ounces parmesan cheese, grated
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (1 – 2 lemons)
- 3 tablespoons dijon mustard
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 ounces anchovies, drained and minced (*see note)
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh black pepper
- Optional garnish – fresh chopped parsley and more Parmesan cheese
- Prep breadcrumbs: In a small skillet heat the butter on medium heat. Add in the breadcrumbs and garlic powder and cook until lightly golden, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
- Pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the package directions. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of pasta water.
- Make the Caesar sauce: Whisk together parmesan cheese, lemon juice, dijon mustard, and egg. Set aside.
- Add oil to a large skillet on medium heat. Add in the garlic, anchovies, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Cook for 1 minute until the garlic is fragrant. Add in the reserved dijon mixture and cook for 1 more minute. Whisk in 1 cup of the reserved pasta water and cook until thickened, 1 – 2 minutes.
- Assemble: Add pasta to the skillet and coat with sauce, adding more pasta water to achieve a creamy sauce, if necessary. Top with breadcrumbs and fresh parsley, and more parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.