Photo by Aimee Broussard.

Spice up your classic chicken Caesar salad by adding a little pasta

It’s crunch time. Homemade salads just taste better in the summer, and this recipe from inRegister food columnist Aimee Broussard is perfect to make on a hot day. The flavorful, juicy chicken and penne pasta bring this classic Caesar to the next level. If you’re looking for a quick, filling and delicious lunch, this recipe is for you.

Chicken Caesar Salad Pasta

1 lb. penne pasta
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. garlic powder
Salt, to taste
2 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup croutons (I use the Caesar-flavored)
Caesar dressing of choice
In a large pot, cook penne according to package directions until al dente. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. In a large skillet, heat oil. Sprinkle chicken with Italian seasoning, garlic powder and salt. Cook until golden brown and no longer pink in the center, about 8 minutes per side. Allow the chicken to rest, then cut into 1” pieces.
Add romaine, Parmesan, croutons and chicken to bowl of pasta.
When ready to serve, add Caesar dressing and toss all ingredients together to combine. Serve immediately.
Makes 8 servings.

Have a loaf of bread lying around? Make Broussard’s homemade croutons to add crunch to any salad—especially her chicken Caesar.

Homemade Croutons

¼ cup olive oil (plain or flavored with basil or garlic)
2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. dried parsley
½ tsp. roasted garlic powder
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
3 to 4 heaping cups cubed white bread (small French bread loaf  or baguette)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large bowl, combine olive oil, Parmesan cheese and spices. Add bread cubes to olive oil mix, tossing to coat.
Spread bread cubes in an even layer on a sheet pan, making sure cubes are not crowded. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Midway through baking, toss cubes to ensure even toasting. Monitor closely to avoid over-browning.
Allow croutons to cool, then serve immediately.
Notes: Fresh bread may take longer to crisp, while stale bread browns faster. So, baking time may need to be adjusted.
Makes about 4 cups.