roberta’s roasted garlic caesar salad

I realize that the internet needs another recipe for caesar salad as much as it probably needs another new spin on chocolate chip cookies (guilty as charged, of course). Thus, it was nowhere on my agenda to suggest one. Plus, I’ve told you before that the only caesar dressing I need in my life is my hopelessly, unapologetically inauthentic one — no raw yolks, no tinned fish, and keeps in the fridge for a month, easily — which I’ve shared in some form over here and in Smitten Kitchen Every Day (in a salad with broken eggs and crushed croutons that you need in your life, trust me).

pre-toast the walnutsplus sugar and spicemix it up, then bake themspicy candied walnuts

But earlier this year I was invited to be on Cherry Bombe Radio, which records at the Heritage Radio Studios, which broadcasts from two recycled shipping containers behind the Roberta’s Pizza in Bushwick, at the edge of the garden where many of Roberta’s ingredients are grown. My son was home from school that day and I do not know what the 9 year-olds in your life are like, but if I told the one I’ve been assigned that I was going to be hanging out somewhere eating legendarily delicious pizza and not invite him along, he’d (rightly) declare it excessive cruelty. So he came along and along with pizza, ordered the very caesar-y romaine salad with candied walnuts and he declared it the best salad he’d ever eaten and begged me to make it at home. Again, I don’t know what the grade-schoolers in your life are like but I consider it a general rule that if a kid requests salad, they get it.

not-yet-roasted garlicroasted garlica very authentic blendolive oil

Also: it’s a really fantastic salad, which means I hope we can find room on this site for one more caesar salad. This one is epic. Maybe it’s not what you make on a Monday night, maybe it’s not the one you make for people worried about egg yolks and salty brined fish, but now that those people are out of the room, you’re going to be glad you don’t have to share.

roasted garlic dressing

This, to me, is the definition of an updated classic, wherein a few tweaks makes what we’re used to even better. Tweak 1: Roasted garlic, which is creamy and delightful here. Tweak 2: Spicy candied walnuts (but you can use whatever nut you like here; Team Walnut is a lonely place, sigh) instead of the usual heaviness — or at least disappointment — of croutons. The flavor profile is different, of course, but they have such a great contrast here, plus, they’re pure Reluctant Preschooler bait. Tweak 3: Pecorino — saltier, funkier — instead of parmesan. Tweak 4: A little more subtle, but not all classic caesar salads have vinegar but this one uses a little white wine vinegar and a little sherry vinegar for extra gravitas. It harmonizes well with the roasted garlic.

It makes a lot of dressing, but we used every drop of it over the next week, when we made this salad again and again. Make it for yourself as weekend treat, or make it mid-next week and stash it in the fridge for a really great Thanksgiving salad. The salad may look austere, but nothing breaks up the heaviness of casseroles and gratins and stuffing and gravy like a crispy, green, and complex salad.

roberta's roasted garlic caesar


One year ago: Endive Salad with Toasted Breadcrumbs and Walnuts
Two years ago: Roasted Cauliflower with Pumpkin Seeds, Brown Butter, and Lime and Apple Strudel
Three years ago: Oven Fries and Chocolate Peanut and Pretzel Brittle
Four years ago: Squahs Toasts with Ricotta and Cider Vinegar and Smoked Whitefish Dip with Horseradish
Five years ago: Spinach and Egg Pizzettes
Six years ago: Roasted Pear and Chocolate Chunk Scones
Seven years ago: Baked Pumpkin and Sour Cream Puddings
Eight years ago: Spicy Squash Salad with Lentils and Goat Cheese, Buckeyes and Upside-Down Cranberry Cake
Nine years ago: Silky, Decadent Old-School Chocolate Mousse, Baked Chicken Meatballs and Salted Brown Butter Crispy Treats
Ten years ago: Cabbage and Mushroom Galette and Cottage Cheese Pancakes
Eleven years ago: Cranberry, Caramel and Almond Tart and Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Sauteed Apples
[New!] Twelve years ago: Salt Cross Buns

And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Chilaquiles Brunch Casserole and Ruffled Milk Pie
1.5 Years Ago: A Really Great Pot of Chickpeas
2.5 Years Ago: Palm Springs Date Shake + Monkey Flip
3.5 Years Ago: Potato Scallion and Kale Cakes and Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies
4.5 Years Ago: Blue Sky Bran Muffins and Fresh Spinach Pasta

Roberta's Roasted Garlic Caesar Salad

You’ll have extra dressing (it makes 1 1/2 to 1 2/3 cups) and extra walnuts (it makes about 2 1/4 cups). The dressing keeps for one week in the fridge. The walnuts will keep easily 2 weeks in a jar at room temperature.

    Roasted garlic dressing
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon (175 grams) olive oil, plus a splash for the garlic
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons (10 grams) smooth dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (21 grams) white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons (28 grams) sherry vinegar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 5 anchovy fillets
  • Juice of half a lemon, plus more if needed
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Candied walnuts
  • 2 cups (180 grams) walnut halves
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 3 packed tablespoons (30 grams) dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (75 grams) honey
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams) kosher salt
  • Assembly
  • 2 romaine hearts, ends trimmed, leaves separated
  • 1/3 cup roasted garlic dressing (above)
  • 2 ounces pecorino romano cheese
  • A handful of candied walnuts (above)
  • Freshly ground black pepper

To make the roasted garlic dressing: Heat your oven to 350°F. Cut a quarter inch off the head of garlic and place the head, cut side up, on a big square of aluminum foil. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Wrap it tightly in the foil and bake for a little less than 1 hour.

Remove the garlic from the oven and let it cool in the foil. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of 4 or 5 cloves and set the rest aside for another use (“its really good just spread on grilled bread,” the book tells us). Leave the oven on for the walnuts.

Put the roasted garlic, the raw clove of garlic, mustard, vinegars, egg yolks, anchovies, and lemon juice into a blender or food processor and blend for 30 seconds or until combined. With the machine one, add the olive oil in a slow, thin stream until it’s incorporated and the dressing looks smooth. Taste and add salt, pepper, and more lemon juice as desired.

Meanwhile, make the walnuts: Put the nuts on a baking sheet and toast 8 minutes, turing your baking sheet and tossing the nuts around halfway through.Remove them from the oven and let them cool. Turn the oven down to 275°F. Cover a large baking sheet with foil and (do what I didn’t do), coat the foil with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites until they begin to have body but not until they form soft peaks. Add the brown sugar, honey, and about 10 turns of a pepper grinder’s worth of black pepper to the whites, and combine. Add the walnuts to the mixture and mix until they’re all well coated. Spread them on the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle them evenly with the salt. Bake for about 24 minutes, turning the baking sheet about halfway through. The nuts should be dry and not sticky. Remove them from the oven and let them cool.

To assemble: Place the romaine leaves in a large bowl. Pour about 1/4 cup roasted garlic dressing over the leaves, using your fingers to toss and coat the leaves evenly. (The book warns that tongs will damage the leaves here, and won’t distribute the dressing as easily.) Use the remaining tablespoon or so if needed, to taste (Romaine hearts vary a lot in size).

Divide the lettuce between two plates. Grate the Pecorino over each plate. Scatter the walnuts over the two plates and give each a grind of black pepper. Eat with a knife and fork, blissfully.

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60 comments on roberta’s roasted garlic caesar salad

    1. deb

      Does he eat Worcestershire? (It has anchovies in it but not everyone fusses over this.) If he does, you should make my other, less authentic, caesar dressing I mention.

    2. Francoise

      Also, if Worcestershire is out you can use liquid amino acids (my local Trader Joes carries it) or, as another commenter suggested, you can also sub a tablespoon or so of rinsed and drained capers

    1. deb

      Wow, I had no idea that dijon had gluten in it! Regardless, there’s a lot of flavor in the dressing and I think if you omit one ingredient, it can still taste good.

    2. jmckee04

      There are several brands of gluten free dijon mustard- just look around in your grocery store. (This is coming from someone with celiac who has gf dijon in her fridge right now- I just can’t recall the brand- it’s a common inexpensive one though).

  1. Shannon

    Could you substitute anchovy paste for the anchovy fillets? And if so, what would the proportions be? I bought anchovy paste recently for a recipe, and I’m looking for other ways to use it. Thanks!

  2. Barbette

    I have a vegetarian family member and I make caesar dressing with capers. Sub 1 and half tablespoons (rinsed capers) for every 6 anchovies.

  3. Hi, Deb – what kind of anchovies do you use, fancy or not fancy? Any specific ones to recommend? I’ve gotten Italian salt-packed ones that turn to mush, and hold the Ortiz ones in high-esteem. But how fancy should one go for this dressing?

    1. deb

      Not fancy, and no real preference but I’m not a heavy user of them so I grab whatever the store has in a jar (so I can reseal it). If you have a favorite, use it. If they’re fancy and maybe their nuance will be lost in a salad dressing, I’d say step it down a little.

  4. Kim

    Deb, you list Dijon twice; is this a mistake, or are you actually using two types here? Recipe sounds delicious and may well make its way to my Thanksgiving menu. As always, thanks for the inspiration!

  5. Mari

    Yum! This looks delicious. Love the idea of using nuts for crunch – my housemate makes a ceasar with walnuts (and blueberries) that is insanely good. The tangy, bursting berries and the meaty crunch of walnuts play so well with ceasar! Thanks for sharing! Can’t wait to try it.

  6. Jamie

    If a kid requests a salad, they absolutely get it! A few years ago at a kid’s pizza party, my then 4-year-old yelled “I love salad!” when he saw me get some (that was meant for the adults), so I put some on his plate, which prompted all the other parents to give their kids salad, too. I had to chuckle. = )

  7. Hi Deb–

    This sounds lovely, but I wish you’d just give amounts for lemon juice–your recipes always have this “juice of half a lemon” or “juice of a lemon” or whatever, and I know you want to encourage people to use the Real Thing, but it would be nice to know how much juice we’re really talking about. (And I did a blind taste test awhile back and honestly couldn’t tell the difference between the fresh and the bottled.) So how many tablespoons is it?

    ALSO, I read and loved your NYT article on bake sales this past weekend, and the link to my blog post that mentions it is below.

    1. deb

      Thanks. I have absolutely no patience to measure lemon juice in spoonfuls, definitely a recipe pet peeve. That said, I get 2T per lemon half on average.

      1. very helpful–thanks. I usually microwave the lemon juice and the egg or egg yolks just long enough to get the mixture up to 160 when I make dressing–more for my own peace of mind than any real danger. 20-30 seconds on high, whisk immediately.

  8. Lori Pare

    When a 9 year old says a salad is delicious, you better believe I’m going to try it out! I’ve never made Cesar’s dressing but, thanks to you, I’m about to. Team Walnut from way back!

  9. Cath

    I’m, when did you get a nine year old?! He was just born!
    We recently got my 4 year old niece to eat salad by raving about the baked parmesan crisps we were using instead of croutons. (my five year old was not so easily tricked!)

  10. Molly

    Deb, how can you post this without exhorting us to #putaneggonit ??? I feel like I hardly know you anymore 😂
    Ps I made it: the dressing is incredible! I added cayenne and cinnamon to the nuts, and put extra anchovies, avocado and a poached egg on it. Heaven!

  11. Dear Deb,

    Please tell me where on the UES of Manhattan you find the best produce. I have bought organic and non-organic at every store and find that from lemons to lettuce it is all poor quality. Do I have to shop at greenmarkets to find the quality in your pix?

  12. Mitzi

    What a great use for roasted garlic! I had some previously made sugar and spice candied nuts in the cupboard which I subbed in. The dressing was rich, creamy and amazing! The fresh eggs elevated the texture from a regular Ceasar dressing. It need a touch more olive oil as I found it a bit sour. Another great recipe!

  13. I have read the comments below, and noted that Debi Simon said you can microwave the egg yolks and lemon juice for 20-30 seconds to make sure it is safe. But it is really ok to leave/use a dressing with the uncooked egg yolks for a few days, and still use ?

    1. Kate

      Hi EllenAlyce55,
      I’ve routinely left cookie doughs in the fridge for several days before I get around to baking the whole batch, and it’s always been fine. The times I’ve made fresh mayonnaise (with raw egg yolk) and have left it for too long in the fridge, it’s been easy to tell that it went off–it didn’t smell or taste right, by a long shot.
      All of which is to say, when I make this recipe for Thanksgiving (thank you, Deb!) I’m totally going to make a giant batch of dressing and figure that my family and I will eat it up over the course of several days.

  14. Nikki

    Hi Deb,

    You’re my go to when I need new recipes in my rotation! Can you tell me about how long the dressing would last in the fridge? Just curious what you’d guess since it has the egg in it. Thanks for being you!

  15. Nikki

    Making this now, my walnuts seem to be sticky, I have had them in the oven now for almost an hour…before I put them in the oven they looked really saucy, so I added more walnuts, I’m looking at the pics you posted, and mine look similar, do they dry up a little as they cool?

  16. Nic

    Oh god this sounds amazing, but it’s also torture for me – I’m a massage therapist so this much garlic is a no-no unless I have some time off. Honestly though, I suspect it’s worth taking a holiday for this salad. Some people go skiing or to a beach town, I have a garlic free for all. Yum.

  17. Jacqueline

    I cannot wait to make this!
    I’m celiac so I appreciate there are no croutons. Candied walnuts, what a great idea Deb, thank you! The French dijon mustard Maille is gluten-free, most dijon mustards are.

  18. allothercolours

    This sounds so yummy because I love both garlic and walnuts :) And still a little different and some “twist”, I’m going to try this soon! Thank you for sharing this!

  19. alwaysusebutter

    This sounds amazing! I love the whole twist on a classic, if something’s delicious it’s always good to have a few versions to go with so you don’t wear one of them out.

  20. Carly

    This is straight up delicious! I loved every bite of it and look forward to eating salads the next few days!

    For those wondering about substituting anchovy paste, I subbed 5 tsp of anchovy paste for the anchovies and, like I said, the dressing was delicious. I may try less next time.

    The only issue I had was my walnuts never got quite dry in the oven. I baked them for twice the amount of time then gave up and pulled them out of the oven to let them dry on the counter.

  21. Alice K.

    I’d love to make this salad for family over Thanksgiving, but my very much loved daughter-in-law is allergic to walnuts. What, if any, other nut would you suggest as a substitute?

  22. Susan Shores

    Recently you mentioned the mandoline you use and the next one you were going to get. Which one do you recommend? Thanks for your help.

  23. june

    With all the complex salads and etc out there, I LOVE a simple straightforward salad. Thank you! Also, have you ever tried seared romaine halves as a winter side dish? They are surprisingly great! We drizzle a bit of vinaigrette over them and love it!

  24. Sergeant Tibbs

    I enjoyed this salad, as a person who generally dislikes raw salads. I’ve eaten it 3 days straight! A couple of notes, like Carly, I also had issues with my walnuts drying. I kept them baking in the oven for close to 40 min to get them closer to dried but they were still quite sticky. Chewing them, I felt like I had candy stuck in my teeth rather than what I imagine they should be – light, crisp, and slightly crunchy. It helped to stir them up halfway through. Normally, I like recipes that use up the full egg, but in this case I think 2 egg whites were probably unnecessary and I might save one for other cooking.

    The dressing was definitely more involved than the standard Caesar on this site but since it keeps well for so long, I’d do it again. I tried the salad the first night with regular Parmesan (good) and then pecorino the next. The pecorino is worth it, it really plays well with the candied walnuts and dressing.

    1. Wow really nice and awesome recipe with full of nutrients. Many Thanks for posting this recipe, I will must try to home. As a Nutritionist I appreciate this recipe with all healthy ingredients.