Blackened Chicken Caesar Pasta Bake

In my twenties, going out to dinner with the girls was so much fun. Having a cocktail and always ordering a Caesar salad with blackened chicken. I can remember the first time I had a Chicken Caesar Salad like it was yesterday. You know, that cold crisp romaine lettuce topped with the warm grilled chicken and drizzled with that wonderful creamy Caesar dressing. Oh, and the cheese, so good!

Now the chicken that you’re able to order comes one of two ways, grilled, or grilled and blackened. I always choose the blackened, I love the spiciness of the chicken alongside the cool creamy Caesar dressing.

What a great idea! Take the flavors of the creamy Caesar dressing and make that into a sauce, then add pasta, blackened chicken, a breadcrumb topping, and bake. I’ll call this dish my Blackened Chicken Caesar Pasta Bake!

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Cesar Dressing

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Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
Yields: 6 to 8 servings
Equipment: indoor grill pan, large mixing bowl, 1 (12-inch) sauté pan, 1 (6-quart) saucepot, 1 (1-quart) saucepot, colander, 1 (9 x 13 x 3) baking dish, chef’s knife, Microplane

Ingredients For Chicken:
6 chicken cutlets
1/4 cup of olive oil
2 tablespoons blackened seasoning
1 tablespoon Kosher salt

Ingredients For Blackened Seasoning:
3 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Ingredients For Blackened Seasoning:
In a small bowl add all the spices above with the Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, mix to combine. Store in an air-tight container and store in a cool dry place.

Ingredients For Topping:
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) of butter, unsalted
1 1/2 cups Panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated using a Microplane
2 tablespoons of Italian flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

Ingredients For The Caesar Sauce:
3 tablespoons butter, unsalted
4 tablespoons garlic, minced
1 tablespoon anchovy paste
3 heaping tablespoons of all-purpose flour
2 cups of half-and-half, heated (substitute whole milk)
1 cup chicken stock, unsalted and room temperature
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 to 4 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
1 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, freshly grated
1 pound of penne pasta

1). 11 x 13 baking dish, buttered
2). Preheat oven to 375-degrees F.
3). Preheat grill pan on medium-high heat (both front and back burners)

In a large mixing bowl add the chicken cutlet, olive oil, and blackened seasoning. Using clean hands, mix together until all the chicken is evenly coated with oil and spices.

Place the chicken cutlets onto the grill. Cook 4 minutes on the first side, 3 minutes on the flip side. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Let cool, then slice on the bias.

Next, in a large sautépan on medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the Panko breadcrumbs to the pan, stir until they’re completely coated with the melted butter. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until a very light golden brown. Remove from the heat. Add the dried parsley, stir to combine. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, add the pasta. Cook pasta until slightly undercooked by 1 to 2 minutes. Remember, the pasta will continue to cook during the baking process. Drain the pasta. Let the pasta stay in the colander while you make the sauce.

*Scald the half-and-half. In a 1-quart saucepot over medium, heat the half-and-half to just under the boiling point. Small bubbles will appear around the rim of the pot.

In a large saucepot, over medium heat add the butter, Once the butter melts add the anchovy paste and minced garlic, Kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper, cook for 2 minutes. Next, add the flour and whisk until smooth. Slowly whisk in the chicken stock, then the heated half-and-half and Worcestershire sauce continually whisking until sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Remove the sauce from the heat, add the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, stir to combine.

In a large mixing bowl add the penne pasta. Using a rubber spatula, transfer the sauce to the bowl and mix with penne, until all the pasta is coated with the sauce. Next, gently fold in the sliced blackened grilled chicken and Italian flat-leaf parsley until combined.

Transfer the mixture to a buttered 11 x 13 baking dish. Using a spatula smooth the mixture evenly throughout the dish. Top with breadcrumb topping. Spray non-stick cooking spray on the dull side of the foil. This will prevent the topping from sticking to the foil. Cover and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Uncover, continue baking until the top is golden brown.

Make sure to let rest for at least 20 minutes before cutting. This will give the dish time to set.

I like to serve my this dish with a Romaine salad dressed with a drizzle of *E.V.O.O., fresh lemon juice, a sprinkle of Kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

There you have it, the best of both worlds in one dish, my Blackened Chicken Caesar Pasta Bake!

*E.V.O.O. is the acroym for Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
*Scalded Milk: Is milk heated to just under the boiling point.