Ultimate Caesar Salad

This is like a caesar salad on spicy steroids. Butter lettuce, a spicy calabrian chile dressing, homemade breadcrumbs (note below), and a small mountain of finely grated parmesan cheese. Inspired by my favorite salad at one of my favorite restaurants in LA (Jon & Vinny’s, duh), it’s the perfect precursor to stuffing your face with pasta and pizza. The laundry list of dressing ingredients look daunting but it’s worth it.

*If you have a loaf of stale bread lying around, I prefer to make breadcrumbs from that. Cut the loaf into cubes, toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a pinch of garlic powder on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Let cool completely and pulse in a food processor. Alternatively, I wrote the recipe with panko breadcrumbs because it’s a hell of a lot simpler. No shame in either.

Recipe adapted from Food and Wine – here.

Serves four.


For the salad:

  • 2 heads butter lettuce, torn into pieces
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese (I use a microplane zester)
  • Breadcrumbs (below)
  • Calabrian caesar dressing (below)

For the breadcrumbs:

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • Fine sea salt

For the dressing:

  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp calabrian chile paste
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sour cream
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp minced garlic 
  • A few dashes of Tabasco
  • 1/2 cup grapeseed oil
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 2 tbsp minced shallot
  • Fine sea salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper


  1. First, we make the dressing. In a food processor or blender, combine the first 9 ingredients (up through the minced garlic) and puree until blended. With the machine on, slowly drizzle in both oils. Scrape the dressing into a medium bowl and stir in the cheese and shallot. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Next, the breadcrumbs. Melt the butter and olive oil in a saucepan over medium low heat. Add the breadcrumbs and a pinch of salt and stir until toasty and golden, approximately 5 minutes. Add the oregano and garlic powder during the last ~30 seconds or so. Remove the skillet from the heat and transfer the breadcrumbs to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
  3. In a large bowl, toss the lettuce leaves with your desired amount of dressing (I start with approx 1/2 cup, it’s always easier to add more). Transfer the lettuce into your serving bowl(s) and top with the breadcrumbs and grated cheese. Serve with a bottle of sauv blanc or sparkling rose (my favorite).