This roasted romaine Caesar salad is an easy yet brilliant version of the classic where romaine halves are coated in an anchovy garlic sauce and roasted until tender and wilted.
Cooked romaine lettuce is one of the best-kept secrets of the culinary world! It turns out this lettuce is just as delicious raw as it is cooked, and the cooking can be done in a number of ways, from baked to stir-fried. Here’s a quick and very flavorful way to do it.–Vivica Menegaz
☞ Table of Contents
Roasted Romaine Caesar Salad
- 4 tablespoons olive oil plus more for the baking sheet
- 2 heads (1 lb) romaine lettuce
- 2 inches anchovy paste or 2 anchovy fillets pressed through a garlic press
- 2 cloves garlic pressed
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Shaved Parmesan cheese to serve (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C). Slick a rimmed baking sheet with oil.
- Rinse the romaine lettuce. Drain and then pat it completely dry. Slice each head in half lengthwise and place the halves on the baking sheet, cut side up.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the anchovy paste, garlic, and olive oil, until smoothly blended. Divide the anchovy mixture among the romaine halves and use a pastry brush to coat the lettuce. Sprinkle with black pepper.
- Bake until the lettuce is wilted and brown at the edges, 8 to 13 minutes, depending on the size of the lettuce heads.
- Immediately sprinkle with the shaved Parmesan, if desired, and serve right away.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
I was pleasantly surprised when I took the first bite of roasted romaine. It had a subtle flavor with just a hint of salt and garlic. I anticipated a more robust flavor. The coarser stems were crunchy and then the lettuce leaves just melted in my mouth. I served it as an appetizer. It would be very difficult to pair it with a main course because the subtle flavors would easily be overpowered.
I used 2 anchovies packed in oil. I rinsed them before pressing them through a garlic press. I spooned the oil on the lettuce halves and massaged it in with my gloved hands. There was enough seasoned oil to evenly coat the romaine. I used a coarse ground pepper to coat the lettuce. The lettuce wilted and the edges turned brown after 13 minutes.
I always love a Caesar Salad and now I love roasted romaine too! This is a really nice change from raw romaine. It’s super easy and fast.
The dressing was a perfect mix of garlic and anchovies. The romaine comes out a little wilted but still has some crispness. While brushing the dressing on the romaine before cooking it, I didn’t think it seemed like enough. After cooking it, it ended up to be the perfect amount. The flavor was delicious.
I served this with leftover spaghetti instead of meat or fish. We thought it was a great combination. We sprinkled some Parmesan on top which was really good. I do think this would go really well with some chicken and some croutons, too.
This is a quick, easy side dish that is a nice alternative to a green salad. It is not anything fancy or complex, but it’s tasty and quick to prepare and pop in the oven while you finish up the rest of your meal preparation.
The flavor is pretty mild, so if you prefer a stronger Caesar flavor, you may want to up the garlic and/or anchovies. I used anchovy paste but fillets would likely give it a stronger flavor. Be sure to get the dressing down in the leaves of the romaine. A sprinkle of grated Parmesan would also be a great addition. I served it with iron skillet seared steak and garlic mashed potatoes.
This is the minimalist trick for a side dish or fast dinner, and depending on what you might serve with it (some grilled scampi, a nice fillet of salmon or halibut), that gets quite close to a Caesar, yet does it in just a few ingredients. Since I have grilled romaine before, I was sure to drain and pat it thoroughly dry so it was not steaming and wet, but would wilt and brown coated nicely with the dressing.
Anchovy paste is especially convenient if you don’t keep a jar of anchovy fillets in your fridge, plus it dissolves nicely into the dressing. I just used a tablespoon to divide it, then brushed it over the lettuce, dividing any remaining as well over the 4 romaine halves. If you accidentally washed all the leaves separately, just reassemble them in four stacks, large to small leaves.
While this was plenty of dressing to coat all the lettuce, especially once roasted, we would definitely add a third anchovy or ‘inch’ of paste. I passed 1/8 lemon wedges and some grated Parmesan at the table, which let anyone adjust the flavour as they wished. This was actually a main course for two people with a light pasta side, but with a more substantial course this would serve 4 and would be a very nice and unexpected presentation.
This roasted romaine is a nice riff on my favorite salad, the Caesar. I used one head of romaine for the two of us, and made the full amount of dressing which turned out to be just enough. As always, I upped the amount of anchovies and garlic for an umami bomb. The lettuce looked done after 9 minutes in the oven, so I took it out and ground some pepper over it and couldn’t resist shaving Parmesan on top. Yum! The dressing was superb, and the inner leaves still had a bit of crunch. My husband thoroughly enjoyed it, and we had a delightful Sunday supper with skirt steak and swordfish with the Brazilian vinaigrette.
What a big reward for little effort. I confess that anything with anchovies gets my immediate attention. The suggestion in the recipe to use a garlic press to make the anchovy paste won me over. Genius!
Even though I’ve grilled a lot of romaine before, I’ve never roasted it. I also usually make a Caesar dressing for it. This recipe skips a step and also becomes more interesting as the flavour punch is unexpected.
The freshness of the romaine comes through despite the assertiveness of the garlic and anchovy. These flavours were not overpowering. However, I strongly feel that a bit of acidity would provide the perfect balance to this recipe. I used a spritz of fresh lemon juice before serving alongside sautéed “Alheiras” (Portuguese chicken and bread sausages).
This roasted romaine could accompany almost anything or even stand alone as a starter. I’m envisioning my next rendition as the filling in a fresh romaine sandwich… how ‘bout them “anchobies”?
Originally published February 15, 2021