Bring the flavor and festivity to any meal with this perfectly dressed crowd pleaser. This vibrant taco pasta salad blends all the ingredients of a classic taco salad with a creamy Mexican-style dressed pasta and a bit of crunch for a delicious twist on a standard picnic favorite.
This recipe starts with cooked and cooled al dente pasta, which is much simpler than it sounds. You can choose any kind of short-cut pasta you prefer, but curly shapes like fusilli or rotini allow for a nice even coating of sauce. Tube shapes like penne or large macaroni also work well.
‘Al dente’ simply means tender, but not too soft. Taste and test your pasta often, then drain as soon as it is soft enough to bite. Then you rinse the pasta with cool water to stop it from continuing to cook and to rinse the starchy coating off.
The vegetables in this salad couldn’t be simpler, but you can always adjust for taste. Bell peppers of any and all colors fit this recipe and you can even add a small jalapeno for a little kick.
While white onions are often milder, red onions add a little extra sweetness and bite. For a mellower flavor all around, sauté the onions and peppers in the hot pan after browning the beef. Keep in mind that doing so will take away any crunchy bits from the salad. To remedy this, simply crumble spicy Doritos over the top for some exciting added crunch.
Assembling this taco pasta salad is half the fun! Add your favorite hot sauce to the dressing for a signature flair. Served cold with zesty lime wedges, this fresh and delicious salad is ready for taco Tuesday, aren’t you?
Taco Pasta Salad
- 1 lb. lean ground beef
- 2 tbsp. taco seasoning
- 3 cups dry short-cut pasta - such as rotini or macaroni
- ½ cup red bell pepper - diced
- ½ cup green bell pepper - diced
- 1 cup canned black beans - drained and rinsed
- ½ cup black olives - drained and sliced
- ¼ cup red onion - diced
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes - halved
- 1 cup cheddar cheese - shredded
- Fresh cilantro - chopped (to garnish)
- Tortilla chips - (optional)
For the Dressing:
- 1 cup mayo
- ¼ cup sour cream
- 1 tbsp. taco seasoning
- 1 tbsp. hot sauce - optional
- Salt and pepper - to taste
- Brown the beef in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Take the pan off the heat, add the 2 tbsp. taco seasoning to the beef and mix well. Set aside.
- Cook the pasta al dente, according to package directions. Drain the pasta and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking process.
- Mix the dressing ingredients together and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- In a large bowl, combine the pasta and beef with the rest of the ingredients. Add the dressing and mix well.
- You can serve right away or cover and chill for later. Garnish with chopped cilantro when serving. If desired, you can also crush some tortilla chips on top (when serving) to add some crunch.
Nutrition information on In the Kitch is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate only. It may not include toppings and/or sauces.
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