Discover how to make a vibrant and flavorful Taco Pasta Salad, perfect for summer! This step-by-step guide offers clear instructions for a refreshing and light dish, combining the zesty flavors of salsa, taco seasoning, and fresh veggies with pasta. Ideal for a quick lunch or a picnic treat, this recipe is a must-try for salad and taco lovers alike!
Can I prepare this salad ahead of time?
Yes, you can prepare the salad (except for the avocado and lettuce) up to 2 days in advance. Simply store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to serve. Add in the fresh avocado and lettuce before serving.
What type of salsa works best?
Any tomato-based salsa will work well. We used a mild red salsa in the recipe, but you can use your favorite variety including green or tomatillo salsa.
Can I leave out an ingredient?
You can customize this recipe to your tastes. The pasta, salsa, beans, corn, tomato and onion form the base. If you want to leave out one of the mix-ins, that’s fine! The avocado, cheese and lettuce are nice fresh toppers when serving.
What if I can’t find Mexican blend cheese? Can I substitute?
Yes, you can use Monterey jack, colby jack, cheddar or a Tex-Mex cheese blend instead. Shredded mozzarella or queso fresco also work.
Can I use homemade taco seasoning instead of a packet?
Absolutely! You can find recipes online for homemade taco seasoning using common spices and make a big batch to have on hand. Use about 2-3 tablespoons in this pasta salad recipe.
Should the vegetables be raw or cooked?
The vegetables are added raw for a nice crunch. Make sure any raw veggies are washed thoroughly before prepping.
Can I add meat?
Ground beef or shredded chicken are tasty additions to this salad. Simply brown and drain the meat then allow it to cool before mixing into the pasta along with the other ingredients.
What’s the best way to chop and dice the veggies?
It’s preferred to evenly dice the onions, tomatoes and peppers into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces so they blend nicely with the pasta. Use a large sharp knife and cutting board for quick work.
- 1 pound rotini noodles (or mini pasta shells)
- Salt (for boiling water)
- 1 cup salsa (bold and spicy preferred)
- 2 tablespoons taco seasoning
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 1 green bell pepper, diced (red bell pepper is a good substitute)
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup black olives, sliced
- 1 cup sweet corn kernels (canned or grilled)
- 1/2 cup black beans (adjust to taste)
- 2 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
- 1 ripe avocado, sliced (for serving)
- 1 cup Mexican blend cheese, shredded (for serving)
- Prepare the Pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add rotini noodles and cook until al dente. Drain and rinse with cool water. Transfer to a large bowl.
- Season the Noodles: Add salsa and taco seasoning to the noodles. Mix well to combine. If desired, you can add fresh garlic, cilantro, or oregano for extra flavor.
- Chop Vegetables: Dice the cherry tomatoes, green bell pepper, and red onion. Add these to the bowl with the pasta.
- Add More Ingredients: Toss in the black olives, sweet corn, and black beans. Gently mix to distribute all ingredients evenly.
- Include Lettuce: Chop the romaine lettuce and add it to the salad. This adds a crisp, fresh texture.
- Mix and Chill: Toss everything together until well combined. For best flavor, let the salad chill in the refrigerator for a bit before serving.
- Serve: When ready to serve, plate the salad. Add sliced avocado and sprinkle with Mexican blend cheese. Avoid mixing avocado into the salad if not serving immediately to prevent browning.
- Optional Additions: Feel free to customize with more salsa, or other favorite taco toppings as desired.
- Enjoy! This salad is great as a standalone dish or paired with grilled meats. It’s even more flavorful the next day!
- For a healthier option, use whole wheat pasta.
- Grilled corn adds a smoky flavor to the salad.
- Customize with your favorite taco toppings for a personalized touch.
This recipe is not only delicious but also a colorful addition to your summer table. Enjoy your homemade Taco Pasta Salad!