Creamy Loaded Taco Pasta Salad
Sometimes, a yummy recipe idea flashes into my thoughts and before even tasting it, I just know — this one’s gonna be a winner. That’s what happened with this recipe – standing in the middle of aisle 4 at the grocery store.
Yes, I was inspired at the sight of a great sale on my favorite brand (and shape) of dried pasta. Yes, Montebello’s pasta was on sale 2 for $5 and that is the best price I’ve ever seen. Amazon is selling it for $5-$8 per bag.
So, I stocked my pantry with 10 bags at $2.50 a piece and am one happy gal — until I run out.
Seeing a great sale on Conchiglie made me start thinking about a new version of pasta salad. The specific shape of Conchiglie lends itself to pasta salad perfection because the tubes are slightly shorter than macaroni but are wider and have grooves on the outside. I immediately imagined all of the creamy sauce and “fixin’s” that could be captured inside each noodle.
One thing led to the next and I’d settled on using my homemade taco seasoning and several add-on’s to create this Creamy Taco Pasta Salad.
When cooking this pasta, be sure to cook it slightly under al dente. So take a minute or two off of the recommended cooking time.
Here’s what you’ll need for the add-ons:
- fresh, diced tomatoes (drain off any juice)
- celery, diced
- diced green chilies
- red bell pepper, diced
- cilantro, chopped
- a can of fiesta corn, drained
- shredded medium or sharp cheddar
Next comes the dressing. For this spicy, creamy dressing I used my homemade taco seasoning blend – you can find the recipe HERE or you can purchase a packet of my taco seasoning directly from me if you don’t feel like trekking to NM to get your hands on the very best spices. (You can also use a foil packet of taco seasoning from the store – just be aware that salt content and thickeners may alter the flavor and consistency of your pasta salad).
Here’s what you’ll need:
- taco seasoning
- sour cream
- mayo (I always use Hellman’s light)
- kosher salt (My homemade taco seasoning is purposely scant on salt so that the salt can be adjusted to any recipe and one’s personal taste. If using store-bought, you may not need to add any salt.)
Mix the dressing together and begin the rapid-fire assembly.
Combine all veggies, reserving a few tablespoons of diced tomatoes and a sprinkle of cilantro for garnish.
Fold in the dressing, stirring to combine all ingredients evenly.
Ah, this was the moment I knew :: “this is going to be good”.
Garnish with the shredded cheese and remaining tomatoes and cilantro and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Be sure not to incorporate the cheese until right before service. When cheese comes in contact with moisture it turns into a creamy, unpleasant texture.
Right before serving, toss the pasta salad once more and serve. To add a little crunch ((since this is “Taco Pasta Salad”)) sprinkle each serving with a few chili cheese Fritos to really drive home the delicious factor.
So creamy, a touch of heat and the added crunch of veggies and Fritos = pasta salad perfection.
- 1 lb dried pasta (macaroni or conchiglie)
- 2 T taco seasoning**
- 1 1/2 c sour cream
- 2 1/2 c mayo (I always use Hellman's light)
- 1 t kosher salt
- 1 c fresh, diced tomatoes (drain off any juice)*
- 1 c celery, diced
- 4 oz diced canned or roasted green chilies, drained
- 1 c red bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 c cilantro, chopped*
- 11 oz can Mexi corn, drained
- 12 oz shredded medium or sharp cheddar
- 1 bag of chili cheese Fritos (optional)
- Cook and drain pasta according to package directions, cooking 1 to 2 minutes less than recommended.
- Prepare dressing by combining all dressing ingredients.
- Add veggies to the pasta, reserving a few tablespoons of tomato and cilantro for garnish. Top with dressing and stir to combine.
- Top with cheddar cheese and remaining tomatoes and cilantro. Cover and refrigerate for 2-4 hours.
- To serve, toss and top with a handful of chili cheese Fritos if desired.
- Serves 16
- *reserves a few tablespoons of tomatoes and cilantro for garnish
- **link to taco seasoning recipe is located in the body of this post