I was unloading some groceries a few evenings ago, and Joey came to inspect what I was pulling out of the bags.
Noting that there was a salsa I don’t normally buy, a container of tomatoes and a box of pasta, he immediately asked what new recipe I was trying for dinner.
After being the guinea pig for this column for eight years, he knows an experiment when he sees one.
“It’s a pasta salad,” I told him.
His eyebrows raised. The word “salad” generally comes with things he hates—mostly raw onions and mayonnaise.
“No. This is a taco pasta salad,” I quickly amended.
His eyebrows did not go down. He was not convinced, but he said he’d trust me on this one and waited, eying me suspiciously from the dining room, while I put together my new concoction.
I found this idea when I was looking for a good summer dinner dish, and this recipe is actually a combination of two others, one from Beth Pierce over at “Small Town Woman” and another from Rebekah Garcia at “Amanda’s Cookin’.” And then I added in my own ideas to make one, delicious pasta salad. You can find the two inspiration recipes at https://www.smalltownwoman.com/easy-taco-pasta-salad/ and https://amandascookin.com/taco-pasta-salad/.
Taco Pasta Salad
- 8 ounces rotini pasta or another small pasta, like macaroni
- 1 pound ground beef
- 10 ounces grape or cherry tomatoes halved
- 2 tablespoons taco seasoning
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 ounces sharp cheddar cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 4 ounces pepper jack cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 15 ounces black beans drained and rinsed
- 1 cup loosely packed fresh spinach leaves cut into ribbons
- 10-14 ounces mild guacamole salsa or your favorite kind
- Cook the pasta according to package directions, drain it, rinse it, and set it aside.
- In a saute pan, cook the ground beef over medium heat until it is cooked through, breaking it apart as you go. Thoroughly drain all the grease from the pan.
- Add the halved tomatoes to the hamburger, stirring regularly, until they begin to release their juices slightly—about three to five minutes—and stir in the taco seasoning and salt and pepper. Once the seasonings are well combined with the meat and tomatoes, remove the mixture from heat and let it cool a bit as you prepare your other ingredients.
- In a large serving bowl, combine the pasta, beef mixture, cheese cubes, beans and spinach, along with about 10 ounces of salsa. Stir until the salsa coats everything well, and give it a taste. If it seems too dry or needs more flavor, add more salsa until you get your desired consistency and flavor.
- Serve immediately at room temperature, serve cold out of the fridge, or heat the mixture in the microwave to serve warm.
On our initial eating of this, we had it at about room temperature—basically the temperature it was when I finally finished mixing it all together.
For leftovers, I ate it cold and loved it. Joey warmed his up and also thought it was pretty good. It would also be delicious to serve it with some avocado cubed up in it, but I think that might be best for serving it cold or room temperature rather than heating it up.
I don’t think I totally sold Joey on the notion of taco pasta salad, but I’m going to vouch for it being pretty darn good. It had some great taco flavor but was also a cool, summer dish, which was really nice for a hot day.
I also thought this would be a nice one to use for a barbecue or picnic, since it doesn’t matter too much if the dish stays cold or gets warm.
I probably should be a little insulted that Joey doesn’t fully trust me after all of these years, but after some of my recipe fails throughout our relationship, I can’t say that I blame him. I think I’d be inspecting any grocery bags coming into the house, too.
This piece first appeared in print on June 25, 2020.
Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas and sponsored by Main Street Co. & Kitchen Corner in Newton, Kan. Visit their website at shopmainstco.com.