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Mexican Pasta Salad

This Mexican Pasta Salad is all your favorite Mexican inspired ingredients packed together in one fabulous bowl of YUM!  It’s always a crowd pleaser for potlucks, picnics and parties and is a quick chop and throw together recipe that can be made 100% percent ahead of time for a stress-free win!  This Mexican Pasta Salad is bursting with grilled sweet corn, crunchy red bell peppers, juicy tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, hearty black beans, creamy avocados, zippy red onions, zesty cilantro and salty Cotija all doused in intoxicating Creamy Salsa Dressing!  You can dress this Mexican Pasta Salad up or down by adding more or less of your favorite ingredients and even make it a meal by adding chopped chili lime chicken, chipotle chicken or cilantro lime chicken.  No matter how you serve it, this pasta salad recipe is destined to be a repeat favorite!
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes
Servings 8 -12 servings

Ingredients

PASTA SALAD

  • 16 oz. rotini pasta
  • 1 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 ears corn on the cob or 1 can corn, drained (see notes for grilling)
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 English cucumber, sliced and quartered
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded deveined, diced
  • 2 large avocados, chopped
  • 1/2 cup packed cilantro, chopped
  • 1/3 cup finely grated Cotija cheese

CREAMY SALSA DRESSING

Instructions

  • Cook pasta according to package directions just until al dente. (You can chop your salad ingredients while the pasta is cooking.) Drain, rinse with cold water then toss with a drizzle of olive oil to prevent it from sticking together.
  • Add the pasta and all of the pasta salad ingredients to a large bowl.
  • Whisk all of the Creamy Salsa Ingredients together in a bowl.
  • Pour half of the dressing over the pasta salad and toss to combine (or all of the dressing if serving immediately). Refrigerate pasta salad and remaining dressing separately until ready to use (best served the same day). When ready to serve, toss with remaining dressing. Season with salt, cayenne pepper and lime juice to taste. Dig in!

Video

Notes

Storage

Cover the leftover Mexican Pasta Salad with plastic wrap or transfer it to an airtight container.  Store in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. The longer the pasta salad is refrigerated, the drier it can become.  If your leftovers taste too dry, then drizzle with additional olive oil to taste.  I found additional salt and cayenne pepper were necessary to amp up the flavor of make ahead salad.  Start with a little and add more to taste as needed.

HOW TO CHAR CORN

You can use corn straight off the cob or you can grill it.  I love grilling corn because it results in deeply sweet, succulent, smoky corn, and soaks up the dressing better.  You can char your corn directly on the grill (no foil needed) or you can sizzle it a hot cast iron skillet.  Here is how:
TO GRILL CORN ON THE COB:
Peel the corn, remove all the silk and lightly brush all over with olive oil.  Grease and heat grill to high heat. Grill the corn over direct heat for 10-12 minutes, turning until lightly charred on all sides, closing the lid in between rotations.
TO CHAR CORN IN A SKILLET:
If you don’t have corn on the cob or have access to a grill, you can still char frozen, canned, or fresh corn in a cast iron skillet. Heat one tablespoon olive oil in large cast iron skillet over high heat.  Add the corn and cook, stirring occasionally, until corn starts to char, approximately 5 minutes (a few minutes longer if frozen). Transfer kernels to the serving bowl to cool so they don’t continue to cook.

Make it a Meal!