Taco Pasta Salad: A Flavorful Twist to Taco Salad Classics

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This hearty dish swaps lettuce for pasta while retaining all the classic taco flavors. For an extra touch, consider adding chopped iceberg lettuce as a garnish. Elevate your lunch or dinner game with this robust and flavorful pasta salad, destined to secure a spot on your list of favorites.

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Taco Pasta Salad: A Flavorful Twist to Taco Salad Classics

Ingredients & Substitutions

Ground Beef:

Opt for meat with a higher fat content, like an 80/20 ratio, for optimal absorption of taco seasoning. Alternatively, leaner options such as ground turkey, ground chicken, or ground pork work well. Adding water while cooking lean meat can achieve a similar effect.

Taco Seasoning:

Create a homemade taco seasoning if the store-bought version is unavailable for a burst of authentic flavor.

Pasta:

Rotini pasta, with its corkscrew shape and ridges, proves ideal for grasping the dressing in the pasta salad. However, feel free to use any pasta you have available.

Dressing:

While homemade Catalina dressing is the preferred choice, French dressing can be a suitable alternative, though it alters the flavor slightly.

Chips:

Nacho Doritos add a satisfying crunch and flavor to the salad. Reserve some for topping or substitute with tortilla chips. If you prefer a chip-free salad, omit them altogether.

Taco Pasta Salad: A Flavorful Twist to Taco Salad Classics

Can I Make This Salad Ahead of Time?

Absolutely! To streamline the process, prepare the seasoned ground beef and store it in the refrigerator for 3-4 days before assembly. Vegetables can be precut and stored in an airtight container for added convenience. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl when ready to serve.

Taco Pasta Salad: A Flavorful Twist to Taco Salad Classics

What About the Lettuce?

Lettuce is presented as a garnish rather than a primary ingredient in this recipe. This choice is rooted in the desire to prevent lettuce from becoming soggy or losing its crunch. By serving it on the side, you can customize the amount and maintain the crispness by adding it just before eating.

Taco Pasta Salad: A Flavorful Twist to Taco Salad Classics

How to Store Taco Pasta Salad

For optimal freshness, store the taco pasta salad before adding dressing and chips. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for up to 3-4 days. If dressing and chips are already mixed in, aim to consume the salad within a day or two.

Taco Pasta Salad: A Flavorful Twist to Taco Salad Classics

Ingredients

  • 1 pound (453.6 g) ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning
  • 8 ounces (226.8 g) rotini pasta, cooked al dente
  • 1 medium jalapeño pepper, seeded, finely diced
  • 1 medium Roma tomato, finely diced
  • 1 can (15.25 ounces / 432 g) corn kernels, drained
  • ½ cup (74.5 g) red bell pepper, finely diced
  • ½ cup (80 g) yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cups (226 g) mild cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup (272 g) Catalina dressing
  • 1 bag (9.25 ounces / 261.6 g) Nacho Doritos, slightly crushed, reserving a few for topping
  • Diced iceberg lettuce (optional for garnish)

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook ground beef until no longer pink (8-10 minutes).
  2. Add taco seasoning, stirring to combine. Set the meat aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine cooked pasta, jalapeño pepper, tomatoes, corn, red bell pepper, onion, cheese, taco meat, and Catalina dressing.
  4. When ready to serve, add Doritos, tossing to combine.
  5. Serve garnished with extra Doritos and chopped lettuce (optional).

Taco Pasta Salad: A Flavorful Twist to Taco Salad Classics

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