This is an entirely new recipe that I prepared for Cinco de Mayo. It’s my idea of combining Italian pasta with traditional Mexican/Southwestern ingredients and spices. It does sound strange though, in my humble opinion. I mean pasta and Mexican? No matter how odd the name is, I absolutely LOVE this Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad.
Most Italians don’t eat pasta salads nor do they serve pasta salads. You’ll never find them served in Italy. Nor will you ever see this dish in Mexico. Pasta salad is unapologetically American in origin.
Beginning with macaroni and cheese or macaroni salad, pasta salads are said to appear in the early 1900’s when German immigrants introduced mayonnaise-based potato salad and then thought to add it to Italian pasta. The combination took off and American newspapers and cookbooks began printing recipes in 1914. And by the 1960s, pasta salad was a perfect example of American food.
This salad can be served with or without the mayonnaise-based dressing that I created or on it’s own.
This Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad is simply DELICIOUS! I ended up eating it straight out of the serving bowl!
So let’s get to the kitchen and have some fun cooking!
Ingredients that you’ll need:
- Pasta– You can use any “bite-size” shape that you like, such as rotini or fusilli (corkscrew shape), farfalle (bowtie shape), or macaroni (elbow-shaped). Don’t use long pasta shapes such as spaghetti, linguini, fettucini, bucatini, etc.
- Both Mayonnaise and Sour Cream – You’ll need both for the dressing. Don’t use Miracle Whip (even though we love the stuff), you want the plain base of mayonnaise only to allow the herbs and spices’ flavor to be strong.
- Fresh Vegetables – Corn (canned or freshly cooked/grilled/roasted), bell peppers, red onions, cherry tomatoes, bell pepper, cilantro, onion, avocado, fresh green chili, etc. The fresher the better as well as the more vivid in color the better!
- Cheese – COTIJA Mexican Cheese! This is a MUST for both the dressing and the salad!
- LIMES! — Limes add so much to recipes and it’s perfect in this dressing.
- Garlic — After all this is a quasi Italian-Mexican recipe. And garlic always improves savory recipes.
- Herbs and Spices: CILANTRO! Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing mix, Cumin, Chipotle Pepper, Cayenne, Chili Pepper
Choosing the PASTA: It’s best to select a pasta shape that is ‘bite-size’ or that can be pierced with a fork when digging in! The creamy sauce clings to the curves of fusilli (corkscrew) very nicely. Other shapes that pasta salads work beautifully with are farfalle (bowtie), macaroni (elbow shape), or cavatappi (another corkscrew shape). All of these are easy to fork into.
Cooking the PASTA: Always cook your pasta until al dente only, which in Italian means ‘to the tooth’. This means that the pasta should not be soft or mushy, but cooked until there is a sturdy resistance to biting in. It is not done enough if you can feel the hard uncooked texture. This is something that you get better at with practice.
It’s so-o-o easy!
- Simply cook the pasta and grill or roast the corn
- Cut up all of the veggies.
- Toss all of the salad ingredients together in one very big serving bowl (don’t forget the herbs and spices).
- Prepare the dressing.
- Whisk all of the ingredients with the cheesy creamy dressing.
- Add the avocado chunks on top.
- Garnish with extra Cotija cheese crumbles.
More Salads that I Think You’ll Enjoy:
PIN IT For Later!
For the Pasta Salad
- 8 oz. of pasta (any bite-size pasta shape works: penne, rotini, farfalle, fusilli, macaroni, etc.)
- 2 cans of Southestern-flavored corn (drained) OR 4 ears of grilled corn, kernels removed from the cob
- 1 bunch of cilantro, minced (for the salad)
- ½ large red onion, chopped
- 1 green pepper, diced
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 1 Tbsp. fresh green chili, minced
- 1-½ cups cherry tomatoes, sliced
- 1 - 2 avocados, cut into small chunks
- 1 cup cotija cheese, crumbled (garnish)
For the Dressing:
- ¾ cup mayonnaise
- ¾ cup sour cream
- juice and zest of 2 limes
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp. Ranch dressing powder mix
- ½ tsp. chili powder
- ½ tsp. chipotle chili powder
- ¼ tsp. cumin
- a couple of pinches of cayenne pepper
- 1 bunch fresh cilantro, minced, for the dressing
- ½ can (or all of it) diced jalapeno
- Cook the pasta for about 7 minutes until al dente (the pasta should have a little bit of firmness, not soft or mushy). Drain and immediately run very cold water on the pasta until all of the pasta is cooled off and not warm. **Remember: Hot pasta continues to cook after it is drained. You need to stop the cooking so that the pasta does not turn out mushy. The cold water shower stops the cooking.**
- Grill the corn (if fresh), or use canned corn. If grilling corn, when cool enough to handle, take a sharp knife and slice down each ear of corn to remove the kernels of corn.
- While the pasta is boiling and/or the corn is grilling, prepare the dressing.
- In a medium-size bowl, add all of the dressing ingredients (chipotle chili powder, cumin, chili pepper powder, cayenne, etc). Mix well. Add enough salt and pepper to taste (it does need salt!).
- Set the dressing aside or make it ahead and set it in the refrigerator until ready to toss in the pasta salad.
- IN a large mixing bowl, add all** of the salad ingredients. **Do not add the avocado until just before serving because it becomes very mushy and turns brown; it looks better as a 'topping'.** Add the cojita cheese AFTER the dressing is mixed in as well.
- Mix in the cooled pasta.
- Add 1/of the dressing and gently blend into the salad ingredients.
- Then add the second half of the dressing, depending on how heavy you want the dressing to be.
- Add the avocado chunks on top.
- Garnish with the cojito cheese.
Oh, just a second, please!
Hearing from you means so much to me. I learn from everyone! So please leave a comment if you have a moment and a rating too would be great.
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