Packed with corn, beans, green chile and peppers, this Southwestern Pasta Salad packs quite a flavorful punch. It’s a great summer side dish!
This Southwestern Pasta Salad post is sponsored by Cabot Creamery, but the recipe and opinions are entirely my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Spiced!
We love all types of summer food around here, and I for one couldn’t be more excited about the return of summer. Long days playing frisbee in the backyard, taking the dogs for walks and firing up the grill and/or smoker. That’s how I spend my summer days. Oh, and eating summer food. That’s definitely high up there on the list, too!
At the end of last summer, we got into a kick of “grilling” hot dogs over an open fire. Have you ever done this? It’s amazing! One of our COVID projects last year was cutting down a bunch of scrub trees around the edge of our property. There were also a bunch of dead trees that had fallen over the years, and I chainsawed those up into burnable logs. That meant we had the firepit going all day on the weekends. And of course we took advantage of that by roasting marshmallows on a regular basis.
Then one day, Laura had the best idea – she suggested we put hot dogs on sticks and cook them over the open flame. Woah. Mind blown. I mean I know this is a common camping meal, but we don’t camp. We all had so much fun cooking our hot dogs on the fire. I’m looking forward to restarting that tradition now that the summer has returned here in upstate New York.
Southwestern Pasta Salad
As delicious as those fire-roasted hot dogs were, I think this Southwestern Pasta Salad might be even better. We made a batch of this pasta salad last Autumn, and it was the perfect accompaniment to grilled hot dogs. For this Southwestern Pasta Salad, I started with a base of sour cream + mayo. I often use half-mayo and half-sour cream in pasta salads as a way to cut down on the calories without losing the flavor.
The concept for this Southwestern Pasta Salad actually comes from my mother-in-law’s Antipasto Salad. That pasta salad is easily one of my top 3 favorite summer side dishes. We make it several times each summer – in fact, there have been times when we’ve eaten that pasta salad as a meal by itself.
However, the last time we made that Antipasto Salad, I started wondering what would happen if I totally flipped the flavor profile on its head. I settled on southwestern flavors, and that’s how this Southwestern Pasta Salad was born.
For the southwestern flare to this pasta salad, I went with a combination of fresh corn, black beans, bell peppers, tomatoes and avocado. The recipe below includes amounts of each, but you can obviously play with the proportions – that’s what makes cooking fun, right? Love avocados? Add an extra 1-2 into the mix. Find a batch of particularly tasty fresh corn? Double (or even triple) the corn in this recipe.
I already mentioned the sour cream + mayo “sauce” above, but it’s worth noting again how flavorful this one is. There is a ton of southwestern flavor packed into this mixture! From the green chilies to the cilantro, lime juice and cumin, this sauce just screams deliciousness! In fact, I could see this sauce being used on tacos or perhaps on grilled chicken. But for today, that sauce is destined for this Southwestern Pasta Salad.
And the real king of the show is finishing this pasta salad with chunks of Cabot’s Pepper Jack cheese. My mother-in-law tops her Antipasto Salad with cubed provolone cheese, and we almost always run out of cheese before we finish the salad. With that thought in mind, I realized that Pepper Jack would be perfect for topping this southwestern-themed pasta salad.
Cabot’s Pepper Jack cheese is one of my go-to’s (along with their Monterey Jack cheese) whenever I need a good creamy, melting cheese for baking. Both cheeses are great for snacking and baking, and I always make sure to keep a couple packages of each in the refrigerator. However, this time, there’s no baking needed. The Pepper Jack cheese gets cubed up and sprinkled on top of the pasta salad right before you serve it. And if a couple cubes of cheese go missing in the process? I won’t tell anyone!
If you aren’t familiar with Cabot Creamery, then you need to be! Cabot is a co-op made up of hundreds of farm families throughout New York and New England. Cabot makes a whole assortment of dairy products from cheeses to butters to yogurts. (Their Lowfat Vanilla Bean Greek Yogurt is a staple breakfast item in our house!) While the milk for Cabot’s products is produced on a local level, Cabot itself has a much larger footprint. Their cheeses (and other dairy products) regularly win awards at national and international cheese festivals. Next time you see a package of Cabot cheese in the store, pick it up. One bite, and you’ll know why they keep winning so many awards!
Returning to our Southwestern Pasta Salad, this one is like most pasta salads in that it benefits from an overnight slumber in the fridge. When you first make this recipe, you can taste each of the different ingredients. However, overnight the flavors meld together into a delicious combination of southwestern-y goodness.
If you’re looking for a yummy side dish for summer grilling, then put this Southwestern Pasta Salad on the menu. It’s a delicious and fun combination – although you might want to have an extra block of Cabot Pepper Jack cheese on hand. You know, just in case you run out…or in case you eat all of the first block while you’re making the pasta salad. Cheers!
Southwestern Pasta Salad
For the Pasta Salad
- 16 oz. ditalini pasta
- 15 oz. black beans
- 2 ears fresh corn or (1 15.25 can of corn, drained)
- 1 cup diced red onions
- 2 bell peppers diced (I used 1 green and 1 orange)
- 2 cups grape tomatoes halved
- 1 avocado diced
- 8 oz. Cabot Pepper Jack cheese cut into ½” cubes
For the Sauce
- ⅓ cup sour cream
- ⅓ cup mayonnaise
- 14.5 oz. diced tomatoes and green chilies
- 4 oz. diced green chilies
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 3 Tbsp lime juice
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Rinse and drain the pasta in cold water.
- Place pasta in a large mixing bowl and add black beans, corn, red onions, bell peppers and tomatoes; stir until well combined.
- Using a separate mixing bowl, add all of the Sauce ingredients; stir until well combined. Add mixture to the bowl with the pasta; stir until well combined.
- Cover and refrigerate until cold.
- Before serving, top with avocado and cheese cubes.
Looking for more tasty pasta salad recipes? Check out these other favorites, too: