Taco pasta salad

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Posted: Thursday, June 6, 2019 8:14 pm

I love a good cookout – especially when it’s a potluck – and with Hillsboro Days, Father’s Day and the Fourth of July on the horizon, we’re definitely gearing up toward the prime time to pull out your best summer salads.

My high school class had its 20-year reunion a few years ago during Hillsboro Days and we kicked off the weekend with a potluck cookout at a classmate’s house. None of us had done a tremendous amount of cooking back in high school, so it was fun to see my classmates as functioning 38-year-olds who know how to make a pot of beans and a pan of bars. (And label our pans and bowls with our names. To be honest, I think that was the point at which I realized most of us had turned into our parents.)

I don’t fully recall what I brought to the potluck, but I think it was a few options because I couldn’t decide on just one. What I do remember is that – as with most any potluck – people volunteer desserts first and salads last. And I was torn on what kind of salad to bring.

When it comes to salads at a cookout, you’re a little more limited because you generally want to avoid mayo – which is why pasta salads are so popular. Most pasta salads are made with vinegar-based dressings, so they’re a bit more forgiving when it comes to sitting out in the hot sun for a bit.

I like traditional pasta salad, but I don’t love it; all of the flavors tend to meld together so that every individual component adopts the exact same flavor. I think I’m weirded out by the fact that both a pepperoni and a chunk of green pepper can essentially taste the same.

And while I adore taco salad (because tacos are among my greatest loves in this world), it doesn’t stretch quite as well to feed a cookout crowd.  

That’s why my new answer to the age-old “Why kind of salad are you bringing to the cookout?” question is taco pasta salad. It tastes like taco salad but has a little more substance to it because of the pasta. And the noodles also help soak up some of the dressing so your lettuce and chips don’t get as bogged down in dressing.

This is my preferred combination of ingredients, but as with tacos, feel free to top your salad any way you like it.

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