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Stuff Your Face With The Best Mexican Pasta Salad

Published:  • 
Last Modified: May 13, 2024
Published: May 13, 2024

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It Is So Amazing You'll Want To Bathe In It

This Mexican pasta salad is inspired by elote. I took it to our daughter's lake place over the weekend because I've discovered that our grandkids' response to a new recipe is the best barometer for how well it will go over.

It was a massive hit; one even said it was "fire." High praise!! In Gen Z speak, that means something "really good, amazing, and crazy (in a good way)." I was pretty stoked!

Mexican pasta salad

Elote (pronounced ay-low-tay) is an irresistibly delicious Mexican street food classic that has overtaken the food world. This amazing spin on corn on the cob captures the essence of summer, a delightful blend of flavors that makes corn a whole new experience.

Elote is corn on the cob, but not just ordinary corn on the cob. It's corn that's transformed to a new level. Fresh, juicy, succulent corn is charred to a slight smoky crispiness over an open flame or grill, enhancing its natural sweetness and adding a touch of contrasting char.

If that is not enough, the corn is slathered in a luscious mayonnaisey sauce and sprinkled lavishly with crumbled cotija (say it koh-tee-hah) cheese, adding a sharp and salty punch that perfectly complements the corn's sweetness.

But that's not all! A squeeze of zesty fresh lime juice and chili powder adds some zip and gentle heat without overpowering the delicate balance of flavors. It is like a fiesta on your tongue. It's messy but so delicious!

How To Make Amazing Mexican Pasta Salad With Sweet Corn

Imagine all these enticing flavors artfully woven into a Mexican pasta salad. This recipe is an ode to elote, capturing the essence of this beloved street food and translating it into a mouthwatering pasta masterpiece.

Each bite contains all the elements of elote: smoky, charred corn, creamy mayonnaise, lime juice, chili powder, cayenne pepper, and the salty tang of cotija cheese. (I found a new fave!)

The amazing addition of garlic and cilantro combine this classic combination in a pasta salad! The enticing flavors and colors remind us of the joyful spirit of outdoor gatherings, fairs, and celebrations, a summer delight!

Remove the husks and silks from four or five ears of fresh (or defrosted frozen) sweet corn. You should have at least two cups; even more is okay. Put the corn in a dry skillet over medium-low heat. Let it cook without stirring until you hear popping sounds and smell the corn. Stir only when the kernels are getting a little charred.

Set the corn aside to cool. This step brings out the corn's sweetness and adds a smoky flavor.

Mexican Pasta Salad And Bringing It All Together

Cook a pound of rotini pasta in salted water according to the package directions to al dente. Don't overcook the pasta. Drain it thoroughly and rinse it well with cold water to wash off the excess starch from the pasta; drizzle it with a small amount of olive oil to keep it separated, then set it aside to cool.

Put the pasta, cilantro, corn, and crumbled cheese in a large bowl. If you like, reserve some corn and cilantro for garnish!

I had never used cotija cheese before and loved the flavor! When I made a second batch of Mexican pasta salad, I didn't have enough, so I added crumbled queso fresco cheese to make a full cup.

I love it, too! It is moister and softer, but the flavor profile is similar. Queso fresco is not aged like cotija, but it still crumbles easily. I'm hooked on both cheeses and will add them to my cheese inventory!

I did not have quite enough fresh cilantro for the second batch, so I used a product I love, Gourmet Garden Lightly Dried Cilantro. It's a big bunch of lightly dried cilantro packed in a little plastic tub and ready to use. It stays fresh in the fridge for four weeks! Use one tablespoon of Lightly Dried Cilantro to replace two tablespoons of fresh cilantro.

Now, mix the simple dressing ingredients in a small bowl. If you can, use fresh lime juice; if you do, add two teaspoons of lime zest. The other ingredients—sour cream, mayonnaise, olive oil, chili powder, garlic powder, kosher salt and pepper to taste, and a dash of cayenne pepper—are all you need.

Whisk it all together, pour it over the pasta, corn, cilantro, and cheese, and toss it until all the ingredients are well-coated. Pour it onto a serving platter and fancy it up with lime wedges, cilantro, corn, and a few cheese crumbles. Or, scoop it right out of the bowl onto the plates of eager family and guests!

PRINTABLE RECIPE CARD

Yield: 8 servings

Mexican Pasta Salad

mexican pasta salad square image

Here is a recipe for a wonderful and simple pasta salad that captures all the flavors of elote, Mexican street corn.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • One pound box or rotini pasta, cooked to al dente according to directions on the package.
  • Four or five ears of fresh sweet corn with husks and silks removed* About 2 cups of corn or more.
  • 1 cup cotjita cheese or queso fresco, crumbled. reserve some for garnish if desired.
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil plus a little etra to toss with the cooked pasta
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • Dash of cayenne pepper or to taste
  • 3 Tbsp lime juice, fresh if possible
  • 2 tsp lime zest if using fresh limes
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Boil the pasta in salted water to al dente using the directions on the package. Do not overcook the rotini.
  2. Drain and rinse the pasta with cool water, then toss with a little olive oil to keep it separated, and set aside to cool.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, cut the corn off the cobs, put it in a single layer in a dry skillet over medium heat, and cook without stirring until you hear popping sounds and smell it roasting.
  4. Stir the corn and cook until the degree of char you like it achieved. Set aside to cool. Reserve some for garnish if desired.
  5. Combine the corn, cilantro, cheese, and pasta in a large bowl.
  6. Whisk the sour cream, mayonnaise, spices, olive oil, lime juice, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and pour over the pasta.
  7. Toss until everything is well coated.
  8. Garnish with lime wedges, extra cilantro, reserved corn, and additional cheese if you like.
  9. Refrigerate leftovers.
  10. *if fresh sweet corn is unavailable, use frozen fire-roasted corn, or put defrosted, uncooked frozen corn in a skillet and char like fresh.

Summer's coming, and summertime is salad time! You might also enjoy Sauerkraut Salad, Cottage Cheese Salad, or Danish-style Cucumber Salad! Please watch for more salad recipes because I'll be rolling them out!!

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If you haven't already, please look for me on Facebook and Pinterest. I share easy, delicious, family-friendly recipes there every week!

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