Salsa Taco Pasta
Pasta is one of the ultimate comfort foods, especially for a cold, wet and windy evening. One of the other reasons I love pasta so much is because many dishes are so easy to prepare. But sometimes I get stuck in the rut of pasta and a tomato-based pasta sauce… and that’s it. I’m not always the most creative home cook. A dish I find incredibly creative – not to mention delicious – is Salsa Taco Pasta. It checks all the boxes: it’s a little spicy, a little sweet, meaty and cheesy… the ultimate treat!
Tex-Mex cuisine is a term that describes the fusion of American and Mexican cuisines. It has spread from the border states of Texas and the Southwestern United States into the rest of the country and into Canada as well. “Tex-Mex” first entered the English language as a nickname for the Texas Mexican railway in 1875 (in the 19th century names of railroads were abbreviated, so the Texas-Mexican was called Tex. Mex.). However, the cuisine known as Tex-Mex originated with Tejanos (Texans of Mexican descent) as a mix of native Mexican and Spanish foods. In much of Texas, the cooking styles on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border were the same until a period after the Civil War when railroads more easily carried and distributed American cooking ingredients and appliances. Salsa Taco salad would be considered a Tex-Mex dish – mainly because of its Mexican inspiration.
This pasta recipe is much like a one-pot dish, but there are two main steps. Once you boil your pasta, the rest of the ingredients all come together and the pasta is then added. If you are wondering what makes this “salsa taco” pasta, it’s the addition of a packet of taco seasoning and a cup (or more) of salsa. This is a very creamy, cheesy dish and calls for cream cheese and sour cream as well as extra shredded cheese (usually cheddar or mozzarella). If you want to make this already carb-and-fat heavy dish a little “lighter”, try using fat-free sour cream, low-fat cream cheese and light shredded cheese. You can also utilize lean or extra-lean ground beef and even use whole wheat pasta if you wish. Just make sure that for the pasta you choose a short-pasta rather than something long like spaghetti or linguine since the short-pastas will stir in and incorporate much better.
The type of salsa you use for this pasta recipe is totally your preference. You can go with a mild salsa or a hot salsa (the sour cream and cream cheese should help reduce the ‘heat’ and you can always add a dollop of sour cream to the top of your pasta as well). Salsa is the Spanish term for sauce but in English-speaking countries it usually refers to the sauces typical of Mexican cuisine. It is usually a tomato-based sauce or dip and includes components like onions, peppers, beans, corn and various spices. Alternatively, you could substitute salsa for “taco sauce” which is a condiment you can purchase in most American grocery stores and fast-food Tex-Mex outlets. Taco sauce is smoothly blended, without the hunks of tomato that salsa usually has, having the consistency of ketchup. Or, don’t substitute at all and add a little taco sauce to your finished pasta dish to give it an extra little kick of flavor!
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