I make a taco salad pasta dish I affectionately call Mexican Mess or Micro Taco Salad. I have no idea where the recipe came from.
The taco pasta is sort of like a Mexican-spiced Spaghetti with Meat Sauce … but once you add all the toppings, the similarity fades.
Stretching meat with pasta (or beans or tofu) has long been a strategy for poor folk (myself included) but it is also healthy by cutting red meat consumption. And using whole wheat or fiber-fortified pasta makes the dish even more nutritious.
Mexican Mess / Micro Taco Salad
This recipe doesn’t specify quantities of ingredients because it varies so much by taste. Meat lovers will want to use less pasta. Spice wimps (like myself) will use less taco seasoning (we use about 1/3 packet for 1 lb. ground beef). The quantity of tomato sauce needs to be enough to coat the pasta.
- Mixed Pasta*
- Olive Oil
- Chopped Onions (I keep on hand in freezer door)
- Ground Beef (I prefer 93% lean)
- Taco Seasoning Powder (I use Old El Paso brand)
- A can of Tomato Sauce (substitute spaghetti sauce in a pinch)
- Lettuce (I prefer bagged salad)
- Shredded Cheese (I like Mexican Fiesta mix)
- Chopped Tomatoes (Romas provide greatest portion control)
- Sliced Mushrooms (I buy pre-sliced)
- Ripe Olives (I get pre-sliced in can)
- Sour Cream and Other Toppings
- Tortilla Chips (I prefer Tostito’s Scoops)
Number of servings varies (due to recipe vagueness and personal taste).
* Mixed Pasta — I keep on hand a mix of Barilla short shapes: Mini Farfalle, Mini Penne, Mini Rotelle (wheels), Rotini, and Elbow Macaroni. Barilla also has Gluten-Free, added Protein, Whole Wheat, White Wheat, Veggie, and Tri-Color lines. Be careful that your choices have the same cook time so they’ll all get done at the same time.
- Boil water and cook mixed pasta per box instructions. While waiting:
- Brown onions in olive oil then push to edges of pan.
- Brown ground beef and crumble into very small chunks.
- Drain onions/beef (I use a spoon to avoid spilling).
- Add tomato sauce and taco seasoning powder to taste (packet recipe may need to be increased since sauce and pasta will dampen the spiciness).
- Drain pasta and toss with taco meat sauce.
SERVE AND EAT:
- Line bowls with lettuce and serve taco pasta (limit your portion as toppings really add up).
- Sprinkle with shredded cheese first so it will melt.
- Add other toppings to taste.
- Place bowls on plates, surrounded by tortilla chips.
- Eat with a fork and flat tortilla chips for Mexican Mess.
- Or, eat using Tostito’s Scoops to make Micro Taco Salads.
The taco pasta freezes and reheats really well so you can make it in bulk and only have to prepare the toppings for subsequent meals:
- To freeze: Allow taco pasta to cool, place a 1-family-meal portion in a freezer bag, flatten, and freeze in short stacks (consolidate stacks once frozen).
- To reheat: Remove freezer bag (tear it off) and microwave taco pasta on a plate, stirring periodically.
I like to chop extra toppings so I can have a quick-prep meal the next night: Mandarin Grilled Chicken Salad (inspired by Wendy’s fancy salads). Take the leftover lettuce and toppings from the Mexican Mess meal and add mandarin oranges, pre-grilled chicken chunks (I keep Tyson or John Soules brand on hand). Add some pecans or walnuts for a gourmet touch.