In honor of Memorial Day barbecues/cookouts/gatherings (whatever you call it in your neck of the woods!) I’m finally dedicating an entire post to my somewhat-infamous Wagon Wheel Taco Pasta Salad. I’m not usually one to brag, but this pasta salad is freaking good – it’s always a hit at summer gatherings and it’s probably my most requested recipe from friends. I can’t take total credit; this originally came from one of those little seasonal magazine cookbooks by the checkout in the grocery store years ago. From the first time my mother made it, we knew it was a winner.

At my family gatherings, you don’t see the typical, traditional sides like creamy potato salad, macaroni salad, coleslaw. Nothing against those, they’re just not our style. Every party involves looking for new recipes – for example, finding the latest and greatest potato salad from the current cooking magazines with seasonal ingredients and fun flavors. We don’t do favorites. Yet, this particular potato salad has withstood the test of our passing whims – it’s a fixture. We like it for it’s uniqueness among other pasta salads – corn, black beans, salsa, avocado, and tons of cilantro in a chili-lime vinaigrette – I promise if you bring this to a party, it won’t be sitting next to another pasta salad brought by another guest, that only differs by one vegetable from yours.

Given all that I’ve told you, you’d think this recipe already had it’s own blog post. While it is in my blog, it’s heavily buried somewhere in an old post containing some other salad recipes too. And it’s not even written in correct form, with the modifications I’ve made over time. So anytime I want to share the recipe, I need to dig it up, copy and paste just that text, and send to someone along with some extra instructions on how I really make it. Well, no more. Finally, here is the best pasta salad ever, exactly how I make it.

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Wagon Wheel Taco Pasta Salad

Ingredients:

1lb wagon wheel pasta
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 10oz package frozen corn (I don't even bother thawing it, because I always make this at least a few hours before serving, so it plenty of time to defrost)
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
8oz shredded Mexican-blend cheese
1 1/2 cups salsa
1/2 cup olive oil
3-4 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp cumin
1-2 tsp chili powder
2 garlic cloves, minced
freshly ground salt & pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 avocado, diced

Directions:

Cook the pasta al dente according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water.

In a large bowl, combine the black beans, corn, tomatoes, salsa, and cheese. Add the cooled pasta and mix well.

In another bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lime juice, garlic, cumin and chili powder. Pour over the pasta salad, add the cilantro, and mix well. Season to taste with salt & pepper.

Just before serving, stir in the diced avocado.