Taco Pasta Salad!

This "Taco Pasta Salad" combines a taco salad, which I love, and a pasta salad!  The combination is delicious and for me, it's a great light supper or a complete lunch.  This would be a great salad to take to a potluck also, because it's really best served at room temperature, although the leftovers were very tasty also.   The ingredients are pretty basic and usually something you would have in your pantry. This takes a pound of ground beef and really stretches it. 

 Here is what you will need:

2 cups uncooked rotini pasta
1 lb. ground beef or chuck
1 envelop of taco seasoning mix
1/2 cup water
1 (10 oz.) can Rotel tomatoes with green chilies
3 cups lettuce, shredded
2 cups slightly crushed tortilla chips
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup sliced green onions
2 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

1 cup ranch dressing
1/4 cup salsa
dash of hot sauce (optional)

Optional Garnishes
black olives
sour cream
jalapeno rings
fresh cilantro

Cook the pasta in salted water according to the package directions.   Once cooked, remove from heat and drain.  Rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. 

Brown the ground beef or chuck in a skillet.  I use ground chuck for anything calling for ground beef.  Drain excess grease.   Add the taco mix, water and can of Rotel.   Bring this to a low boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat to cool just a little.  While it cools a bit, chop your other salad ingredients. 

When the taco meat is still warm, mix in the pasta.

In a large salad bowl, layer all of the meat and pasta mixture.

Cover the meat and pasta layer with the shredded lettuce.  Then top that with the shredded cheddar cheese.   Sprinkle the crushed tortilla chips around the edges of the  salad bowl.

 Sprinkle the top with green onion, tomatoes and any other garnishes you choose to use.  I added a dollop of sour cream to the center with some jalapeno rings. 

Mix 1 cup of your favorite ranch dressing with 1/4 cup salsa a dash of hot sauce, if you like the spiciness.   You can dress the entire salad right before serving and toss it all together or serve the dressing alongside and let each person dress their own.  I prefer to serve the dressing on the side, because the leftovers seem to be better this way and this salad doesn't really need a lot of dressing like some pasta salads.   If you don't care for ranch dressing, use what you like.  Catalina dressing is sometimes used also. 

Serve immediately!

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