Nourishing Taco Pasta

Taco pasta... a surprisingly delightful and fun dish that I originally thought was crazy. Here's how to do it in a good-for-the-body, colorful, veggie-filled way.

I started seeing a bunch of "taco pasta" creations on Instagram this winter and I thought "wow that's just so bizarre". Clearly, I adore Mexican-inspired cuisine (ha! so many of the dishes on this blog have Mexican flavors). But for me, the hang-up was the pasta. I'm Italian by descent, and pasta for me was always how my grandma made it: traditional semolina pasta (often homemade), red sauce (always homemade), and a dollop of ricotta. The thought of putting Mexican flavors in pasta just seemed absurd.

Absurd, but intriguing. I just couldn't let it go, and eventually decided I needed to make my own taco pasta. And let me tell you, it's darn delicious and really fun. The flavors here are all Mexican (chili powder, cumin, black beans, some beautiful charred veggies, spicy peppers, avocado, cilantro) but in an Italian format. Maybe this dish represents my culinary perspective... an Italian falls in love with Mexican cuisine??

Many of the taco pastas I saw around Instagram seemed really heavy, with stuff like ground beef and loads of cheese, almost more of a pasta casserole. This version is much fresher and lighter, is entirely plant-based, and is more like a pasta primavera in its preparation. It's also highly customizable, so you can really use what you love.

My version is loaded with fresh veggies and charred/spicy flavor. I start with caramelized red onion (such a flavor powerhouse!), add delicately spicy poblano peppers, then a bunch of other colorful veggies like cabbage, corn,  and bell peppers. Black beans add protein and give it even more of a taco vibe, and a bunch of fresh garnishes pull it all together. A squeeze of lime juice at the end works magic. These ingredients are all in my culinary comfort zone, but putting them with pasta (rather than, say, on a taco...) was such a fun change of pace.

The other reason I was inspired to work on this recipe is that I've recently fallen in love with bean-based pastas. I was such a pasta lover as a kid, but I really haven't eaten much of it in the past 15 or so years... it just wasn't really doing much for me nutritionally. But there are such wonderful bean-based options available now that are loaded with protein, delicious, and usually just have one ingredient- lentils or chick peas. They've been transformative for me.

Here I used red lentil rotini. I like to make this dish with a less traditional pasta shape, just to distance it a bit from Italian cuisine. Of course any shape you use would taste great, but my Italian genes just won't let me put chili powder on ziti (the horror!). I'd recommend rotini or another fun, squiggly cut. If you're not into the bean-based pastas, you can of course use a semolina or even whole wheat pasta.

Thanks to the black beans and bean-based pasta, this dish is actually loaded with protein and makes for a great, hearty meal. I'd just pair it with a salad (like this Blistered Shishito Pepper Salad, yum!!!). But if you want to make this feel like a more traditional meal, you can easily add your grilled protein of choice. You could also toss it with your preferred melty cheese (cheddar would work great flavor-wise), dump it into a casserole dish, and serve it like a baked ziti.

This dish works great for leftovers too. If you want to go that route, make a big batch and keep the garnishes (cilantro, avocado, pepitas, etc) on the side. Just garnish individual portions before serving so that everything stays fresh. It would also work great as a potluck dish for a summer get-together and could easily be served cold. It would even pack great for a picnic!

Speaking of garnishes, you can really go all-out with them. I kept things pretty simple, but this dish would be a blast with a drizzle of crema, some crumbled queso fresco, a drizzle of your favorite hot sauce, or even some tortilla chips. The garnishes are always the fun part, right??

Perhaps best of all, this whole dish comes together in about 20-25 minutes. All the veggie prep happens in one skillet, and you can boil the pasta while you work on the veggies. It's a great option for busy evenings and can work year-round.

Well, have I convinced you? Mexican flavors in an Italian format?? This pasta is really so fun and interesting, we can't stop making it. I hope you'll have as much fun with it as we have!

Please share your creation so I can see how you've interpreted the concept! Tag "The Rogue Brussel Sprout" on Facebook or hashtag #theroguebrusselsprout on Instagram.

I love fresh, veggie-filled, Mexican-inspired dishes. If you do too, you'll definitely want to check out my guide for Building an Awesome Burrito Bowl. It's full of ideas, tips, and examples!

Thoughts About Ingredients
(These are all just suggestions, since rogue is more fun than recipe)
  • 12-oz or 16-oz box short-cut pasta of choice. I'm absolutely in love with red lentil pasta right now! Choosing a shape like rotini keeps this dish fun. Given the flavors, I think it makes sense to choose a less-traditional cut (rather than something super-Italian like ziti).
  • Oil of choice for cooking
  • Medium-sized red onion
  • Very generous sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Two poblano peppers. Or, substitute/add jalapenos if you want more heat.
  • Few slices of red cabbage
  • Red bell pepper
  • 1-2 c corn. Either frozen or fresh. If you use frozen, thaw it first.
  • 15-oz can of black beans
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • Dash of water, veggie stock, or (best of all) tequila to deglaze the pan
  • Juice of a lime
  •  Garnishes of choice. I've shown fresh cilantro, avocado, and pepitas, but you can use whatever taco toppings you love. Other great options would be a sprinkle of cheese, a few dollops of sour cream, pickled jalapenos, and/or hot sauce.
Thoughts About Method
(These are all just suggestions, be creative and make it yours)
  1. Cook your pasta of choice according to the box directions, drain it, and set it aside. You can do this while you prep the veggies, or beforehand if you're not into multi-tasking.
  2. Dice up the red onion. In a very large skillet with your cooking oil of choice, sautee the onion with generous salt and pepper.
  3. Meanwhile, dice up the poblano peppers. When the onion is just barely beginning to caramelize, add the poblanos to the skillet and cook for a few more minutes.
  4. Dice up the red cabbage and red bell pepper. Add them to the skillet once the poblano has a bit of a head start.
  5. Once the red cabbage and red bell pepper are tender but not soft, add the corn, black beans, and spices. Cook it all in the dry skillet for a minute or two to toast the spices, then deglaze with a dash of water, veggie stock, or tequila. Let everything simmer for a minute until the liquid has evaporated and all of your flavors have come together.
  6. Just before serving, add the pasta and lime juice and give it a final toss. If your skillet isn't big enough to combine the pasta and veggies, you can transfer everything to a large mixing bowl.
  7. Transfer your pasta to a serving dish and add the fresh garnishes on the top, or serve them on the side for adding to individual portions.


  1. This was a fun dinner, full of flavor. Ours turned out a bit dry, so a suggestion is add some tomatoes. And that “splash” of tequila- make it a big one ☺️

    1. The Rogue Brussel SproutApril 10, 2021 at 1:20 PM

      The tomatoes are a great idea, thanks so much for sharing! I expect some pico de gallo or a few spoonfuls of salsa would be a fun addition too.


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