Serving a Quick Fiesta Pasta Salad

Summer time in my house means no ovens, simple healthy meals, and lots of flavor! This dish fills all of those requisites and has been a staple in my kitchen since college. The reason it sticks with me is how nourishing, adaptable, and inexpensive it is to prepare.

I may have gotten the biggest surprise with this recipe when I recently made a batch and shared some with my dad to try for his lunch. First, you have to know my dad is a self-proclaimed “South Georgia Boy” in his early 70s who likes fairly traditional foods; for him, pasta should have marinara and tacos should have salsa. He was more than skeptical when I told him what was in this one, but to his great surprise and mine, he really enjoyed this as a cold pasta salad and even asked me to make it again.

Fiesta Pasta Salad Ingredients

The ingredients and amounts in this healthy pasta recipe are more like guidelines than requirements. I learned long ago I’m not a fan of fussy recipes with strict ingredients, and learning to adapt a recipe for taste preferences or just to make practical use of what’s in your pantry is the best meal-planning skill to have!

Another perk to this healthy pasta recipe is how well it packs for lunches and holds up for several days in the fridge. Once you’ve created your fiesta pasta, portion your batch into multiple small containers to keep in a lunchbox or stash in the fridge at work.

Fiesta Pasta Salad

If you’re looking for extra nutrients packed into your meals, add diced onion, yellow and orange bell peppers, zucchini, chopped avocado, or any other fresh veggies you have on hand. Take care of chopping while the pasta cooks and this dish still gets wrapped up in less than 20 minutes. This entire recipe is easily under $10, even with the cheese, which means your budget may thank you as much as your taste buds.

How to Make Fiesta Pasta

By Marie Powell

Fiesta Pasta

Yields: 6-8 servings

Total prep time: approximately 20 minutes

If you find yourself adopting new dietary plans, accommodating picky eaters, or looking for inexpensive easy meals, this fiesta pasta is a terrific “core recipe” to play around with. If you avoid wheat or gluten, simply swap standard pasta for your preferred gluten-free or paleo version. Think vegan recipes are challenging? Not so; simply omit the cheese or sub a dairy-free variety. No corn on hand, or just not a fan? Swap it for olives, marinated peppers, or extra beans. Salsa is my favorite way to update this dish – keep it mild, spice it up, or try a tropical variety like peach-pineapple.


  • 12 oz. rotini or penne pasta
  • 12 oz. salsa
  • 16 oz. canned beans, rinsed (black, pinto, or kidney)
  • 16 oz. whole kernel corn, drained
  • 2 cups cubed cheese (cheddar and/or jack)


  1. Cook pasta in boiling water until tender, approximately 9-10 minutes.
  2. Drain pasta and cool slightly.
  3. Add remaining ingredients to pasta and stir to combine.
  4. Serve cold as pasta salad. For a warm, melted cheese version: Transfer to baking dish, cover with foil, and bake at 350 degrees F until hot, approximately 15-20 minutes.
Marie Powell
Marie Powell

Marie Powell grew up eating pecans, fresh fruits and vegetables, and homemade meals in rural southern Georgia. Thanks to her family's tradition of military service and the generosity and diversity of her friends, her culinary influences also come from Taiwan, Greece, and the Middle East. A graduate of the University of Georgia, she learned about food prep, storage, and presentation during her time as UGA's catering manager. Marie now lives in Phoenix with her daughter, Sophie, who has inspired her to learn more about adapting recipes for food allergies and intolerances, and their tortoise, Elizabeth, whose favorite food is dandelion greens.