All the recent sunshine has me craving time outside in the hammock and summery pasta salads on long picnic tables surrounded by baked beans and hot dogs. For weeks I've been studying pasta salad options, drooling over visions of Hawaii-style macaroni salad, a vinegar-forward Italian pasta salad with olives and salami, or an herbaceous pesto salad packed full of fresh vegetables.
Finally, inspired by ears of corn at the market and the flavor of elotes (grilled Mexican street corn), I made this pasta salad with salty cotija cheese, fresh lime and a little heat to offset the natural sweetness of the corn. Then I added bacon for crunch and smokiness. Corn and bacon together are downright irresistible. Bring a batch of this Mexican corn pasta salad to your next summer barbecue. Your friends will thank you.
Mexican corn pasta salad
2 cups mini penne pasta, cooked al dente, drained, and chilled
2 1/2 cups grilled corn, cut off the cob
8 slices bacon, crisp cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup scallions, sliced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely minced
1/2 cup cotija cheese, crumbled
For the dressing:
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1 lime, zested and juiced
3 dashes Tapatio hot sauce (optional)
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
Salt to taste
To a large bowl, add the pasta, corn, bacon, scallions, cilantro, jalapeño, and cheese.
In a smaller bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, lime, Tapatio (if using), chili powder, cumin and smoked paprika until smooth. Drizzle over the contents of the larger bowl. Toss to coat. Season generously with salt to taste. Serve or cover and chill until ready to serve.
Note: If making in advance, reserve the bacon until ready to serve and fold it in, otherwise the bacon will lose its crunch. Recipe inspired by Chelsea's Messy Apron.
Maya Wilson lives in Kenai and blogs about food at alaskafromscratch.com. Her new book, "The Alaska from Scratch Cookbook," is available now. Have a food question or recipe request? Email email@example.com and your inquiry may appear in a future column.