Mexican Pasta Salad with Jalapeño Pesto


  • ½ pound whole-grain pasta (a short shape works best for pasta salad, e.g. bow-tie, penne, rotini, or macaroni)

  • 2 c. fresh cilantro (or substitute another fresh herb or combination of herbs, such as parsley or basil)

  • 1-2 jalapeños, roughly chopped*

  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

  • juice of 2 limes

  • ½ tsp. salt

  • ½ c. pepitas (green pumpkin seeds), lightly toasted (or ½ c. blanched almonds, lightly toasted)

  • ⅓ c. olive oil

  • 1 14-oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced

  • kernels from 1 ear of corn (slice lengthwise using a sharp knife to remove the kernels)

  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • ½ c. crumbled queso fresco, goat cheese, or feta cheese (or ½ c. diced avocado)


Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente; rinse and drain.  Allow to cool to room temperature.  While pasta is cooking and cooling, make the pesto: add the cilantro, jalapeños, garlic, lime juice, salt, pepitas, and olive oil to a food processor and purée until mostly smooth.

To a large bowl, add the cooled pasta, black beans, tomatoes, and corn kernels; toss.  Stir in half of the pesto, mixing well to coat.  Add additional pesto if desired.  Add freshly ground black pepper to taste, then stir in crumbled cheese.  For best flavor, refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.

*Note: To make the pesto less spicy, slice the jalapeños in half lengthwise and remove the white ribs and seeds prior to chopping.  Be sure to always wash your hands thoroughly after handling hot peppers.

Recipe adapted from: