Taco Pasta Toss

There are always a couple of nights each week where I don't get back to my apartment until after 6:00, and no matter how much I love to cook and how much I hate those frozen, microwavable dinners...I'm hungry. I don't want to wait an hour to eat. I want to eat, digest, and still have time to eat a nice little sinful dessert before bedtime - scratch that, before 2 hours before bedtime, since I try to be good even with my sinful dessert and give my belly time to digest before it switches into sleep mode. Sometimes, I do pop a meal into the microwave, and sometimes, that meal is not one I had prepared earlier on in the week and frozen myself. However, what's even better than that is finding a recipe that you can make, fresh, in no time at all.

This recipe for Taco Pasta is by far one of the easiest, simplest, and most delicious recipes I've devised. It takes no more than five minutes to throw together once the pasta has cooked, which means you're looking at, what? A 20-30 minute meal, tops? It may not solve the dinner situation for someone coming home at 8pm, but it's perfect for those 6:30-7 nights. Plus, it's pretty healthy, heavy enough to fill you up but not so much that you feel gross about eating it so late at night, and it has tons of flavor. I wouldn't have it any other way, come on! Have you noticed my opinion on bland food? It doesn't fly in the Floptimism Kitchen. Period.

I tend to do a lot of "Mexican" themed dishes. Really, they're all some form of variation on each other: burritos, fajitas, taco salad, taco pasta, my Mexican Fiesta Omelet. I do enjoy many other cuisines, but this is a set of ingredients that I tend to keep in my kitchen more than others (except, maybe, Italian), and most of the ingredients pack a big flavor punch with limited extraneous calories and prep time. Plus, I'm a one-person household, basically, so when I buy a jar of something like salsa, it gets used for many meals until it's gone. But beyond that, I've found Mexican foods in general really great for home cooking. You can also easily do vegetarian with them, throwing in some black beans, or scrap that and include any kind of meat your heart desires. It's flexible that way. Plus, it's a safe choice, despite having that creative element in your ability to mess around with some ingredients based on what you have on hand. And if you're walking in at 6:30 and want dinner a-sap, it might not be the best night to toy around with flavors. This will give you something reliable and fast, no questions asked.

Taco Pasta Toss
Yield: 1 serving

The Ingredients*
1/3 - 1/2 cup dry pasta**
1/4 cup frozen corn
3/4 - 1 cup loosely packed spinach
1/2 cup black beans
lemon juice, to taste
1/3 cup salsa
2-3 tablespoons sour cream

The Method
Cook the pasta to desired consistency, and then drain and return to the pot. Add in the remaining ingredients, except for the salsa sour cream, and heat until the spinach has wilted. Add in the salsa and warm thoroughly. Remove from the heat and top with the sour cream, optionally mixing it in or leaving it as a garnish.

*Because I was adding the salsa, I didn't throw in too many veggies like tomatoes and onions, because I knew those flavors would already be there. It's also the reason why I didn't use too many actual spices, like cumin or chili powder. However, don't let that stop you! Peppers - especially some hotter ones - onion, tomato, tomatillo, avocado, a little cheese...all of these would be incredible. Use what your refrigerator and pantry have in stock; that's what quick meals are all about, anyway.
**I liked the orecchiette here, since the black beans and corn tucked themselves cutely inside of them and the salsa seemed to hold on a bit better. But really, use whatever you have. Rice would even be fine, but just be wary of the less instant varieties, if you are trying to use this as a quick meal.

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