Tex-Mex Cavatappi


Flavors of the Southwest—cilantro, lime, chili, and salsa—come together here on corkscrew-shaped macaroni. Chunky salsa works as a great ready-made sauce for pasta. Plus:  More Pasta Recipes and Tips 

Tex-Mex Cavatappi
Photo: © Evi Abeler


  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil

  • 1 pound ground beef

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

  • 2 cups (one 16-ounce jar) chunky tomato salsa

  • 3/4 pound cavatappi

  • 2 teaspoons lime juice or red-wine vinegar

  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro or parsley

  • 6 ounces cheddar cheese, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)

  • Lime wedges for serving (optional)


  1. In a large frying pan, heat the oil over moderately high heat. Add the ground beef and cook until browned, about 3 minutes. Stir in the chili powder, salt, and pepper. Add the salsa and simmer over low heat to allow the flavors to combine, about 10 minutes.

  2. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the cavatappi until just done, about 13 minutes. Drain the pasta and toss it with the sauce, lime juice, cilantro, and 1 cup of the cheese. Stir until the cheese is melted. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese and serve with wedges of lime if you like.


Salsa Selection There are several brands of salsa on the market today. Choose according to your taste (mild, medium, or hot) and pick one of high quality; the finished dish will only be as good as your salsa. A smoked-chile variety would be a delicious possibility to try.

Suggested Pairing

The spiciness of the salsa and chili powder combined with the acidity of the lime make a very high-acid white wine an obvious choice. We favor a Sauvignon Blanc from California.

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