Cowboy Pasta Salad

June 19, 2018Holly Sosa

Summer potlucks and gatherings are in full swing here and they’re pretty much my favorite thing. Gathering with family to enjoy our favorite foods, share new recipes, eating, and drinking while the kids run around playing, squealing, and laughing well into dusk. This summer, one of my favorite dises to bring along is this Cowboy Pasta Salad. Since this is my desert family’s Michigan summer debut, I naturally needed to create a dish that nods to our life out west.

I start by cooking a box of mini pasta shells as per the directions on the box. Once the pasta is cooked, I drain it and then rinse it with cold water. I cover it in plenty of olive oil to prevent it from sticking and then set it aside.

Next I fry up a whole pound of bacon. One of my secrets to cooking crumbly crispy bacon for dishes like this is to use my kitchen shears to cut up the bacon. Then I place it into a warm pan and add about 1/2 cup of water. The water gets into all the fat and once it evaporates leaves me with incredibly crispy bacon pieces.

Once the bacon is done, I use a slotted spoon to remove it and transfer it to a bowl lined with paper towels to soak up any dripping grease. I drain the pan of most of it’s grease, but leave a little behind to cook up some ground beef.

I add just about a pound of ground beef to the pan with the leftover bacon grease and cook it until it’s no longer pink.

Next I add in some red pepper flakes, cumin, salt, and pepper and stir it all into the beef.

I drain the pan of any leftover fat and grease and set it aside to cool completely.

While the beef cools down, I grab a big ol’ gigantic bowl (we all have one of those stuffed somewhere in our kitchen, am I right) and add some mayonnaise, barbecue sauce, yellow mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and sriracha, whisking it together until smooth.

Once the beef, bacon, and pasta shells have completely cooled, I add them to the big ol’ gigantic bowl with the mayonnaise mixture.

I also add some corn, diced tomatoes, cheddar cheese, and green onion.

I give it all a good stir, incoporating all the ingredients together and coating everything in the delicious sauce.

This can be served immediately and is deliciously zesty and crave-worthy. However, I make this ahead the day before a potluck or barbecue (I just leave out the green onion and tomato until just before leaving the house) and it’s almost better once the ingredients have marianted into each other a bit more.

Cowboy Pasta Salad


  • 1 pound mini pasta shells
  • 1 pound bacon
  • 1 pound extra lean ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup barbecue sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown mustard
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons Sriracha
  • 1 can (15 ounce) sweet corn, drained
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes , halved
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 5 green onions, diced


  1. Cook the pasta shells according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water. Drizzle with a olive oil to prevent sticking. Set aside.
  2. Dice bacon and cook in a skillet over medium heat until crispy. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel lined plate to drain off grease. Drain bacon fat from skillet, but leave behind a little bit of grease for ground beef.
  3. Add the ground beef to the skillet and cook until no longer pink.
  4. Season beef with the cumin, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper.
  5. Drain off fat. Set aside to cool completely.
  6. In an extra large bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, barbecue sauce, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and Sriracha until smooth.
  7. Once cooled to room temperature, add in the cooked pasta, bacon, and beef.
  8. Add corn, tomatoes, cheese, and green onion and toss to combine ingredients and coat in sauce mixture.
  9. Enjoy right away or refrigerate until ready to serve.
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