Southwest Chipotle Pasta Bowl
This easy-to-make pasta bowl combines bacon, corn, tomatoes, chipotle pepper, and cheese to make a Southwest-inspired, one-dish dinner.
This simple, pasta bowl recipe is one of our favorites, particularly in summer, when sweet corn and fresh tomatoes are in season.
Featured flavors and ingredients
In addition to kitchen staples like butter, salt, and pepper, you’ll also need:
- Pasta: When choosing the pasta to use for this recipe, we recommend a cut with ridges to hold the light sauce. We like the shells you see here in the photo, but penne and rotini are good choices, too.
- Bacon (thick-cut): Bits of thick-cut bacon provide a salty complement to the smoky flavor of the chipotle peppers and add also protein to the meal.
- Grape (or cherry) tomatoes: Fresh tomatoes wilted in butter also add sweetness, but with a hint of acidity that complements the corn.
- Canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce: Chipotle peppers are a popular ingredient in Southwest cuisine. They provide the heat and subtle smokiness for the light sauce that carries flavor to every bite of this dish. For more information, see below.
- Sweet onion: Onion is a building block of flavor in most savory dishes and in this dish, a few thin slices of sweet onion sautéed in butter make a nice addition.
- Corn (fresh or frozen kernels): The inherent sweetness of corn adds a nice contrast to the heat and smokiness of the chipotle peppers.
- Monterey Jack cheese: Shredded Jack cheese is the perfect choice for this dish because its mild creaminess is the perfect offset for the other ingredients.
- Fresh cilantro: A handful of fresh cilantro adds a bright herbal note that makes the perfect finishing touch for this pasta dish.
Cooking with chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
Chipotle peppers are dried, smoked jalapeños. They’re frequently canned in a tomato-based sauce called adobo, and they have a distinctive, smoky-hot flavor that’s great in all sorts of recipes, including dips, sauces, soups and salad dressings.
The quantity of chipotles in adobo that you add to any dish depends partially on how spicy you like your food. Even if you do crave that heat, their smoky quality can easily overpower other flavors, so you’ll want to be cautious with quantity.
Chipotle peppers are typically sold in seven-ounce cans, which may not sound like a lot, but given their intense flavor, you’ll probably end up with leftovers. Here are a couple of tips on how to store them for future use.
To refrigerate, transfer them to a tightly covered glass container (they leave residual odors on plastic). They’ll keep for about 10 days, or you can opt to freeze them for 6 to 8 months.
To freeze chipotle peppers, we recommend scraping out the seeds, mincing them, then stirring them back into the adobo sauce. Spoon that mixture into an ice cube tray and once frozen, you can pop those cubes out and store them in a zip-top freezer bag.
Since this pasta bowl is essentially a one-dish meal, you really don’t need to serve anything else along with it, but a simple green salad with a drizzle of creamy ranch dressing is a nice way to round out the meal.
More chipotle recipes
Southwest Chipotle Pasta Bowl
- 8 ounces pasta, small shells, elbows
- 4 strips thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 3 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, seeded and finely chopped
- 4 thin slices sweet onion, halved and separated
- 2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
- 1 cup coarsely shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta and cook according to the package directions. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid, drain the pasta and return it to the pan.
- While the pasta cooks, fry the bacon until crisp. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and drain all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat from the pan.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter along with the bacon fat over medium heat and add the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and sauté until softened, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatoes to a plate and set aside.
- Add the remaining butter to the pan, add the onion and sauté until softened, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Stir in the chipotles along with the reserved pasta liquid, season to taste with salt and pepper, add the corn and cook for 1 minute to heat through.
- Add the sauce to the drained pasta and toss to coat the pasta.
- Add the reserved bacon, tomatoes, cheese and cilantro and toss gently to combine.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed, spoon into bowls and serve immediately.