This Mexican Pasta recipe is a vibrant, spicy twist on a classic comfort food. Infused with traditional Mexican spices and topped with cheese, it’s bound to become a new family favorite! Plus, it only takes 25 minutes from scratch!
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Video: Watch Us Make This Recipe
Why This Recipe Stands Out
Who doesn’t love a good pasta dish? This Mexican pasta is a unique blend of hearty pasta and vibrant Mexican flavors, all baked to perfection. Here’s why:
- Quick: This recipe is ready in just 25 minutes, perfect for busy weeknights like our other convenient 30-minute meals.
- Flavor-Packed: The combination of homemade taco seasoning, salsa, and Mexican blend cheese gives this pasta a bold, exciting flavor.
- Versatile: You can use either lean ground beef or turkey, making it adaptable to your preferences.
- Healthy: It’s packed with whole grain pasta, lean meat, and black beans, making it a nutritious choice.
- Comfort Food: Despite its unique twist, this recipe still delivers the comforting feel of a classic casserole bake.
Key Recipe Ingredients
- Corkscrew Pasta – The backbone of our dish, whole grain corkscrew pasta not only adds a healthy twist but also holds onto the sauce well, guaranteeing that every bite is packed with flavor.
- Lean Ground Beef or Turkey – This is the protein of our dish, it adds a hearty element and soaks up the flavors of the taco seasoning beautifully.
- Homemade Taco Seasoning – It brings a burst of flavor and gives the dish its distinctive Mexican flair.
- Chunky Salsa – We use a jar of chunky salsa to add a tangy kick and to keep the dish moist and flavorful.
- Black Beans and Black Olives – These add a nice contrast in texture, and their earthy flavors balance out the spiciness of the dish.
- Mexican Blend Cheese – We top our dish with a generous sprinkle of shredded Mexican blend cheese, which melts into a deliciously gooey layer.
- Garnishes – Freshly chopped cilantro adds a pop of freshness, while avocado slices bring a creamy element to the dish, perfectly rounding off the flavors.
Substitutions And Variations
This hearty Mexican pasta recipe is a flavor-packed dish that’s guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser. But we know that everyone has their own tastes and dietary needs, so let’s look at some tasty variations and substitutions:
- Pasta: While we use whole-grain corkscrew pasta, feel free to substitute it with your favorite pasta type. Gluten-free pasta would work great as well.
- Protein: The recipe calls for lean ground beef or turkey, but you could easily substitute it with ground chicken, tofu, or even a plant-based meat substitute.
- Seasoning: Homemade taco seasoning is our go-to for this dish, but any store-bought version or your own blend of spices would work wonderfully.
- Beans: If black beans aren’t your thing, try pinto beans or kidney beans like we use in our Mexican taco salad. Just make sure to rinse and drain them well.
- Cheese: We love the Mexican blend cheese here, but feel free to use your favorite cheese. A blend of cheddar and Monterey Jack would be delicious, or make it spicy with some pepper jack.
- Garnishes: The options are endless! Aside from cilantro and avocado slices, consider adding a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkle of green onions, or a squeeze of fresh lime juice for added zesty flavor.
Step-By-Step Recipe Instructions
- Boil pasta in a large pot of salt water until al dente, drain and set aside.
- In a large skillet, heat olive oil and sauté onions and garlic. Add ground meat and cook until brown. Stir in taco seasoning, salsa, black beans, olives, and oregano.
- Combine this mixture with the pasta, stir in cheese, and transfer to the baking dish.
- Top with remaining cheese and bake for 10 minutes. Garnish with cilantro and avocado before serving.
For full list of ingredients and instructions, see recipe card below.
How To Prep Ahead
This Mexican pasta is not only a crowd-pleaser but also a great make-ahead option. Take a look at our favorite prep-ahead strategies for this recipe:
- Meat Mixture: You can prepare the meat mixture with onions, garlic, ground meat, taco seasoning, salsa, black beans, olives, and oregano ahead of time. Once cooked, let it cool and store it in the fridge for up to 2 days. When you’re ready to assemble the dish, just heat it up.
- Cheese: Shred the Mexican blend cheese and store it in an airtight container in the fridge. This way, you’ll have it ready to add to the pasta and meat mixture, and to sprinkle on top before baking.
- Assemble Ahead of Time: You can also entirely assemble the casserole and store it in the fridge for up to 2 hours. When ready to serve, top it with cheese and bake uncovered in the oven.
What To Serve With Mexican Pasta
- For a fresh, crunchy side, try this vibrant Mexican Corn Salad or this Fresh Corn Avocado Salad.
- You can also have it with some light, refreshing salad on the side such as this easy chopped Greek salad.
- A side of bread can be a great addition to your Mexican pasta meal. We suggest trying this Rosemary Garlic Bread or some sliced French bread.
- You can also go for classic options like this Garlic Cheese Bread or some easy dinner rolls that the whole family will love.
Chips and Dips
Commonly Asked Questions
We used whole grain corkscrew pasta for this recipe but you can use any other pasta of your choice. The key is to cook it al dente to maintain a good texture.
Absolutely! If you don’t have everything at home to make your own homemade taco seasoning, you can use store-bought taco seasoning. It will still give your pasta that delicious Mexican flavor.
Mexican pasta can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. To reheat, simply microwave it or warm it up in a pan over medium heat.
Did you make this?
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Taco Pasta Bake
- 16 oz pasta, shells, dry
- 2 TB olive oil
- 1 lb ground beef , 93% lean
- 1.25 ounce taco seasoning
- 32 oz salsa, your favorite brand
- 1 whole green pepper, chopped and seeded
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 3 cups Mexican blend cheese, shredded, divided
- ⅔ cup sour cream, regular or light
- Optional Garnishes: chopped cilantro or scallions, diced avocado, chopped tomatoes
- Preheat oven to 350F with rack on lower-middle position. Cook pasta in salted water to al dente only. Drain – do not rinse. Transfer drained pasta back to the empty pot and set aside.
- While pasta cooks: Heat oil in a large heavy skillet. Brown ground meat over medium heat. Stir in taco seasoning, salsa, green pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and oregano. Stir and bring to a boil. Immediately remove from heat.
- Meanwhile, add 1.5 cups of cheese and sour cream to the pasta in pot and mix well. Mix in the meat mixture. Use rubber spatula to transfer pasta into a 9×13 baking dish.
- Bake uncovered 350F for 30 minutes. Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro.
- Cook the pasta in well-salted water to al dente only. This means the pasta will still have a slight firmness to it, and it’s important because it will continue cooking when it’s baked in the oven later.
- You can use either ground beef or ground turkey for this Taco Pasta recipe. Both are great options, but ground turkey is a leaner choice if you’re looking to cut down on fat.
- When browning your ground beef or turkey, make sure to break it up into small pieces. This allows the meat to cook evenly and also makes it easier to distribute throughout the dish.
- After cooking the pasta, remember not to rinse it. Rinsing the pasta removes the starch, which helps the sauce to stick to the pasta.
- We love this homemade taco seasoning.
- Feel free to substitute bell pepper with sweet corn kernels or diced tomatoes.
- If you’re a fan of meal prepping, this taco pasta is a great candidate for it. It can be made ahead of time and refrigerated until you are ready to bake. We recommend storing it in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
Nutrition (per serving)
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