This Taco Pasta casserole recipe combines all the delicious Tex-Mex flavors we love in a tangy, satisfying dish that’s ideal for a busy weeknight or casual gathering. If your family loves tacos, they’ll adore this dish!
In This Article
Why This Recipe Stands Out
We all love tacos and pasta, so why not combine them into one delicious casserole? It’s a dish that’s packed with flavor and is incredibly easy to make. Here’s why we can’t get enough of it:
- Flavors: This dish combines the flavors of classic Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine with a popular Italian staple, just like our Mexican Pasta Bake.
- Versatile: The recipe can easily be customized to fit different dietary preferences by substituting ground beef with turkey or even a vegetarian option like it is in our Vegetarian Chili recipe.
- Hearty: With ingredients like ground meat, pasta, and cheese, this dish is sure to fill you up.
- Simple: The recipe is straightforward and easy to follow, making it accessible for cooks of all levels.
- Quick: The dish can be prepared and cooked within an hour, which makes it perfect for busy weeknights.
- Cheesy: The recipe calls for a generous amount of cheese, adding a comforting, savory flavor to this easy casserole dish.
Key Recipe Ingredients
- Pasta Shells – The backbone of our dish, 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 – 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.
- Salsa and Bell Pepper – Use your favorite salsa to add a tangy kick and to keep the dish saucy and flavorful. Bell pepper provides flavor and texture.
- Cheese and Sour Cream – Both provide creaminess and cheesy deliciousness to the dish. Low-fat sour cream is fine to use, but avoid nonfat.
Substitutions And Variations
This hearty Mexican pasta recipe is a flavor-packed dish that’s guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser and can easily be varied:
- Pasta: Feel free to substitute pasta shells with your favorite pasta type. You can use gluten-free pasta as well, but note that rice-based pasta tends to break apart when over-cooked.
- Protein: The recipe calls for lean ground beef, but you could easily substitute it with ground chicken, turkey, or even a plant-based meat substitute.
- Veggies: Try sweet corn kernels or black beans in place of bell pepper.
- 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.
- 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: From cilantro and avocado slices, to a sprinkle of green onions or a squeeze of fresh lime juice, the options are endless.
Step-By-Step Recipe Instructions
- Cook the pasta until it’s al dente, then set it aside in a bowl.
- In a large skillet, cook the ground meat over medium heat. Stir in the taco seasoning, salsa, green pepper, and spices.
- Meanwhile, mix the cooked pasta with one cup of cheese and sour cream. Spread this mixture in a baking dish. Top this with the meat mixture and the remaining cheese.
- Bake uncovered at 350F for 30 minutes. Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro and serve.
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. We love it for meal prep!
- 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 your own 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.
- Meal Prep: The entire casserole can be made and divided into containers to enjoy throughout the week!
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.
- 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 pasta shells for this recipe but you can use any other pasta of your choice. The key is to cook it al dente to maintain a texture throughout baking.
Absolutely! If you don’t have everything at home to make your own homemade taco seasoning, you can use store-bought taco seasoning.
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.
Try adding corn, black beans, or diced tomatoes for added nutrients and flavor. Try different types of salsa, cheeses, and toppings! Some of our favorite garnishes include avocado slices, extra salsa, and chopped green onions.
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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