The BEST Taco Pasta [video]
Taco Pasta is made with pasta shells, ground beef, cheese, and a handful of spices and seasonings so you get an absolutely delicious dinner in minutes! It is a runaway winner in my household, and it only takes 30 minutes to make! Topped with shredded cheddar cheese, salsa, and tortilla chips, your whole family will love taco pasta night.
Looking for other delicious recipes? Try our Instant Pot Jalapeno Popper Pasta made with ground beef and cream cheese or this Slow Cooker Taco Casserole with black beans, corn, diced tomatoes, and bell peppers. Another one of our delicious recipes you may like is this Taco Fries recipe made with chicken tenders and frozen french fries.
Why use a hamburger helper when you can make your own taco pasta from scratch? This way, you can control exactly what goes into your family’s dinner and you can change it up to suit your tastes. You can use any kind of ground meat and cheese for this dish and even change the pasta and seasonings.
It has everything you are looking for in a hearty main dish! It is a filling, quick, and easy recipe to make. In this dish, I used ground beef that contributes much flavor and is made even more flavorful with seasonings, herbs, salsa, sour cream, and cheese.
This is so easy and delicious that it will quickly become your go-to dinner during busy weeknights. Once you make it, the whole family will love it! Preparing the shell pasta might actually be the longest thing that you will do to cook this dish.
This recipe is perfect for taco Tuesday, busy weeknights, potlucks, gatherings, and any family occasion. It will surely be something to rave about!
If you are in the mood for some Mexican dinners like this, then, check out my other recipes like Chipotle Sofritas! This meal is perfect for when you are in a hurry, it is hearty and satisfying, and also budget-friendly.
Here are the basic ingredients needed to make this beef taco pasta recipe. Scroll down to our recipe card for complete instructions and exact measurements.
- Large pasta shells
- Canola oil
- Lean ground beef
- Yellow onion: Diced.
- Garlic cloves: Minced.
- Taco seasoning: Store-bought or make your own with our taco seasoning recipe.
- Dried oregano
- Worcestershire sauce
- Red pepper flakes
- Water: You can also use chicken or beef broth.
- Salsa: Store-bought is fine but you can make your own with this recipe for homemade salsa.
- Cheddar cheese: Shredded.
- Kosher salt: To taste.
- Black pepper: To taste.
- Cheese: Shredded cheddar cheese of any kind.
- Crushed tortilla chips
- Sour cream
- Chopped parsley
How to make taco pasta recipe?
- Cook pasta shells: First, cook the pasta shells according to the instructions on the package for pasta al dente and set them aside.
- Cook the beef: Meanwhile, add oil to a large deep skillet over medium-high heat. After it sizzles, add the ground beef, and cook until it is no longer pink inside, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Drain grease.
- Add the seasonings: Next, turn it down to medium heat before you add the onion and garlic.
- Cook: Cook for one minute before adding the kosher salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes, Worcestershire sauce, dried oregano, and taco seasoning. Pour in 3/4 cup water and continue to cook and stir until the water is absorbed.
- Combine pasta: After, add the pasta into the pan before adding the shredded cheese and salsa. Stir well.
- Serve taco pasta: Last, serve your cheesy taco pasta in a casserole dish with extra cheese and sour cream on top.
How to make instant pot taco pasta:
- Saute: While cooking the pasta al dente on the stove, heat up your instant pot with oil on the saute setting.
- Cook ground beef: Once it is ready, add the ground beef and cook until it browns. Then drain the grease before you add the onion, garlic, salsa, taco seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, and 3/4 cup water or broth.
- Seal and cook: Next, seal the lid and cook on high pressure for five minutes.
- Release the steam: After, do a quick release by opening the vent until the pressure is gone. Then remove the lid and stir. Add the pasta and cheese and close the lid but don’t seal it. Just let it sit for a minute until the cheese melts.
- Serve: Finally, stir to combine and serve with whatever toppings you like.
- Check out my Instant Pot Taco Pasta Recipe here.
- Ground turkey: For less fat, use ground turkey instead of ground beef.
- Ground chicken: You could also use ground chicken for less fat and calories.
- Beef broth: You can give your taco pasta even more flavor by using beef broth or chicken broth instead of water.
- Tomato sauce: Similarly, add some tomato sauce or tomato paste to your beef taco pasta recipe to give it a tangy taste.
- Fresh veggies: You can also add more fresh vegetables like chopped tomatoes, black beans, bell peppers, black olives, or fresh corn.
- Spice it up: If you enjoy spicy food, add green chilies or jalapenos to your beef taco pasta recipe.
- Chili powder: For more Mexican flavor, add chili powder to your pasta sauce.
- Garlic: Add one teaspoon of garlic powder for extra flavor.
How to serve:
Serve this beef taco pasta with crunchy tortilla chips and parsley as well as taco sauce, Pico de Gallo, chipotle, and other favorite sauces. Here are some other serving suggestions:
- This taco pasta goes perfectly with lettuce and black beans to make a taco pasta salad.
- Serve with your family’s favorite toppings like diced tomatoes, avocados, olives, sour cream, and guacamole.
- Another perfect pairing would be to add our Mexican salad on the side.
- Toss a cup of Monterey jack cheese or extra cheddar cheese on top for cheesy taco pasta.
- Pair with Mexican black bean salad for a hearty Mexican meal.
- Another delicious topping for this dish is crumbled or chopped bacon.
If you are looking for more pasta recipes, try our instant pot chicken pot pie pasta with boneless chicken thighs, egg noodles, and sour cream, or this scrumptious instant pot pizza pasta recipe made with ground beef and pepperoni.
Frequently asked questions
How to cook pasta al dente?
The simplest and easiest trick is not a trick at all. The secret to perfectly cooked noodles is on their packaging! Simply follow the procedure given on the box and it must give you the perfect noodles that are just right – not too firm but not too mushy either.
Here are some techniques to help you:
- Use a large enough pot: There should be enough space for the water to boil in and for the pasta not to get too compact. Boiling in itself can make the pieces move around which means less chance to clump up.
- Add salt when the water starts to boil: Putting salt will season the noodles.
- Reserve the water: The water in which you boil the noodles will be starchy, thanks to the starch coming from the pasta itself. Save a cup of it or so and put it in the sauce. The starchy water makes for a good binder so that the sauce sticks to the noodles.
Can I use a different shape pasta?
You can absolutely use whatever kind of pasta you like. We chose the large shell pasta because it holds so much flavor, beef, and sauce but other good choices we suggest are penne, rotini, and elbow macaroni. You can also use whole wheat or gluten-free pasta.
Is taco pasta healthy?
With 25 grams of protein, 162 milligrams of calcium, 3 milligrams of iron, and 445 IU of vitamin A, this dish is certainly packed with good things. It is also low in saturated fat and sugar, and there are only 432 calories per serving.
How do you make homemade taco seasoning?
It is simply a combination of easy-to-find pantry ingredients such as the following:
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 4 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 1/2 tablespoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon each: salt, garlic powder, dried onion powder, oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
You can also add some cayenne powder to make it spicier. In addition, I recommend keeping this mixture in a spice jar for up to 6 months. This works great for beef or chicken and can be versatile – tweak the ratio according to your preference.
You can find the full recipe for homemade taco seasoning at this link.
Can I make this vegetarian?
To make our taco pasta recipe vegetarian, leave out the meat and use black beans or some other kind of beans instead for protein. You can also add chickpeas or tofu to make it heartier.
How to store leftovers:
- Store: After you let the taco pasta cool to room temperature, store it in an airtight container for up to three days in the refrigerator.
- Freeze: If you have way too much leftover taco pasta, make sure your airtight container is freezer safe before freezing it. Use within two months for best results.
- Thaw: Thaw your leftovers in the refrigerator overnight before reheating and serving.
- Reheat: Put your leftover pasta in a skillet and reheat it on the stove for several minutes. Or you can reheat it in the microwave for one minute.
More delicious pasta recipes:
- Lean ground beef is best for this recipe as it has less grease.
- In addition, Add tomato paste if your sauce is too thin.
- Alternatively, if the sauce is too thick, pour a little more broth or water in to thin it out.
- Also, if you use broth, make sure it is the low-salt kind or your taco pasta may be too salty.
- Try using milk instead of water or broth for a creamier sauce.
- Another option is for the freshest flavor, shred your own cheese at home.
Cheesy Taco Pasta
- 1/2 pound large shells pasta
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons taco seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 cup jarred salsa
- 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese shredded
- Salt to taste
- Pepper to taste
- Crushed tortilla chips
- Sour cream
- Chopped parsley
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- Cook the pasta according to the box directions, drain and set aside.
- In the meantime, place a large skillet over medium-high heat and add oil. Once it starts sizzling add the ground beef and brown well, breaking it with a spoon until no longer pink.
- Drain the fat, leaving only 1-2 tablespoons in the pan.
- Add the onion and garlic, stir and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the taco seasoning, dried oregano, Worcestershire sauce, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Add 3/4 cup of water, stir and cook until water is gone.
- Add the pasta to the pan. Add the salsa and cheese. Stir to combine.
- Serve immediately, preferably with crunchy tortilla chips, sour cream, and more cheese on top.