Taco Pasta makes for a cheesy and meaty dinner option that is easy to prepare! It is a runaway winner in my household, and it only takes 30 minutes to make!
If you are in the mood for some Mexican dinners like this, then, check out my other recipes like the Mexican Black Bean Salad, Carne Asada, and Chipotle Sofritas! This meal is perfect for when you are in a hurry, it is hearty and satisfying, and also budget-friendly.
This Homemade Taco Pasta is a combination of my family’s two favorites – anything Mexican and Italian! Whoever thought of combining these two in one ultimate dish was a genius!
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!
What is Taco Pasta?
It is a dish made with cooked noodles of your choice and a taco-inspired sauce. It is the sauce that gives the overall Mexican flavor and vibe to this dish.
- Pasta – I always use pasta shells as it absorbs the cheese and the rest of the ingredients perfectly.
- Beef – I go with 85-90% lean ground beef.
- Canola oil
- Onion and garlic
- Seasoning – Dried oregano, taco seasoning, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
- Worcestershire sauce – This adds a nice touch and extra flavor to the whole dish.
- Cheese – To garnish I go with Mexican cheese blend or cheddar cheese. But feel free to use anything that you like.
- Sour cream
- Tortilla chips – To make it more authentic and crunchy!
- Fresh parsley
How do you make Cheesy Taco Pasta?
- Boil the noodles: First, add the pasta to a boiling pot, and cook the noodles by following the instructions on the package.
- Cook the meat: While pasta is cooking brown the beef. In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, add some canola oil, brown the beef, and drain the resulting fat.
- Add the rest of the ingredients: Next, add in the onions, garlic, and the rest of the herbs and seasonings. Pour some water (or chicken broth) and cook until it dries up.
- Combine: Toss in the cooked noodles, salsa, and cheese.
- Serve: Lastly, garnish with crushed tortilla chips, a dollop of sour cream, chopped parsley, and shredded cheese.
- Meat: Swap the ground beef with ground turkey or ground chicken.
- Fresh veggies: Feel free to add more fresh vegetables like black beans, fresh corn, bell pepper, green peas, diced tomatoes, etc.
- Tomato sauce: In this version, I omitted the tomatoes or tomato sauce. However, you can easily add 1/2 cup of tomato sauce to it.
- Spicy: Like it spicy? Then chop in some freshly chopped jalapeno peppers, chili powder, or green chilies.
- Bake: This is a stove top version. To make it in the oven, simply cook the pasta and brown the beef. Then, transfer the whole mixture to a casserole dish, and bake it for 25 minutes at 350 degrees F.
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.
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 through:
- 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.
How to make Instant Pot Taco Pasta?
Making it in the Instant Pot is another great and easy weeknight dinner. Here are the steps:
- Brown the beef using the saute function of the Instant Pot.
- Next, add the remaining ingredients along with the broth. Stir gently.
- Lastly, add uncooked pasta and cook on HIGH pressure for 5-7 minutes.
Check out my Instant Pot Taco Pasta Recipe here.
How to store leftovers?
- Refrigerator: Cool it completely and keep it in the fridge for 3 days, stored in an airtight container.
- Freezer: Keep it in airtight freezer containers for 2 months.
More delicious pasta recipes:
- You can use ground chicken or turkey as healthy alternatives to beef.
- Add some fiber and a pop of color by adding bell peppers and tomatoes.
- Elbow macaroni, rotini, and penne are good substitutes for the shells.
- To make this vegetarian, you can totally leave out the meat. Instead, add protein by adding beans.
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
- 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.
- 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.