Cheesy Taco Pasta
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Cheesy Taco Pasta is one of my favorite ground beef pasta recipes: delicious taco meat in a homemade sauce with shell pasta. It’s ready in under 20 minutes in one pan for an easy weeknight dinner!
Taco pasta recipe is one of our favorite pasta dinner ideas: meaty, cheesy flavors and a soft, oozy texture keep everyone coming back for more!
It’s basically taco hamburger helper, those boxes of ground beef pasta. But why settle for packaged food when it’s so easy to make this Mexican dish from scratch?
The key ingredient is the seasoning, and it’s best to make your own homemade taco seasoning. If you prefer to buy it at the store, you can find it in packets or jars for larger quantities.
You can make many recipes with this seasoning such as taco pasta salad, taco casserole, taco soup, and taco lasagna.
HOW TO MAKE TACO PASTA
This is a one pot recipe, meaning the pasta cooks together with the other ingredients. You can cook the pasta separately if you prefer, but it’s definitely easiest doing it all together.
- Start with frying ground beef, onions and garlic (optional) in a large skillet. I recommend browning the beef to build some flavor.
- Once the ground beef has some color, add in the rest of the ingredients: tomato sauce, taco seasoning, water and pasta. Cook for 5-10 minutes until your pasta is al dente.
- Remove from the heat and stir in cheese, and LOTS OF cheese to make it extra cheesy!
Serve on plates or bowls with toppings such as cilantro, sour cream, jalapeno, etc.
TACO MEAL VARIATIONS
- Use a different pasta such as elbow macaroni and turn this recipe into taco mac n cheese! Use the large pasta shells and make it into taco stuffed pasta shells.
- Bake it in the skillet with the cheese on top (10 min at 375F) for a delicious taco pasta bake
- Substitute minced turkey or chicken meat for ground beef
- Spice it up with some red pepper flakes or hot sauce.
This is a great make-ahead taco dish. Leftover taco meat pasta can be stored in the fridge for 3 days and the flavor even intensifies. Just be sure to reheat thoroughly.
WATCH HOW TO MAKE THIS RECIPE
- 3 cups small shell pasta
- 1 pound ground beef, lean or extra lean
- 1/2 cup onions, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced, optional
- 1/4 cup taco seasoning
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 1 cup shredded cheese, cheddar or mozzarella
- fresh cilantro, chopped, optional
- Place a large frying pan on medium-high heat.
- Add ground beef and stir until it is no longer pink. Drain fat from the pan.
- Add onions and optional garlic to the beef. Fry for 2-3 minutes until onions are translucent.
- Stir in the tomato sauce, taco seasoning, water and pasta.
- Loosely cover the pan, reduce heat to medium.
- Cook for 5-10 minutes until the pasta is done, stirring occasionally.
- Remove from heat and stir in cheese and optional fresh cilantro. Serve and enjoy!
- 2 tbsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp cayenne
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp salt
Please read our nutrition disclaimer.
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This is a regular in our rotation. I’ve often added some diced carrots and celery and shredded zucchini. We have also substituted ground turkey for ground beef and some shredded cauliflower for some of the pasta! Not always bc hey- we love pasta!! Always a hit. Thank you!!!
Hi Katie, Love to hear that and thanks for your comment!
Absolutely loved this recipe. I doubled the recipe with plans to freeze any leftovers. My two teen boys and husband raved about this meal. I added corn and a can of Rotel, as others suggested. I also boiled the pasta separately. I only had tomato paste, so I just mixed it with hot water, in order to make tomato sauce. This recipe is a keeper!
Hi Vanessa, Thanks so much for your comment and glad you enjoyed! Hope you’ll try other recipes too…
This was good. I used a full 14oz can of tomato sauce, added a can of corn and a can of diced tomatoes. Used turkey not beef and my own taco seasoning made to my taste. Left out the water and cooked the pasta separately. I liked it with the shells. It made a lot.
Hi there, Thanks for your comment and feedback! So glad you enjoyed and glad to know it worked with turkey too.
2 cups of water definitely isn’t enough!! I also added some salsa! The picture makes it look like there’s something other than tomato sauce, it was a bit bland until I added the salsa.
Overall recipe is okay.
Hi Allison, Many thanks for your feedback and we’ll add details for the next update!
This was a great dish! I added 3 cups of beef broth instead of 2 cups of water. It was not runny, but just the right amount of water to cook the pasta! Great flavor, my family loved it!
Like your suggestion of broth instead of bland water.
This was really good! Even my super picky son had seconds! The only thing we changed was we added a little extra water- maybe 1/2 -3/4 cup and additional tomato sauce. Definitely a keeper
Hi Terry, Thanks so much and appreciate your feedback. Glad you enjoyed!
Great meal, kids loved it.
Hi Rochelle, Glad to hear and thanks for your comment!
Great easy recipe! Thank you
Hi Cyndi, You made my day thanks!
Absolutely loved this recipe!!
Hi Adam, Thanks for your review and glad to hear!! 🙂
This was a good recipie but it defiantly needed more water to cook and needed to simmer for about 12 mins. Also a can of diced tomatoes (rotel) should be added to the recipe. Looks like it’s in the pasta as picture. Prob . Will be making again . Thanks for posting
Hi Candis, Thanks for your feedback and glad you enjoyed. Added a few notes to the recipe to reflect water content!
I made this in my instant pot and it worked out perfectly just did all the steps but instead of on the stove I put it on 3 minutes and the pasta turned out amazing
Hi Sarah, That’s amazing, thanks so much for sharing! 🙂
2 cups of water doesn’t even soften the shells! How about 5-6 cups!
Hi Aftan, Thanks for your feedback. 5-6 cups will make the dish soupy, which isn’t great either! Will add a note to adjust water up a bit 😉
Adding hot sauce and sour cream makes it so much better. Perks of Emily being awesome 🙂
Hi Steph, Love it and agree 🙂
Loved this! I used venison burger because that is what we have this time of year. Added extra water, substituted salsa for 1 can of tomato sauce, and added corn also. Big hit and made plenty for our family of 3 adults. Lots of ways you can change this up which is very nice.
Hi Lynette, So happy to hear that and thanks for your review! Love the venison idea 🙂
Very good! Did rotesserie chicken, elbows and a can of fire roasted diced tomatoes because that’s what I had on hand. Added an extra cup of water. This recipe can be easily adapted to whatever is in the pantry. And a huge plus- I think my picky grandkid swill love it!
Hi Kim, Sounds like a fabulous meal and glad your grandkid could dig in too! 🙂
What is a good side for this?
Hi Ash, It’s sort of a meal by itself, but you can add some broccoli on the side. 🙂
If I could the pasta separately, do I still need to add 2 cups of water to the recipe? Or is that amount of water only needed if you could the pasta together with everything?
Hi Lisa, Great question – the water is for the pasta, so omit the water when you’re cooking pasta separately. 🙂
Does the recipe for homemade taco seasoning make the 1/4 cup required for the recipe?or is it the amount you would get in a bought packet?
Hi Bonnie, Yes the homemade seasoning will make more than enough. Most storebought packets will have enough too. Enjoy! 🙂
Re: Printing the recipe.
I thought it would be a “friendly” version. However, the “video box” printed on the recipe causing 2 of the ingredients for the taco mix to print on a 2nd page. I have never had this happen before.
Hi Carol, Thanks for your review and for letting me know about this. We’ve investigated and fixed the issue. Hope it’s ok and you enjoy the taco pasta 🙂
Awesome recipe!! I used your amounts of liquid with bow tie pasta, it came out al dente which was fine with me. Hubby would of like pasta softer but he eat 2 helpings so guess it wasn’t a problem 🙂
Hi Lisa, Thanks and glad to hear! You can try to be less al dente on the next round and compare 🙂
Would it be a tomato paste or a tomato sauce you use for pasta?
Hi Samantha, Definitely tomato sauce! Tomato paste will be too thick 🙂
I make this often, I add a can of Black Beans (rinsed & drained) and a can of corn (rinsed & drained). My family loves it topped with diced avocado, green onions, and sour cream. I make cheddar corn muffins to go with it.
Hi Melissa, That sounds like an incredible meal with all the fixin’s! Thanks for sharing and so happy to hear you’ve been enjoying! 🙂
Very delicious! Whole family loved it. Like everyone else, I added an extra cup of water.
HOWEVER, I must point out it was not enough to feed a family of four, let alone 8 as stated in recipe! Myself and my teen had to settle for half a bowl, hubby had 2/3 of a bowl, and other teen had 3/4 of a bowl. Will definitely have to double the recipe next time for the family to be satisfied.
Hi Lisa, Thanks for your review and we’ll be sure update the recipe accordingly. Glad you enjoyed it! 🙂
Hi I loved this so much
Hi Alayna, Thanks for letting me know 🙂
Don’t mean to be redundant…just not clear on the amount of liquid to use. Is it 2 cups of water and 2 cups of tomato sauce that work best?
Hi Tracy, Yes, that’s correct. Thanks and let me know how it turns out 🙂
Made this for our senior adult potluck tonight at church. Upped the meat to 1-1/2 lbs, the elbow macaroni to 4 cups, the tomato sauce to 2 8oz cans, and the water to 3-1/2 cups. Cooked it until almost done than turned it off and will reheat and add 6 oz shredded cheese just before serving. Made a lot, but it tastes great.
Hey Mike, Thanks so much for your feedback and glad you enjoyed it! Will make some notes in the recipe 🙂
I just made this one and it is out of this world I will definitely be making it again
Hi Bobby, You made my day, so glad to hear. Thanks! 🙂
We loved it! Only wish I had read the comments before cooking. I ended up using an extra cup of water and sauce. I also added a bit more cheese. Delicious!
Thanks Tami for your review, so glad it worked out 🙂
Same! I wish I had read the comments about the water. I didn’t think it looked like enough, so I added an extra cup from the beginning, but I still ended u needing more. Everyone was happy with the meal, but I wish the recipe had been updated.
Hi Amy, Thanks so much for your feedback – I retested the recipe and updated it to reflect more liquid. Glad you enjoyed 🙂
It was SO good!! I also had to add another cup of water and tomato sauce. I used the taco seasoning recipe tip and it was alittle spicy (which I like anyways). I didn’t have any shells so I used penne noodles. Didn’t have any left overs!
So did you have 2 cups of water and 2 cups of tomato sauce? Just wasn’t sure if the recipe has been updated! Thanks 🙂
Hi Katy, That’s right 🙂
It was very good but next time I’ll add more tomato sauce as it was a little dry. Otherwise, it’s definitely a keeper!!
Soooo good! My family of picky eaters loved it! I left the cilantro for hubby and I. I had to add an extra cup of water and 8oz can of tomato sauce (El Pato) for more liquid to cook the shells. Turned out amazing.
i like new recipes to try