This Cheesy Taco Pasta recipe features pasta shells paired with juicy taco meat and a cheesy Mexican spiced sauce. It's like a homemade take on Hamburger Helper, and trust me when I say grown-ups love it just as much as the kids! If you're on the hunt for more easy dinners, check out our fajita tacos and our steak burritos next!
HOW TO MAKE TACO PASTA
The first thing you want to do is cook the pasta shells according to the package directions and set them aside. This recipe works great with gluten-free pasta. Feel free to sub that in if needed!
Then, it's time to move on to the taco meat! The taco meat comes together quickly and easily. You can use either ground turkey, ground beef, or even ground chicken for this recipe. As the taco seasoning goes, we're skipping the homemade taco seasoning and keeping it simple with a packet of store-bought seasoning. That's one of the ways we keep this Taco Pasta dish prep under 30 minutes and perfect for busy weeknights! But, rest assured, we will bring in a few additional spices later in the recipe to ensure that our sauce is out of this world!
Both ground chicken and ground turkey have a tendency to stick in a dry skillet, so, if you're using one of these, add a tablespoon of oil to the skillet and bring it to temperature over medium-high heat. If you're using ground beef, just add the beef straight to the skillet; no oil is necessary!
Sprinkle the taco seasoning over the ground meat, and use a spatula to break up the meat and evenly disperse the seasoning. Cook the meat for about 8 to 10 minutes or until fully cooked through. Then, use a slotted spoon to remove the meat from the pan, and add another couple of tablespoons of oil. Time to bring in some fresh veggies, which give this Taco Pasta amazing flavor.
You will need 1 white onion and 3 jalapeños that have been seeded and diced. Add the diced jalapeño and onion to the pan and sauté until softened, about 4 to 5 minutes.
Next comes the flour, which is going to thicken the sauce. Sprinkle all-purpose flour over the vegetables and stir to coat. At this point, you can bring in either chicken broth or beef broth. For a more savory Taco Pasta sauce use beef broth. But, if you're feeding a house full of cheese lovers, feel free to grab the chicken broth. It allows more of the cheese flavor to come through!
Add the broth one big splash at a time, stirring well after each addition. As soon as the broth has been added, you'll add the milk and stir to combine. Next, the chili powder, kosher salt, ground cumin, and garlic powder go in. Allow the mixture to come to a simmer, then reduce the heat as necessary to maintain a low simmer. Let the sauce bubble for about 4-5 minutes until it's slightly thickened, stirring often to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom!
Now, remove the sauce from the heat, and you'll add in freshly grated cheddar cheese and Monterey Jack cheese. Freshly grated cheese is an extra step, but one well worth taking! Freshly shredded cheese has better texture and flavor than prepackaged cheese. However, if you are in a pinch, you can certainly use a pre-packaged Mexican blend cheese.
Once the cheese goes in, you'll stir until it is completely melted. Next, add the cooked pasta shells and the cooked taco meat. Stir until everything is combined, and top off your Taco Pasta with additional toppings like chopped tomato, chopped cilantro, sliced jalapeños, and maybe even some extra grated cheese or a dollop of sour cream!
6 MORE FAMILY DINNERS YOU’LL LOVE
- Beef Enchilada Casserole
- Mexican Stuffed Shells
- Steak Quesadillas
- Homemade Chimichangas
- Beef Enchiladas
- Stovetop Taco Soup
This cheesy Taco Pasta recipe is savory, comforting, and absolutely bursting with Tex-Mex flavor. A hit for all ages!
- ½ pound medium pasta shells
- 3 tablespoons avocado or canola oil, separated
- 1 pound 80/20 ground beef or turkey
- 1 (1-ounce) package taco seasoning
- 1 white onion diced
- 3 jalapeños seeded and diced
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 ½ cups low sodium or unsalted chicken broth
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 cup freshly grated Cheddar cheese
- 1 cup freshly grated Monterey Jack cheese
- Topping Ideas: chopped tomato, chopped cilantro, sliced jalapeños, extra grated cheese
Cook the pasta according to package directions and set aside.
If using ground turkey, add a tablespoon of oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. If using ground beef, omit the oil. Add the meat to the heated skillet and sprinkle with taco seasoning.
Break apart the meat and cook for about 10 minutes or until fully cooked through. Turn off the heat and use a slotted spoon to remove the meat from the pan and transfer it to a bowl. Take care not to drip oil down the sides of the pan. Set the meat aside.
Return the pan to the stovetop over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of oil. Once the oil has come to temperature, add the diced onion and jalapeno. Stir to coat in the oil and saute, stirring often, for about 4-5 minutes or until softened.
Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir to coat. Add the chicken broth, one big splash at a time, whisking well after each addition. Once all of the broth has been incorporated, pour in the milk and stir to combine. Add the chili powder, cumin, salt, and garlic powder, and allow the sauce to come to a simmer.
Reduce the heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring often, until slightly thickened.
Turn off the heat, add the freshly grated cheese, and stir until completely melted. Add the pasta shells and ground meat and stir to combine.
Top off your Taco Pasta with any additional toppings you desire, serve, and enjoy!
If you're in a hurry to get dinner on the table, grab yourself a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and sub it into the recipe, or just omit the chicken altogether.