taco pasta featured image
Taco Pasta is a fast and easy to make meal that merges an Italian dinner with delicious Mexican flavors. Hearty, cheesy, and simply spiced, homemade is better than cooking from the box!
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Table of Contents
  1. Cheesy Taco Pasta
  2. Why We Love This Taco Pasta Recipe
  3. Ingredients
  4. Substitutions and Additions
  5. Recommended Tools
  6. How to Make Taco Pasta
  7. Tips from Our Recipe Developer
  8. Storage Tips
  9. Frequently Asked Questions
  10. Other Easy Pasta Recipes
  11. Taco Pasta Recipe

This easy Taco Pasta recipe is a 30-minute meal, made in one pot, with ground beef, pasta, cheese, salsa, and plenty of seasoning.

It tastes like a homemade version of Hamburger Helper with a south-of-the-border spin, but so much better because it uses fresh ingredients instead of a box.

taco pasta hero image

Cheesy Taco Pasta

Our beef Taco Pasta is a quick and easy mash-up of two delicious dinners: it takes the best of Mexican flavors and traditional taco seasonings and merges them into a cheesy Italian meal.

It takes only 10 minutes to prep (plus the time to boil your pasta) to make this hearty, protein-packed dish, and then serve it straight from the pot or dish it with your family’s favorite taco fixings or toppings.

This cheesy taco pasta recipe is filled with the same southwest flavors of my Taco Lasagna, but instead of loading layers of comfort food into a casserole, I simplified it with a tasty twist to my Taco Spaghetti recipe, so that the noodles, cheese and meat mixture are stirred together in one pot.

Why We Love This Taco Pasta Recipe

  • Quick and easy to make in 30 minutes.
  • Uses simple ingredients you probably have in your pantry.
  • Hearty, super satisfying, and budget-friendly.
  • Best mashup of Southwestern flavor meets Italian comfort food in taco pasta shells shape.
  • Delicious weekday dinner when you need a homemade meal in a hurry.
  • Perfect for potlucks, game day gatherings, and family celebrations when you need to feed a crowd.

Other Taco-inspired Meals

eating taco pasta with a fork

Ingredients

  • Pasta shells
  • Lean ground beef
  • Sweet yellow onion
  • Fresh minced garlic
  • Packet taco seasoning: You can also use my Homemade Taco Seasoning.
  • Water
  • Mild chunky salsa
  • Colby and Monterey Jack shredded cheese
  • Fresh chopped cilantro (optional garnish)

Substitutions and Additions

  • Pick Your Pasta: I used pasta shells for the recipe, but any “short” pasta will work well. If you are not able to find the pasta shells in stock, elbow macaroni, rotini, penne, and bow tie pasta are other great options.
  • Choose Your Cheese: You can substitute shredded cheddar cheese for the Colby jack cheese, but the Colby jack really melts nicely.
  • Add Some Spice: For an even spicier version, you can use hot taco seasoning, add hot sauce, and garnish your taco noodles with sliced jalapeños. 
  • Tasty Toppings: You can add your favorite taco toppings to this dish, like chopped cilantro, crushed corn chips, diced tomatoes, and sour cream.
  • Pick Your Protein: Ground chicken or ground turkey can be used instead of ground beef in this recipe. For a vegetarian version, feel free to or omit the meat and add some black beans or pinto beans.
  • Heavy bottom stockpot
  • Measuring tools
  • Wooden spoon
taco pasta on a plate
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How to Make Taco Pasta

This easy-to-make Taco Pasta is filled with hearty ground beef, tender pasta, chunky salsa and smothered in cheese. It’s a delicious Italian dinner that’s loaded with Mexican flavors that your whole family with love.

  1. Prepare The Pasta: Prepare the pasta according to the box directions. Drain and set aside.
  2. Brown The Beef: Brown the ground beef with the onion and garlic for 5 – 7 minutes. Drain any remaining grease.
  3. Make The Meat Mixture: Reduce the heat and stir in the taco seasoning and water to the browned beef mixture. Cook for 8 – 10 minutes. Stir in the salsa and cook on low, 3 – 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese until completely melted.
  4. Serve: Stir in the cooked pasta shells. Garnish with the chopped cilantro. Serve while hot. Enjoy!
taco pasta collage process

Tips from Our Recipe Developer

  • You can substitute small pasta shells for the medium size. (The medium size shell is no. 50)
  • For the freshest flavor, you can shred your own block of cheese instead of buying the pre-shredded cheese.
  • Lean ground beef is best for this recipe because it has less grease.

Storage Tips

  • To Store: Store any leftover Taco Pasta in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • To Freeze: Freeze leftovers in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating. 
  • To Reheat: Reheat your Taco Pasta on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave.
taco pasta in a pan

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make this Taco Pasta dairy-free?

Yes, you can absolutely make this pasta dish dairy-free. Simply substitute the dairy cheese with your favorite non-dairy alternative or omit the cheese altogether.

Can I use a different shape of pasta?

Yes, you can use almost any kind of short pasta you prefer. I used the medium size shell pasta because it holds the beef, sauce, and seasonings so well, but other good options can include penne, rotini, and elbow macaroni. You can also use whole wheat or gluten-free pasta.

Can I use tomato sauce instead of salsa in this recipe?

I love using chunky salsa in this taco pasta recipe because it gives the meat mixture extra flavor and helps to thicken it up as well. However, if you don’t have salsa on hand, you can substitute it with tomato sauce and water.

Is Taco Pasta Healthy?

While this dish is packed with protein, vitamins, and calcium, you can bulk it up with extra nutrition. Include some vegetables, like diced tomato, corn and bell peppers, add avocado or beans for even more protein, or swap the beef for ground chicken or turkey for a lower-fat meal.

cheesy taco pasta

Other Easy Pasta Recipes

5 from 1 vote
taco pasta featured image

Taco Pasta

Serves — 8
Taco Pasta is a fast and easy to make meal that merges an Italian dinner with delicious Mexican flavors. Hearty, cheesy, and simply spiced, homemade is better than cooking from the box!
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 40 mins

Ingredients
  

  • 8 ounces (4 cups) medium size pasta shells
  • lbs lean ground beef
  • 1 cup finely diced sweet yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic
  • 2 ounces (2 1-ounce) packet taco seasoning
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup mild chunky salsa
  • cups Colby and Monterey Jack shredded cheese
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro (optional garnish)

Instructions
 

  • Prepare the pasta shells according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.
  • Add the ground beef, diced onion and garlic to a 5 – 6 quart heavy bottom stockpot over medium-high heat. Brown the ground beef for 5 – 7 minutes, until cooked through and no longer pink. Drain any remaining grease.
  • Reduce the heat to medium. Add the taco seasoning and the water to the cooked beef mixture. Stir well and allow the mixture to cook for 8 – 10 minutes.
  • Stir in the salsa and cook on low for another 3 – 5 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the shredded cheese. Continue stirring until the cheese is completely melted.
  • Stir in the cooked pasta shells. Garnish with the chopped cilantro. Serve while hot.

Jenn’s Notes

Storage:
  • To Store: Store any leftover Taco Pasta in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • To Freeze: Freeze leftovers in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating. 
  • To Reheat: Reheat your Taco Pasta on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave.
Tips:
  • You can substitute small pasta shells for the medium size. (The medium size shell is no. 50)
  • For the freshest flavor, you can shred your own block of cheese instead of buying the pre-shredded cheese.
  • Lean ground beef is best for this recipe because it has less grease.

Nutrition Info

Calories: 357kcal | Carbohydrates: 30g | Protein: 30g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 80mg | Sodium: 1066mg | Potassium: 496mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 1061IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 206mg | Iron: 3mg
Jennifer Fishkind

About Jenn

Jenn is a mom to three beautiful boys, wife to an amazing husband, social influencer and blogger. I love all things easy recipes, easy crafts, all things hacks, traveling EVERYWHERE and feeding my Pinterest addiction!

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