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Easy Taco Pasta

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Everyone loves a good taco night, but in my house, I try to mix things up a bit from time to time. This (almost) one pot easy cheesy taco pasta recipe has all of the classic taco flavors. It’s easy to make on busy weeknights, easy to clean up, and will have your whole family licking their plates clean.

taco pasta in a bowl with cheese on top

What is Easy Taco Pasta?

I have tons of easy and delicious recipes in my back pocket that I bust out during a busy week of school, work and evening activities. I need simple dinner recipes that are quick and easy to make, and that my entire family will eat.

Easy Taco Pasta fits that criteria and is one of our family favorite easy dinners!

A fun twist on Taco Tuesday, this (almost) one-pot meal, is a mix of meat and spices, sweet corn, slightly zippy sauce and two types of cheeses tossed with pasta shells simmered together in a large skillet. Serve it topped with your favorite traditional taco toppings, and you have an easy, crowd pleasing dinner in no time.

And best of all, you only used two pots, so clean up is super quick!

What type of pasta should you use?

This dish is similar to a taco casserole, so Medium sized pasta shells like these work best for this recipe. Using pasta shells creates little “pockets” for the bits of spicy meat and gooey cheese to settle into, making each bite explode with flavor in your mouth.

Pro Tip: You want a pasta with a little curve to it so that the meat and sauce will stick to it. If you have a hard time finding shell pasta, you can substitute elbow macaroni or rotini pasta. You can also use gluten-free pasta or whole wheat pasta if you prefer.

Can you use ground turkey instead of beef?

Sure! Since turkey is drier than beef, so you may need to add in a bit more taco sauce and water to keep your pasta nice and saucy.

In the mood for more Mexican dishes that are great with either ground beef OR ground turkey? Try Taco Pie with Crescent Rolls or Enchilada Pasta Bake or Layered Taco Dip.

What ingredients do you need for Taco Pasta?

  • extra lean ground beef
  • packet of taco seasoning (or try my homemade taco seasoning recipe here)
  • light cream cheese
  • taco sauce (I use this one when I make it for kiddos, but if you want a little zip, use medium version)
  • frozen corn
  • shredded sharp cheddar cheese or Mexican cheese blend
  • medium pasta shells
easy taco pasta ingredients

How Do You Make Taco Pasta?

In a large pan over medium-high heat, add ground beef and break it up with a wooden spoon or meat masher like this one. Cook until beef is cooked though and no longer pink.

brown ground beef in pan

Once cooked through, drain all liquid from pan. Stir in taco seasoning and 3/4 c water and simmer for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil and add the pasta shells. Cook until al dente. Before draining, scoop out 1/2 c of the pasta water and set aside.

Drain the remaining water from the pasta shells and give them a quick rinse with cold water. This will stop them from cooking any further. Set pasta shells aside.

Cut the cream cheese into smaller chunks and stir them into the taco meat over low-medium heat. This will help it melt faster. Stir to combine. I prefer to use reduced fat cream cheese in this recipe simply to save a few calories, but regular cream cheese works fine too.

Add the 1 c of frozen corn and 1 c of taco sauce to the ground beef mixture and give it a good stir.

Grab the cooked pasta shells and add them into the pot a few spoonful at a time, stirring in between to make sure the pasta is getting nice an coated by the meat and sauce.

Once all of you pasta is in the pot, add the reserved pasta water and stir 1/4 c of it into the pot one tablespoon at a time creating a nice, “saucy” mixture. If you’d like to create even more sauce, add the remaining 1/4 cup of water. Adding a little bit at a time is a great way to create your desired sauce thickness without making it too runny.

Stir in 1 c of shredded cheese and viola! Your Taco Pasta is ready.

add shredded cheese to pan

Spoon into bowls and serve with a top with your favorite taco toppings.

What Can You Serve with Easy Taco Pasta?

Try these toppings:

  • shredded cheese
  • dollop of sour cream
  • green onions
  • diced bell peppers
  • diced tomatoes
  • black olives
  • avocado
  • green chilies
  • salsa
  • hot sauce

What side dishes can you serve with Taco Pasta?

  • tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole
  • refried beans
  • black beans
  • fruit salad
  • mixed greens salad
  • fresh veggies and ranch dip

Can you reheat Taco Pasta?

You bet! Sometimes I make a double batch just so we can have leftovers for lunch the next day.

Simply reheat on the stove or in the microwave. If it seems a bit dry, add a few splashes of water to make it nice and saucy again.

Store leftover Taco Pasta in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Looking for more popular recipes that reheat really well? Try Ground Turkey Chili or Egg Roll in a Bowl.

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taco pasta in a bowl with cheese on top

Taco Pasta

Liz Olberding @ Up North Nosh
This (almost) one pot cheesy taco pasta recipe has all of the classic taco flavors, is easy to make, easy to clean up, and will have your family licking their plates clean.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 4
Calories 567 kcal

Equipment

  • large pan
  • medium pot
  • colander

Ingredients
  

  • 1 lb extra lean ground beef
  • 1 packet taco seasoning or make your own here
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 4 oz light cream cheese regular or reduced fat will work
  • 1 cup taco sauce I prefer Ortega
  • 1 cup frozen corn thawed
  • 8 oz medium pasta shells
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Instructions
 

  • In a large pan over medium-high heat, add ground beef and break it up with a wooden spoon or meat masher like this one. Cook until beef is cooked though and no longer pink.
  • Once cooked through, drain all liquid from pan. Stir in taco seasoning and 3/4 c water and simmer for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Meanwhile, bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil and add the pasta shells. Cook until al dente. Before draining, scoop out 1/2 c of the pasta water and set aside.
  • Drain the remaining water from the pasta shells and give them a quick rinse with cold water. This will stop them from cooking any further. Set pasta shells aside.
  • Cut the cream cheese into smaller chunks and stir them into the taco meat over low-medium heat. This will help it melt faster. Stir to combine. I prefer to use reduced fat cream cheese in this recipe simply to save a few calories, but regular cream cheese works fine too.
  • Add the 1 c of frozen corn and 1 c of taco sauce to the ground beef mixture and give it a good stir.
  • Grab the cooked pasta shells and add them into the pot a few spoonful at a time, stirring in between to make sure the pasta is getting nice an coated by the meat and sauce.
  • Once all of you pasta is in the pot, add the reserved pasta water and stir 1/4 c of it into the pot one tablespoon at a time creating a nice, “saucy” mixture. If you’d like to create even more sauce, add the remaining 1/4 cup of water. Adding a little bit at a time is a great way to create your desired sauce thickness without making it too runny.
  • Stir in 1 c of shredded cheese and viola! Your Taco Pasta is ready.
     

Notes

Try serving with these fun toppings:
  • shredded cheese
  • dollop of sour cream
  • green onions
  • diced bell peppers
  • diced tomatoes
  • black olives
  • avocado
  • green chilies
  • salsa
  • hot sauce
Note: You can substitute ground turkey for ground beef,  but since turkey is drier than beef, so you may need to add in a bit more taco sauce and water to keep your pasta nice and saucy.
Store leftover Taco Pasta in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
If this dish seems a bit dry when you re-heat leftovers, add a few splashes of water to make it nice and saucy again.
In the mood for more Mexican dishes that are great with either ground beef OR ground turkey? Try Taco Pie with Crescent Rolls or Enchilada Pasta Bake or Layered Taco Dip.

Nutrition

Calories: 567kcalCarbohydrates: 53gProtein: 42gFat: 21gSaturated Fat: 11gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 115mgSodium: 387mgPotassium: 611mgFiber: 1gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 441IUVitamin C: 3mgCalcium: 258mgIron: 3mg
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