If you’re looking for a delicious, family-favorite recipe with the perfect fusion of Italian and Mexican cuisine, then this Taco Stuffed Shells is the one for you! It features golden-baked jumbo pasta shells filled to the brim with a savory blend of ground beef, refried beans, tasty salsa, and zesty taco seasoning!
Taco stuffed shells are a unique fusion of Italian and Mexican cuisine, bringing together the best elements of both. The comfort of pasta and the spicy kick of tacos make this dish a perfect choice for a fun family dinner at home. It’s a great way to shake up your usual pasta night!
Just like a simple taco casserole or taco soup this recipe is super versatile, which means you can change up the cheese for a different flavor or even use a spicier salsa for spicier stuffed shells. You even have the option of switching up the type of meat you use! This recipe is seriously going to become your new favorite!
Table of Contents
Why I Love This Recipe
Easy to make: This taco stuffed shells recipe is straightforward and simple. With easy-to-follow steps, even a beginner can whip this up easily!
Family-Favorite: This dish is a hit with both kids and adults alike. The familiar flavors of ground beef, salsa, and cheddar cheese wrapped up in a pasta shell make it a comforting and satisfying meal that the whole family will love.
Versatile: This recipe is incredibly versatile. You can easily switch up the flavors by using different types of salsa, cheese, or even substituting ground turkey for the ground beef. Add a bit of Monterey jack cheese or a Mexican cheese blend (like in this mexican casserole recipe) to give it a different twist.
Delicious: Let’s not forget the most important factor – this taco stuffed shells recipe is absolutely delicious! It’s a unique twist on traditional tacos, and the combination of al dente pasta shells filled with taco meat and cheese, all baked to perfection, is simply irresistible.
Jumbo Pasta Shells: These are the backbone of your taco stuffed shells recipe. They’ll be cooked al dente, providing a firm but tender casing for your delicious filling.
Ground Beef: This is the primary protein in this dish. When cooked, it will lend a hearty, savory flavor that pairs perfectly with the rest of the ingredients.
Taco Seasoning: This will be used to flavor the ground beef. It adds a zesty, spicy kick that’s essential for any taco-inspired dish. You can use your favorite brand, or make your own homemade taco seasoning.
Refried Beans: These add a creamy, hearty element to our taco meat mixture, helping to bind the ingredients together inside the pasta shells.
Shredded Cheddar Cheese: This will melt beautifully in the oven, creating a gooey, cheesy topping for our taco stuffed shells.
Salsa: A key component in our sauce, the type of salsa you use can alter the flavor profile of your taco stuffed shells. A spicier salsa will result in spicier shells.
Roma Tomato: This will add a fresh, juicy element to our dish, providing a nice contrast to the rich and flavorful meat and cheese.
Green Onions: These will be chopped and sprinkled on top of the shells for a pop of color and a mild, oniony flavor.
Lettuce and Sour Cream: These are optional toppings, but they can add a nice crunch and a cool, creamy element to balance out the spicy, hearty shells.
Large Pot – A large pot is necessary to boil your pasta shells to al dente perfection. Remember, you want your pasta shells to be firm and hold their shape when stuffed with the delicious taco meat mixture.
Skillet – This is where you’ll brown and cook your ground beef. A large skillet is ideal as it provides enough space to cook the meat evenly and to properly drain it afterward.
Large Bowl – You’ll need a large bowl to mix your refried beans, salsa, taco seasoning, and cheddar cheese. This will be your delicious stuffing for the pasta shells.
Baking Dish – A three-quart baking dish is perfect to arrange your filled shells in. You’ll also need it to bake your shells in the oven. Grease it well to prevent any sticking and make for easy serving.
How to Make Taco Stuffed Shells
Start by preheating your oven to a temperature of 350˚ F. Then, take a baking dish, preferably a three-quart one, and grease it properly to prevent the shells from sticking.
Step 1: Boil Pasta Shells and Prepare Ground Beef
Take a large pot, fill it with water, and bring it to a boil. Add your jumbo pasta shells to the boiling water and cook them until they’re al dente. Once done, drain the water. Simultaneously, in a large skillet, brown and cook your ground beef till it’s no longer pink. Drain any excess fat.
Step 2: Prepare the Taco Meat Mixture
In a large bowl, combine the refried beans, one cup of salsa, taco seasoning mix, and shredded cheddar cheese. Stir these ingredients until they’re nicely blended.
Step 3: Stuff the Pasta Shells
Carefully spoon about one and a half tablespoons of the taco meat mixture into each pasta shell. Make sure to place the stuffed shells open side down in your greased baking dish.
Step 4: Bake the Taco Stuffed Shells
Once all the shells are stuffed and placed in the baking dish, pour the remaining salsa over the shells. Sprinkle the remaining cheddar cheese on top. Bake your taco stuffed shells in your preheated oven for about fifty to sixty minutes.
Step 5: Serve the Taco Stuffed Shells
Remove your delicious taco stuffed shells from the oven, and serve them warm. If you want, you can garnish with green onions for an extra burst of flavor. Serve it with some lettuce and sour cream for a delicious meal. Enjoy!
Cook Pasta Shells Al Dente: When boiling your jumbo pasta shells, make sure to cook them until they’re just al dente – firm to the bite. This will help them maintain their shape when you fill them with the taco meat mixture and bake.
Drain Your Ground Beef: After browning your ground beef, be sure to drain it thoroughly. This removes excess fat and makes the beef mixture less greasy, allowing your taco seasoning to shine through.
Choose Your Salsa Wisely: The type of salsa you use can greatly impact the flavor of your taco stuffed shells. If you prefer a spicier dish, go for a hot salsa. For a milder flavor, a medium or mild salsa will do the trick.
Experiment with Cheese: While this recipe calls for shredded cheddar cheese, don’t be afraid to mix it up. Try a Mexican cheese blend or Monterey jack cheese for a different, equally delicious flavor profile.
Make It a Freezer Meal: If you want to prepare this meal ahead of time, you can fill your pasta shells, place them in a casserole dish, cover them with plastic wrap, and freeze. When you’re ready to eat, just bake as directed, adding a few extra minutes to the cooking time.
Different Cheese: For a twist on the traditional taco stuffed shells, try adding a Mexican cheese blend or Monterey Jack cheese instead of the cheddar. This will give your shells a different yet delicious flavor profile. Pair it with some tortilla chips on the side for a complete Mexican meal experience.
Switch up the Meat: If you’re looking for a leaner option, swap out the ground beef for ground turkey. It’s just as tasty and gives a healthier twist to your taco stuffed shells. Don’t forget to adjust the taco seasoning to your taste!
Vegetarian Version: Who said taco stuffed shells can’t be vegetarian? Replace the ground beef with black beans for a hearty and protein-rich alternative. Add some diced bell peppers and onions into the mix for an extra crunch.
What to Serve With
- Want to add a fresh element to your taco stuffed shells? Serve them on a bed of crisp lettuce and garnish with dollops of cool sour cream. They offer a delicious contrast that you’ll really enjoy!
- Looking for a fun way to serve your taco stuffed shells? Arrange them on a large platter and let your guests help themselves. You could even set up a toppings bar with extra salsa, sour cream, chopped green onions, and shredded cheese for a DIY taco shell experience.
- Don’t forget the sides! Crispy tortilla chips, a fresh green salad, or a bowl of warm black beans make excellent accompaniments to your taco stuffed shells.
Absolutely! The type of salsa you use can significantly affect the spice level of your taco stuffed shells. If you prefer a spicier dish, go for a hot salsa.
The recipe calls for ground beef, but you can easily substitute it with ground turkey for a leaner option, like venison. Just make sure to cook the meat thoroughly before stuffing it into the pasta shells.
Sure, you can! While the recipe uses shredded cheddar cheese, you can also try using Monterey Jack or a Mexican cheese blend to add a twist to your taco stuffed shells.
Storing and Reheating
Refrigerate: Store the leftover taco stuffed shells in an airtight container and place it in the refrigerator. They will last for up to three days. Remember to keep the sour cream and shredded cheese separate to maintain their freshness.
Reheat Instructions: When you’re ready to enjoy your leftover taco stuffed shells, preheat your oven to a medium-high heat. Place the shells in a baking dish and bake until they are heated through. If you stored the sour cream and shredded cheese separately, add them on top of the shells after reheating.
Freeze: If you want to freeze your taco stuffed shells, make sure they’re completely cooled before you put them in an airtight container or wrap them in plastic wrap. They can be frozen for up to one month. Keep in mind that the pasta shells might become a bit softer after thawing and reheating.
Thaw and Reheat: When you’re ready to eat your frozen taco stuffed shells, let them thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Once they’re thawed, follow the reheating instructions mentioned above.
More Casserole Recipes You’ll Enjoy
What to Expect: This recipe makes eight servings in a three-quart baking pan.
How to Scale: If you want to make more than eight servings, you can double the recipe and follow the instructions as directed. Make sure to use a larger pot to boil the pasta and a larger mixing bowl for the filling. Use two three-quart baking pan or a single 6-quart pan instead.
Taco Stuffed Shells Casserole
- 12 oz (or 34) Jumbo Pasta Shells
- 1 Lb Ground Beef
- 2 Tablespoons Taco Seasoning
- 16 oz Refried Beans
- 2 Cups Shredded Cheddar Cheese divided
- 24 oz Salsa
- 1 Roma Tomato
- 2 Green Onions
- Lettuce Optional
- Sour Cream Optional
- Preheat oven to 350˚ F. Grease a 3 quart baking dish.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the noodles to al dente. Drain. While the noodles are boiling, brown and cook the ground beef in a medium sized skillet over medium heat. Drain the fat.
- In a large bowl, mix together refried beans, 1 cup of salsa, taco seasoning and 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese.
- Pour 1/4 Cup of salsa onto the bottom of the baking dish. Carefully stuff each pasta shell with 1 1/2 tablespoons of meat mixture. Place open side down. Pour the remaining salsa over the stuffed shells. Sprinkle with remaining cheddar cheese.
- Bake in a preheated 350˚ F oven for 50-60 minutes. Serve warm topped with tomatoes and green onions. You can also top with sour cream and lettuce as well.