This 5-ingredient, cheesy taco pasta casserole is one of those tried and true recipes you can doctor up according to what you have on hand or enjoy it as an easy weeknight dinner without all the extras.
It’s great in it’s basic form, but it’s also really versatile. I’m going to show you how to make this taco pasta casserole in it’s most basic form and then give you some ideas for ways to change it up — make it healthier, fancier, and even yummier.
What ingredients are needed to make this taco pasta casserole?
This dish is so simple using just 5 ingredients!
Here’s everything you need: pasta shells (or any type of pasta you’d like), ground beef (you can also use ground chicken or turkey), taco seasoning, salsa (choose your favorite brand and type), and finally, a Mexican cheese blend.
You can add in milk, half and half or sour cream to make the sauce creamy if you’d like.
This taco pasta is so easy to make!
This easy pasta recipe is delicious and yet is so simple to make using just ground beef, taco seasoning, salsa, and cheese. Add sour cream, milk or cream cheese to create a creamy version.
Watch step by step how easy it is to make:
How many people will this taco pasta casserole feed?
This is a BIG casserole. It will feed about 8 people good-sized portions. So this is a great recipe for feeding a crowd say, if you’re hosting a party or a large family dinner. However if you have an average sized family, then you could split this recipe in half. Or go ahead and make this recipe but divide it into two casserole dishes and freeze one for later.
Toppings That Go Well with This Taco Pasta Bake
Alright, so now that you have a good idea of how much this makes. Let’s talk about substitutions and toppings. I’m just going to list out some of the ways you can change up this basic casserole to make it into a completely customized dish, but the prep is basically the same.
Try topping this taco pasta with shredded lettuce or other leafy greens, diced tomatoes, sour cream, olives, onions, fresh salsa, pico de gallo, guacamole, corn, beans, sauteed peppers, lime juice, cilantro and/or pickled jalapeños. Anything you’d put on a taco works!!
Here are some ways to change up this recipe from week to week:
- Try using shredded rotisserie chicken, ground turkey, steak, or cauliflower-walnut “taco meat” instead of ground beef
- Try adding in refried beans or quinoa in addition to or instead of some of the meat for a vegetarian option
- Try using different shaped pasta to change the texture. Experiment and find what you like best. I used shells but you could use elbow macaroni, rotini or even spaghetti noodles! Heck, you could even try using rice.
- Try different cheeses. You could use a blend of cheese, Cotija (a crumbly Mexican cheese), melty queso, etc.
- Try different salsas. I really love fresh or restaurant style salsa but you may love chunky or salsa verde. Any salsa works! You could even make your own salsa.
- Like a little heat? Spice it up some with a few dashes of hot sauce, chili powder and/or some cayenne pepper.
- Add some extras into the bake itself. For example, corn, beans, peppers, green chilies, etc. would all mix into the sauce pretty well vs. using them as toppings.
- You don’t actually have to bake this taco pasta. Try making it in a skillet. The cheese should melt enough when you sprinkle it on top and if not. Who cares? It’s still good with cold cheese just like a taco is. So if you’re short on time. Don’t worry. This recipe is truly no-fail.
Do you have to serve this taco pasta casserole with toppings?
Nope! It’s good just by itself. That’s really the beauty of this time-saving dish. It’s delicious on its own as an easy Hamburger Helper style dish. Or you can really jazz it up if you have time to run to the store and get extras… or maybe you happen to have a few things on hand that would work well as toppings. Great! Throw in what you have and don’t worry about it.
This is one of those really easy back-pocket dinner ideas you can keep in your back pocket. So when you’ve had a long day and you don’t want to stress about dinner. Pull this out of your bag of tricks.
Some tricks for easy clean up:
This can be made using just one pot if you have a dutch oven. Use it to cook the pasta then after you drain the pasta, use it as your casserole dish. You could also use a large cast iron skillet. It’s just a little harder and potentially messier to boil pasta in a cast iron skillet since the sides are low.
Stove Top Method
Don’t want to fire up the oven? Make this on the stove top and just stir the cheese in while everything is still hot.
More Dinner Ideas
Check out my other popular recipes too!
- 2 lbs ground meat beef, chicken and/or turkey *See post for other ideas
- 1 16oz box pasta shells
- 1 15.5oz jar salsa
- 1/2 cup shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese
- 1 1oz packet of taco seasoning + 1 cup water or milk
- Optional: Add 1/2 cup cream cheese sour cream, or half and half for a creamier sauce
- Cook pasta according to package, drain and set aside. To make this using just one pot, use a dutch oven!
- Using your dutch oven or a cast iron skillet, brown meat. When done, drain any fat.
- Add your cooked pasta to the drained meat. (If you don't have a dutch oven or cast iron skillet, you can move everything to a casserole dish.) Then layer with meat.
- Next sprinkle the seasoning packet over the meat then pour water over top. Next add salsa.
- Give everything a stir to mix ingredients together then top with shredded cheese.
- Bake in the oven at 400˚ for about 18-22 minutes or until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbly.
- Serve with any taco-style toppings you'd like. See above post for ideas!