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Taco Stuffed Shells

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overhead shot of Taco Stuffed Shells with spoon in a baking dish
Put a Mexican twist on your pasta with this taco stuffed shells recipe which takes tender noodles and packs them full of all the tasty flavors of seasoned tacos.
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Table of Contents
  1. Taco Stuffed Shells Ingredients
  2. How to Make This Taco Stuffed Shells Recipe
  3. How To Serve
  4. Storage
  5. More Recipes You’ll Love
  6. JUMP TO RECIPE

If you can’t decide between taco or pasta night, check out these cheesy taco stuffed shells. Take all of your favorite taco flavor with seasoned ground beef, salsa, and melted gooey cheese and bake them inside tender pasta shells for a mash-up dish that will be a winner with the whole family.

close up shot of a spoonful of Taco Stuffed Shells

Taco Stuffed Shells Ingredients

Taco Stuffed Shells raw ingredients that are labeled

You’ll need:

  • 24 jumbo pasta shells, cooked according to package directions
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 cup finely diced sweet yellow onion 
  • 1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic
  • 2 (1-ounce) packets mild taco seasoning mix or homemade taco seasoning
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 (16-ounce) container of mild salsa (your favorite brand)
  • 2½ cups shredded Colby jack cheese
  • Taco sauce (optional garnish)

SUBSTITUTIONS AND ADDITIONS

SPICY: If you want a really spicy version, you can substitute hot taco seasoning, medium to hot salsa, hot sauce, and sliced jalapeños for a garnish.

CHEESE: You can substitute shredded pepper jack cheese, a Mexican cheese blend, or cheddar cheese for the cheddar jack cheese in these taco stuffed pasta shells.

GROUND MEAT: Just like traditional tacos, any ground meat, including ground turkey, ground chicken, or ground pork will work.

TOPPINGS: We recommend taco sauce on top of these Mexican stuffed shells, but how about fresh cilantro, a scoop of sour cream, or guacamole too?

How to Make This Taco Stuffed Shells Recipe

OUR RECIPE DEVELOPER SAYS

You can stuff these easy taco stuffed shells the night before you are ready to serve them.

STEP ONE: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly spray a 9×13 baking dish with non-stick spray. Set it aside.

STEP TWO: Add the ground beef, onion, and garlic to a 3 to 4 quart saucepan. Cook beef and onion uncovered over medium-high heat for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring often, until the ground beef is browned and no longer pink. If there is an excess of grease, drain it off.

PRO TIP:

Make sure to break up the beef into small pieces so that you don’t have any large chunks in your filling.

beef, onion, and garlic folded together in a pan

STEP THREE: Lower the heat to medium-low, add the taco seasoning packets, cold water, and the container of salsa to the ground beef mixture. Stir until well combined. Simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring often.

water, taco seasoning, and salsa folded together in a pan

STEP FOUR: Carefully spoon 3 tablespoons of the taco meat mixture into the jumbo shells and place them in the prepared baking dish. Line the filled shells 5 across and 4 down. You will have a couple of extra empty shells leftover.

PRO TIP:

Use a pastry bag without a tip or a Ziploc bag with the end cut off to fill your stuffed shells easily.

meat mixture scooped into the shells in a baking dish

STEP FIVE: Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes.

baking dish cover with aluminum foil

STEP SIX: Remove from the oven and evenly sprinkle the shredded cheese over the stuffed shells. Return the pan, uncovered, to the oven and continue to bake for 10 minutes. Allow the pan to rest for 5 minutes before garnishing with the taco sauce before serving.

shredded cheese sprinkled on top of the shells in a baking dish and then baked

How To Serve

Put a different spin on taco Tuesday with this delicious dinner idea. Add your favorite taco toppings to the dinner table along with our Spanish rice and you will be all set with a delicious meal.

Check out our taco lasagna and taco spaghetti for two more fun ways to shake things up on taco night.

Storage

IN THE FRIDGE: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. 

IN THE FREEZER: You can freeze the unbaked stuffed shells for up to 1 month. Allow the stuffed shells to thaw overnight in the refrigerator before baking as instructed above.

overhead shot of Taco Stuffed Shells in a baking dish

Skip the taco shells and add flavorful taco filling to pasta shells, and you get this delicious combination of Italian and Mexican-inspired dishes all on one plate. Everyone loves both pasta and tacos so you’ll have a guaranteed hit on your hands.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Can I use a different ground meat in this recipe?

This tasty dinner recipe would be delicious with any type of ground meat you would like to use.

Can I make these taco filled pasta shells ahead of time?

The shells can be stuffed the day before and kept in the fridge until you are ready to bake them the next day. You can also prepare the shells and freeze them before baking for a meal later.

Can I make my own taco seasoning?

If you prefer to make your own taco seasoning, you can certainly use that instead of the store bought packet.

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overhead shot of Taco Stuffed Shells with spoon in a baking dish

Taco Stuffed Shells

5 from 2 votes
Put a Mexican twist on your pasta with this taco stuffed shells recipe which takes tender noodles and packs them full of all the tasty flavors of seasoned tacos.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 20 jumbo shells

Ingredients
  

  • 24 jumbo shells, cooked according to package directions
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 cup finely diced sweet yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic
  • 2 ounces mild taco seasoning
  • ¾ cup water
  • 16 ounces mild salsa, (your favorite brand)
  • cups shredded Colby jack cheese
  • Taco sauce, optional garnish

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly spray a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick spray. Set it aside.
  • Add the ground beef, onion and garlic to a 3 to 4 quart saucepan. Cook uncovered, over medium-high heat for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring often, until the ground beef is browned and not longer pink. If there is an excess of grease, drain it off.
  • Lower the heat to medium-low, add the taco seasoning packets, water and the container of salsa. Stir until well combined. Simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring often.
  • Carefully spoon 3 tablespoons of the meat mixture into the shells and place in the prepared baking dish. Line the filled shells 5 across and 4 down. You will have a couple of extra empty shells leftover.
  • Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and evenly sprinkle the shredded cheese over the stuffed shells. Return the pan, uncovered, to the oven and continue to bake for 10 minutes. Allow the pan to rest for 5 minutes before garnishing with the taco sauce before serving.

Notes

  • You can stuff these easy taco stuffed shells the night before you are ready to serve them.
  • Make sure to break up the beef into small pieces so that you don’t have any large chunks in your filling.
  • Use a pastry bag without a tip or a Ziploc bag with the end cut off to fill your stuffed shells easily.

Nutrition

Calories: 178kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 44mg | Sodium: 509mg | Potassium: 269mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 539IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 128mg | Iron: 2mg
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  1. Susan Rivera says

    5 stars
    Love this recipe. There is only my husband and myself, so I had quite a few leftover shells. Using the leftover shells, I made an Italian mix with sausage and spaghetti sauce. I topped it with freshly grated mozzarella cheese, made a side salad and garlic bread. We now have a taco stuffed shell dinner and a few days later, we have a Italian stuffed shell dinner. Worked out great. Thank you.