Cheesy Taco Pasta is easy to make and tastes like the Hamburger Helper you used to eat as a kid except better. Much better.
Cheesy Taco Pasta is my nod to the hamburger helper I grew up eating as a kid. While this isn’t exactly the “crunchy taco hamburger helper” because I skipped adding the tortilla chips on top, the ooey gooey meat and cheese sauce is still the same and with just a few ingredients!
You can certainly add your own fresh vegetables to the mix instead of the salsa, but I used a good jarred salsa and it tasted fantastic. On occasion I’ve also used fresh salsa (I firmly believe that recipe is one of the best ever), but the higher water content of it makes the pasta more watery.
You can also make this Cheesy Taco Pasta as cheesy as you’d like. I added only a single cup of cheese, while some in my family will add additional piles of cheese to their plate. If you want your pasta to be really cheesy I suggest 2 cups of cheese.
You can also freeze this pasta for a later date. I’d skip adding the cheese and when you defrost it, use a cup of chicken or beef stock. Then once warmed through add the cheese, mix and serve.
Looking for more great cheesy pasta dishes? Look no further:
- Cheesy Taco Stuffed Shells – the XL version of this recipe!
- Bacon Cheeseburger Hamburger Helper
- Pepperoni Pizza Hamburger Helper
- Philly Cheesesteak Hamburger Helper
- Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta Bake
And yes, you can absolutely add crushed chips to the top! Then you’ll be re-living some awesome childhood hamburger helper memories. Or if you want something a bit different you can also make my Mexican Stuffed Peppers with all the taco flavors but none of the pasta!
Tools Used in the making of this Cheesy Taco Pasta:
Cast Iron Skillet: This is my most used pan in my kitchen, heavy, keeps heat well and gives the BEST sear ever.
Large Shells Pasta: I am linking to this because when I sent my husband to the store to get large shells he brought home the variety you stuff! So for reference here is the size you need!
Jarred Salsa: Cuts the prep time down to just a couple of minutes and the flavors are still outstanding.
Taco Seasoning: I use this to cut down on prep time but still keep quality high. You can use my Homemade Taco Seasoning recipe if you’d prefer not to use a packet.
- 1/2 pound large shells pasta
- 1 pound ground beef
- 2 tablespoons taco seasoning (or 1 packet)
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 cup jarred salsa
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- Cook the shelled pasta according to the directions on the box and drain.
- Add the ground beef to the pan and brown well.
- Drain the fat.
- Add the taco seasoning and ¾ cup of water, stir and cook until water is gone.
- Add the pasta back into the pot with the salsa and cheese.
- Stir to combine.
- Serve immediately, preferably with crunchy tortilla chips (optional) on top.
Can no longer find the Muir salsa in my area. Any recommendations for others?
With so many salsas to choose from I would be hard pressed to choose for you. I can tell you that if you prefer Muir salsa, you can order it from Amazon.
I prepared as is, but after tasting, I decided to add in a freshly diced tomato and some freshly shredded pepper jack cheese. I may use my own Mexican seasoning mix next time instead of the packaged taco seasoning. Super quick meal that goes great with a fresh salad on the side.
Hi Theresa. Thanks for the great review. I created and tested my own Homemade Taco Seasoning recipe (https://dinnerthendessert.com/homemade-taco-seasoning/?swcfpc=1) since I wrote Cheesy Taco Pasta! If you decide to use it with this recipe sometime, I would love to hear what you think!
Made this today. I used half queso and half salsa. So good.
So easy and delish. I didn’t change anything aside from using a tex mex cheese blend instead of just cheddar. The grown up version of Hamburger Helper. This will become a regular staple.
It was still a bit bland using ground beef, even with hot taco mix, so we switched to Chorizo sausage with the casings cut off and cooked like ground beef. Very tasty.
You forgot tha salsa from the directions! When to add the salsa?
It’s in step 5.
Can this be made with ground chicken?
Your question got buried over the holiday, my apologies. With a similar texture, ground chicken or ground turkey can be superb substitutes for ground beef. The poultry is a bit paler than beef, which can change the appearance of some dishes, but they still taste equally delicious.
Hope you’ll try it and let us know!
I make a toppings bar for this recipe. I use halved cherry tomatoes, jalapeños, avocado, sour cream and extra salsa. It’s a huge hit.
This barely fed my family of 3, I have no clue how someone would get 8 servings out of this.
Simple and delicious recipe, and easy to customize to your preference.
Will definitely double the recipe next time.
This was delicious. Fast easy and good.
Very quick. I needed a quick meal and I had everything that the recipe called for. I was a little short on the salsa but it turned out pretty good. I added grated cheddar to the top fir a bit more cheese. Overall a keeper.
Made this for my 11 year old twin grandsons, and they loved it (I used homemade taco seasoning). Made a double batch for them to put in the freezer for future meals. After a football game, they devoured the whole pan … all by themselves!! They like to use tortilla chips and either crush them on top or use the chips to dip into the cheesy taco pasta. This is a definite “win”. Thank you.
Made this for my 11 year old twin grandsons, and they loved it (I used homemade taco seasoning). Made a double batch for them to put in the freezer for future meals. After a football game, they devoured the whole pan … all by themselves!! They like to use tortilla chips and either crush them on top, or use them to dip the cheesy taco pasta. Definitely a “win”! Thank you!
This was a great start. I made home made taco seasoning, added a can of rotel diced tomatoes and green chiles, a litttle beef stock and heavy cream to create a cheese sauce. Thanks for the recipe, my kids loved this.
This recipe is so delicious and my kid loves it.
What is the serving size for the nutrition facts included?
I didn’t have shell pasta, so used some spirals I had on hand. Also, I saw someone’s comment about adding cream cheese, so I threw in some of that. I eyeballed the ingredients really, as I make quite a bit of taco type things. This is my first at taco pasta though, and it turned out good. For my family of 5, it was perfect.
Didn’t have salsa so added onions with the ground beef, and a can of rotel.
Just curious though, I see the nutritional info, but no serving size. I would assume a cup, but wanted to sure.
Excellent recipe! I think we will add the cream cheese for the extra sauce factor. Delicious and for sure will be making again!
I’ve made this several times. It’s very easy and delicious! I always eat way too much of it!! It’s definitely worth it to make the homemade taco seasoning.
All i can say is yummy ?
Absolutely delicious. I used salsa and queso instead of shredded cheese, and I threw some fiesta corn in too…awesome! Thanks for the recipe!
This was a simple and delicious meal. Thanks so much for the recipe!
Quick & Simple. This recipe was very fast to prepare, simple ingredients that mostly everyone will have on hand. While it’s not bursting with lots of flavors, it’s still a good recipe. Next time I make this, I will trying using a “medium” salsa, maybe put some jalapeño and/or hot sauce. I will also try using some velveeta or a combo of Cheddar & monterey jack cheese. Thank you for sharing this recipe with us.
My family loved this! I didn’t have salsa so I used marinara sauce and it was sooo good!
This was easy and tasty. I’m sure it would be a hit with the grandkids. I didn’t have shell pasta so used penne pasta that’s what I had on hand. I didn’t have a packet of taco seasoning mix so used a packet of fajita seasoning. I think next time I’ll only use half the amount of ground beef though. Overall a very easy and tasty weeknight meal. I served it with corn seasoned with chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder and cumin.
I am assuming you add the salsa and mix it all together…. or do you pour the salsa on top?
Tried this and was one of my favorite meals!!! Delicious!! Highly recommend!
This dish was really good! Everyone enjoyed it!
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