One pot! This Creamy, Cheesy Taco Pasta recipe is a casserole-like dish that features seasoned beef, fresh tomato and onion and lots of creamy cheese, and it goes straight from the stove-top to your table.
This page contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases when you purchase using the links on this page. It doesn't increase the price of the items for you, and it helps me cover the costs of bringing great recipes to you.
Using almost all fresh ingredients, this Creamy, Cheesy Taco Pasta recipe is packed with flavor. It comes together fairly quickly, with minimal prep time involved. I love the creamy cheese sauce just as much as the one used in the recipe for Shrimp in Spicy Alfredo Sauce with Penne Pasta. (There's a theme going on here.)
What I really love about this Taco Pasta recipe is that it's really just like a taco pasta casserole, except you don't have to turn on the oven.
My niece Rachel made this and everybody went gaga over it! I didn't get a chance to ask her where she got the recipe, so when I got home I did my best to replicate it from memory - and I do believe I got it right.
Hubby likes plenty of heat in this recipe, so I add some cayenne pepper and extra chili powder.
- Ground beef
- Taco seasoning spices:
- Chili powder
- Ground cumin
- Dried parsley
- Salt and pepper
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Cayenne pepper (optional)
- Chopped tomato, onion, cilantro and jalapeno, with lime juice (or a batch of Pico de Gallo - which your supermarket may carry, too, so check the refrigerated sections)
- Cheddar and Pepper Jack cheese
- Sour cream
- Jarred cheese salsa (I used Tostitos brand)
- Heavy cream (only if needed)
This taco "casserole" is truly a one-pot recipe. We'll first cook the pasta in the pot. While the pasta is cooking, prep the cheeses, veggies and measure out the spices. When the pasta is cooked, drain it (don't rinse it) and set it aside. Then we return the pot to the stove and get down to business.
In a large pot, brown and crumble the ground beef.
Add all the spices and mix thoroughly, allowing it to cook 1-2 minutes.
Add the chopped veggies and lime juice. Sauté about 5 minutes, or until the onion is almost translucent.
Stir in all the dairy and the jarred cheese salsa. Cook until the grated cheese is completely melted.
Add the par-cooked pasta back to the pot and simmer until the pasta is finished to your liking. The sauce will thicken as the pasta cooks. Add heavy cream if the sauce thickens too much.
- The amount of spices added to this taco casserole recipe is key. It may seem like a lot, but remember you're seasoning not only the beef, but also the cheese sauce and pasta.
- If you don't feel like chopping tomato, onion, cilantro and jalapeno, check your supermarket - many larger stores carry freshly made Pico de Gallo, which is basically what we're using in this recipe.
- Remove excess juices from the pan after cooking the beef (a good bulb baster works well for this), but don't discard it. You may need to add some back to the pan for cooking the spices and veggies.
- Once you add the cheeses, you'll want to stir frequently to avoid sticking and scorching on the bottom of the pan, especially if you're not using a non-stick pan. A good silicone spatula is the best tool for this.
Variations and Substitutions
Instead of using individual spices, you could opt for a packaged taco seasoning mix. Before I developed my own recipe for taco seasoning, I tried all the mixes from the supermarket and tended to always come back to the McCormick brand.
If you don't feel like chopping tomato, onion, cilantro and jalapeno, check your supermarket - many larger stores carry freshly made Pico de Gallo, which is basically what we're using in this recipe.
You can easily use Monterrey Jack cheese instead of Pepper Jack.
After you add the pasta back to the pan, you could opt to finish the dish in the oven by transferring it to a casserole dish and baking it at 350F for about 30 minutes, or until the pasta is done. Baking it will make it a true taco pasta casserole.
Like most casseroles, this Creamy, Cheesy Taco Pasta recipe will keep in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week, if it lasts that long. Store it in the freezer, too, in a Ziploc-type freezer bag; just fill the bag and squeeze out as much of the air as possible, then lay it flat to even out the contents (this way it's easier to store and will thaw much quicker). Reheat on the stove top on low, or in the microwave oven.
Like this Taco Pasta Casserole? Here's more Mexican and Latin American dishes...
Creamy, Cheesy Taco Pasta
- ½ pound pasta Penne, ziti, rotini, orecchiette, etc.
- 1 pound ground beef, 75-80% lean
- 3 tomatoes cored, seeded and diced
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 cup chopped cilantro chopped
- ½ jalapeno pepper finely diced
- ½ cup lime juice freshly squeezed
- 2 tablespoons ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper optional
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon paprika not smoked
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- 4 ounces cheddar cheese grated
- 4 ounces pepper jack cheese grated
- ⅔ cup sour cream
- 10 ounces jarred cheese salsa I use Tostitos brand, medium heat
- heavy cream only if needed
- While the pasta is cooking (see next step), chop the onion, tomato, cilantro and jalapeno (it's perfectly acceptable to chop and use the tender cilantro stems). Grate the cheese. Measure out the spices. Set aside.
- In a large pot, boil the pasta to about al dente - almost done. Drain the pasta and set aside, but do not rinse.
- Return the pot to the range. Over medium heat, brown and crumble the ground beef. Drain excess liquid but do not discard - you may find the need to add some back to the pan for cooking the spices and veggies.
- Lower the heat to medium-low. Add all the spices to the ground beef and mix thoroughly. Sauté for about 2 minutes.
- Add the chopped fresh veggies and lime juice and sauté until the onion is almost translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add the cheeses, sour cream and jarred cheese salsa. Mix thoroughly and cook until the grated cheese is fully melted and incorporated.
- Add the pasta back into the pan and stir thoroughly to mix well. Bring the pot to a simmer and continue simmering until the pasta reaches your preferred level of doneness. The pasta will thicken the sauce. Add heavy cream to thin the sauce if it thickens beyond your liking. Serve.