This easy taco pasta recipe is a super flavorful 30-minute dish with tender ground beef, cheddar, Rotel tomatoes, and your favorite taco seasonings! It's so quick and designed for busy weeknights.
Why you'll crave it
I like nothing better than bringing together the best taco flavors in different and unexpected ways. This taco pasta recipe is the perfect hybrid dish with hearty, filling pasta and loads of cheese. It's also got a really meaty sauce, and that's exactly how we like it... and with a touch of cream to round it all out in typical Salt & Lavender fashion! My homemade seasoning mix with tender ground beef can't be beat.
This beef taco pasta is a fantastic kid-friendly weeknight meal in particular if you've got some fussy eaters in your home. It's creamy, loaded with cheese, and effortless to throw together. Like, really easy. Of course, these are all things that adults like too, so everyone is going to be happy with this spin on taco night.
What you'll need
- Pasta - our kitchen chose shells since they're the ideal shape to hold the sauce. They're perfect little pockets. We've also tested with penne with great results.
- Ground beef - we're using extra lean (96% lean) ground beef since you can then skip the step where you need to drain the fat, and it's healthier overall.
- Seasoning - my homemade taco seasoning blend has chili powder, ground cumin, garlic powder, and smoked paprika for all-out flavor
- Red bell pepper - it's an easy way to sneak in a veggie and add some crunch
- Rotel tomatoes - they're not just diced tomatoes; they have green chilies too! Original has a little kick, but you can use their mild variety if that's a consideration.
- Cheddar - I chose a sharp cheddar and prefer to grate it myself for the best taste and texture vs. using the bagged shredded kind, but if you're in a pinch, that's ok too.
- Heavy cream - for that tasty creaminess in the sauce
- Scallions - optional but a burst of freshness. They're a mild green onion, so the kiddos won't mind it at all.
- If you can't find Rotel, use canned diced tomatoes and get one of those little cans of green chilies separately to use in conjunction. The chilies give this dish a great pop of flavor. It's definitely worth it to include them for that signature taste.
How to make taco pasta
This is an overview with step-by-step photos. Full ingredients & instructions are in the recipe card below.
Cook the pasta al dente according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a skillet brown the ground beef with the taco seasoning blend. Break it apart, and then add in the bell pepper.
Stir in the tomatoes, cream, and cheddar. Cook until incorporated. Add in the drained pasta, toss, and season with salt & pepper. Garnish as desired, and enjoy.
Can I add more toppings?
- You bet! Some chopped cilantro would add even more fresh flavor. You can go all out and add a dollop of sour cream and chopped tomatoes from the garden, sliced avocado, etc. Basically, anything you'd normally top a taco with would be a fun addition to this pasta.
Substitutions and variations
- Feel free to use the spicy variety of Rotel tomatoes if you do want a kick. For even more heat, add a pinch of cayenne pepper or some crushed red pepper flakes.
- I recommend trying my homemade taco seasoning, but you can use a premade seasoning if you wish. However, be mindful of the salt content if you go that route so you don't over-season this pasta.
- If you want this to be creamier, go ahead and add more cream! Conversely, you could leave it out if needed, but it does add moisture and completes the dish.
- Ground turkey would also work in this recipe in place of the ground beef.
What to serve with this pasta
- It's a complete meal by itself, but I won't say no to a bowl of tortilla chips and my Easy Restaurant Style Guacamole as a tasty side!
- You can also serve taco pasta with a salad. Try pairing some mixed greens, your favorite veggies, and my popular Chipotle Lime Ranch Dressing for a crave-worthy salad.
Leftovers and storage
- Leftovers of this pasta will keep for 3-4 days in an airtight container in your fridge.
- Reheat in a small saucepan slowly and over a low heat for best results. Add in a splash of cream if it needs a little reviving.
- I don't recommend freezing this one. Cheesy sauces don't always do so well in the freezer.
Let me know if you've made this simple taco pasta recipe! Questions? Leave me a comment below. As always, tag me #saltandlavender on Instagram with your creations.
Easy Cheesy Taco Pasta
- 8 ounces uncooked pasta
- 1 pound extra lean ground beef
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 red bell pepper chopped
- 1 (10 fluid ounce) can Ro-tel diced tomatoes & green chilies with juices
- 1 cup grated cheddar cheese I used sharp cheddar
- 1/2 cup heavy/whipping cream
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Optional garnish: chopped scallions and cilantro
- Boil a salted pot of water for your pasta. Cook pasta al dente according to package directions.
- Meanwhile, prep your other ingredients and start browning the beef with the spices over medium-high heat in a skillet (approx. 8-10 minutes). Add the red pepper once the meat is broken up a bit and starts to brown.
- If you didn't use very lean ground beef, drain most of the excess fat. Add the Rotel tomatoes, cheese, and the cream. Cook for a few more minutes.
- Drain the pasta and toss with the sauce. Season with salt & pepper and garnish as desired.
- You can use pre-made taco seasoning instead of the individual spices I suggest if you wish.
- Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy only and should be construed as an estimate rather than a guarantee. Ingredients can vary and Salt & Lavender makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information.
This recipe was originally published on August 12, 2019. It's been updated with new photos and better instructions but is the same great recipe!