Taco Stuffed Shells are a delightful twist on traditional Mexican flavors, combining the comfort of Italian cuisine with the zesty elements of a classic taco. This innovative dish features jumbo pasta shells generously filled with a seasoned mixture of ground beef or turkey, black beans, corn, and spices. The shells cradle this savory medley, creating a satisfying and visually appealing fusion of textures.
The filling, infused with taco seasoning, garlic, and onions, delivers a robust and aromatic profile, capturing the essence of a taco. A layer of melted cheese crowns each shell, enhancing the dish with gooey richness. The juxtaposition of the tender pasta, hearty meat filling, and melted cheese creates a mouthwatering experience that caters to both pasta and taco enthusiasts.
Taco Stuffed Shells can be customized to suit various preferences, allowing for the addition of ingredients like diced tomatoes, green onions, or jalapeños for an extra kick. Served with a dollop of sour cream, a drizzle of salsa, and a sprinkle of fresh cilantro, these stuffed shells become a festive and crowd-pleasing centerpiece for family dinners or gatherings.
This inventive recipe offers a playful and creative take on two beloved culinary traditions, resulting in a dish that brings the best of both worlds to the table. Taco Stuffed Shells not only provide a delightful dining experience but also showcase the endless possibilities that arise when diverse culinary influences come together in harmony.
- 20–24 jumbo shell pasta
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 3 tablespoons taco seasoning
- ¾ cup water
- 1 cup salsa or salsa-style tomatoes
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- 1 (10-ounce) can Rotel tomatoes, drained (or diced tomatoes)
- 1 jalapeno or serrano pepper, finely minced
- Green onion (optional garnish)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×13 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the shells according to package directions and drain well.
- Meanwhile, brown the ground beef over medium-high heat in a large skillet. When it is about halfway through the browning process, add the onion and continue cooking until the beef is browned and the onions are soft. If needed, drain any excess grease from the skillet.
- Add the taco seasoning and water to the ground beef mixture. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add the salsa and stir to combine. Remove from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes. Once cooled, stir in half of each cheese.
- Spoon the seasoned ground beef mixture into the shells and lay them in a single layer in the prepared dish. Top with the remaining cheese, Rotel tomatoes, and minced jalapeno. Bake covered for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 5 minutes. Sprinkle with minced jalapeno or green onion. For best results, serve promptly.
- For a little more kick, substitute minced serrano pepper for the jalapeno. Serrano peppers have a Scoville heat ranking between 5000 to 15000, while jalapenos have a Scoville heat ranking between 2000 to 5000.
- Any kind of tomato is great on top of these shells. I have used fire-roasted tomatoes, sliced grape tomatoes, and quartered cherry tomatoes with good success.
- Use my homemade taco seasoning with tons of flavor from chili powder, cumin, paprika, oregano, and red pepper flakes.
- For a change of pace, try ground turkey or ground pork.
- If desired, top with sour cream, green onions, black olives, black beans, Pico de Gallo, or guacamole.
- Wear gloves when mincing jalapenos or other hot peppers or, at the very least, do not touch your face and thoroughly wash your hands after handling the peppers. To tame the heat, remove the veins and seeds with a spoon.
- Pro Tip – don’t risk dropping the ground beef in the sink to drain the fat. Simply tilt the pan and use a paper towel to absorb the grease.
- Add a few extra shells when boiling the pasta, as inevitably, some of them will tear.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave at reduced power.
- Freeze for up to 3 months in a sturdy container.