Cheesy taco beef baked underneath a crunchy tortilla chip layer then loaded with classic taco toppings – This truly is the ultimate taco pasta!
Taco Pasta Casserole
This ain’t no ordinary taco pasta we’re dealing with here. This is a casserole style pasta that is going to change your life forever. Well, for now anyway. Let’s see what we’re working with here:
- Pasta Layer – Ooey gooey cheesy taco flavoured ground beef pasta YES MA’AM.
- Crispy Layer – We’re gonna use crushed tortilla chips or hard taco shells to create an ultra crispy layer, then bake it in the oven (yes, dreams really do come true).
- Taco Toppings – Once fresh out the oven it’s time to load everything up with the ultimate combo of taco toppings.
All in all this is a total dream. It’s spicy, cheesy, filling, down and damn right dirty. In the best way possible. Anywho, cheese anyone?
Making Cheesy Taco Pasta
The main bulk, and the star of this casserole, is indeed the cheesy taco pasta. As such, it’s important to get it right. Easy method, simple ingredients, but let’s quickly discuss a few.
I always go for conchiglie, mainly because the beef gets caught up in the pasta shell and makes it seem like lots of mini pasta tacos. However, if you’re not as easily as amused as I am, you can use any other short cut pasta you fancy. In all cases it’s important to slightly undercook the pasta so it doesn’t turn soft and sloppy when baked.
I usually go for beef around 10-12% lean. Gives it a bit of fatty flavour, but not so much it turns oily/greasy. If you only have fatty beef just drain away some of the fat.
For me it’s a 3 way split between cheddar, mozzarella and monterey jack. You can also use ‘Mexican Cheese Blends’ if your store sells it. Any melty cheese works though.
I of course recommend my Ground Beef Taco Seasoning! But your favourite store bought brand will work fine too.
How to make Cheesy Taco Pasta (quick summary)
- Fry onion/jalapeño.
- Brown Beef.
- Add seasoning.
- Stir in tomato puree.
- Pour in beef stock & chopped tomatoes and simmer.
- Stir in pasta with pasta water.
- Add cheese.
- Combine until gooey.
Taco Pasta Bake
Alright, here’s where things get fun.
You’re right, most pasta bakes do indeed have a layer of cheese on top and then baked. BUT, here we’re dealing with a crispy crunchy layer instead. You know, just to keep in with the taco theme and all that jazz. My first choice here is to use hard tortilla shells, but you can sub tortilla chips.
To crush them I find it easiest in a zip lock bag, squeeze out the air and crush with your hands (or a rolling pin). You can also use a food processor.
After we’ve baked it’s time to load up with your favourite taco toppings. Here’s the usual suspects for me:
- Sour Cream
- Red Onion
- Lime (to serve)
How to make Baked Taco Pasta (quick summary)
- Add cheesy taco pasta to casserole dish.
- Top with crushed tortilla/taco, spray with oil and bake.
- Load with toppings.
From there it’s time to face plant! This will make a full meal for 5 (4 very hungry) so no need for sides. I also recommend diving in quick, or the sour cream with start to turn the topping soft.
Delicious Pasta Bakes
Alrighty, let’s tuck into the full taco pasta bake recipe shall we?!
How to make Taco Pasta Bake (Full Recipe & Video)
Taco Pasta Bake
- Large Deep Frying Pan & Wooden Spoon
- Sharp Knife & Chopping Board
- Zip Lock Bag
- 9" x 9" Casserole Dish (or similar size)
- Large Pot & Colander
- Serving Spoon
Ingredients (check list):
Taco Pasta Bake
- 1lb / 500g Ground Beef (10-12%)
- 10.5oz / 300g Conchiglie (or other short cut pasta)
- 1 cup / 250ml Low Sodium Beef Stock
- 1x 14oz / 400g can of Chopped Tomatoes
- 1 cup / 100g Cheese (see notes)
- 1/2 cup Crushed Tortilla Chips or Hard Taco Shells, or as needed (see notes)
- 3 tbsp Taco Seasoning
- 1/2 medium Onion, finely diced
- 1/4 cup Pickled Jalapeños, finely diced (optional)
- 1 heaped tbsp Tomato Puree (Tomato Paste in US)
- Olive Oil, for frying
- Oil Spray, to top
- Sour Cream, to drizzle
- Red Onion, finely diced
- Tomato, finely diced
- Avocado, diced
- Lime, to serve
- Add a drizzle of oil to a large pan over medium heat and add onion (and jalapeños if using). Fry until they begin to soften & brown, then add beef. Break up with a wooden spoon and continue frying until nicely browned and fully cooked through.
- Add in taco seasoning then stir in 1 heaped tbsp tomato puree. Fry for a few mins, then pour in 1cup/250ml beef stock and 1 can of chopped tomatoes. Deglaze the pan as necessary, give it all a good stir and allow to simmer on low-medium for 10-15mins until the sauce begins to thicken and the tomatoes have burst.
- Meanwhile pop 10.5oz/300g pasta in salted boiling water and cook until JUST al dente (if it's properly cooked it'll turn soft and sloppy in the oven, you want it still a little hard). Just before draining scoop out a cup of the starchy pasta water. Pre heat oven to 200C/390F.
- Combine pasta and beef with 1/3cup of starchy pasta water. Give it a good stir until everything is blended. The starchy water will help create a sauce, with the starch molecules emulsifying with the fat in the sauce. Stir in your cheese until nice and gooey, the pour into a casserole dish.
- Top with crushed tortilla chips or hard taco shells (just enough to create a thin layer over the top fully covering the pasta). Spray with oil, then pop in the oven for 20mins, or until the top goes nice and golden. Be vigilant, top goes golden to burnt quickly.
- Top with your favourite taco toppings (suggestions in ingredients list) and enjoy!
Quick 1 min demo!
If you loved this Taco Pasta Recipe then be sure to pin it for later! Already made them or got a question? Give me a shout in the comments below and pick up your free ecookbook along the way!