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Cheesy Taco Pasta Bake

March 14, 2020 (Last Updated: December 5, 2022) by Chris Collins

Cheesy taco beef baked underneath a crunchy tortilla chip layer then loaded with classic taco toppings – This truly is the ultimate taco pasta!

overhead shot of taco pasta with taco ingredients on top in casserole dish

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?

close up shot of taco pasta in dish with toppings

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)

  1. Fry onion/jalapeño.
  2. Brown Beef.
  3. Add seasoning.
  4. Stir in tomato puree.
  5. Pour in beef stock & chopped tomatoes and simmer.
  6. Stir in pasta with pasta water.
  7. Add cheese.
  8. Combine until gooey.

How to make cheesy taco pasta - 8 step by step photos

scooping pasta out of pan with cheese dripping down

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
  • Tomato
  • Avocado
  • Lime (to serve)

How to make Baked Taco Pasta (quick summary)

  1. Add cheesy taco pasta to casserole dish.
  2. Top with crushed tortilla/taco, spray with oil and bake.
  3. Load with toppings.

How to bake taco pasta - 3 step by step photo

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.

If you like the sound of this recipe then definitely check out my Ground Beef Tacos and Cheesy Ground Beef Quesadillas! For more similar recipes check out these beauties too:

Delicious Pasta Bakes

Alrighty, let’s tuck into the full taco pasta bake recipe shall we?!

closeup shot of taco pasta in casserole dish with portion scooped out

How to make Taco Pasta Bake (Full Recipe & Video)

overhead shot of taco pasta with taco ingredients on top in casserole dish

Taco Pasta Bake

Cheesy taco beef baked underneath a crunchy tortilla chip layer then loaded with classic taco toppings - This truly is the ultimate taco pasta!!
5 from 6 votes
Print Pin Rate
Servings (click & slide): 5
Course: Dinner / Main Course
Cuisine: Tex Mex
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Calories per serving: 522kcal
Cost per serving: £2.50 / $3


  • 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 1/3 cup of the starchy pasta water. Pre heat oven to 200C/390F.
  • Combine pasta and beef with the 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!


a) What Cheese to use? - I usually go for equal quantities of cheddar, mozzarella and monterey jack. A bag of 'Mexican Cheese Blend' is always good if your supermarket/grocery store serves that. Any sort of 'melty' cheese works great.
b) Crispy Layer - I find the best way to crush the chips/tacos is to place them in a zip lock bag, squeeze out the air and just crush with your hands. You can also use a rolling pin. Alternatively you can blitz them in a food processor. Either way if you're using chips I recommend a neutral flavour and not too heavily salted.
c) Seasoning -  I of course recommend my Homemade Taco Seasoning. If you are using Jalapeños I recommend halving the amount of cayenne pepper (can add more later) just incase you find it too spicy. 
d) Calories - Based on using 1 tsp oil for frying, 1 cup monterey jack cheese, 1/2 cup crushed no added salt tortilla chips to top and no toppings taken in to consideration. Sharing between 5.

Your Private Notes:


Nutrition Facts
Taco Pasta Bake
Amount Per Serving
Calories 522 Calories from Fat 176
% Daily Value*
Fat 19.5g30%
Saturated Fat 8.33g42%
Trans Fat 0.49g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.77g
Monounsaturated Fat 7.314g
Cholesterol 79mg26%
Sodium 671mg28%
Potassium 659mg19%
Carbohydrates 56.78g19%
Fiber 8.6g34%
Sugar 2.39g3%
Protein 29.29g59%
Vitamin A 665IU13%
Vitamin C 6.1mg7%
Calcium 211mg21%
Iron 3.57mg20%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition is based on the absence of salt unless stated as a measurement in the ingredients. Cost is worked out based on ingredients bought from UK supermarkets, then divided by the number of servings. In both instances these values are just for guidance. Please check out my FAQ Page for more info.
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Looking for more?You'll find plenty more delicious comfort food like this in my Debut Cookbook 'Comfy'

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Recipe Rating


  • Reply
    Barb DeVinney
    August 21, 2023 at 4:23 pm

    5 stars
    I have made this many times because it is so delicious! I was just wondering why we save 1 cup of pasta water but only use 1/3 cup?

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      August 22, 2023 at 10:01 am

      That’s a good question! I’ve altered it now 🙂 C.

  • Reply
    January 18, 2022 at 10:26 pm

    Am I missing the temperture for the oven somewhere?

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      January 19, 2022 at 9:57 am

      At the end of step 3 you’ll see ‘Pre heat oven to 200C/390F.’ 🙂

  • Reply
    March 15, 2020 at 9:15 am

    5 stars
    All my favourite flavours in a pasta bake. YUM!

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      March 15, 2020 at 9:49 am

      Thanks Dannii!

  • Reply
    Farah Abumaizar
    March 15, 2020 at 8:29 am

    5 stars
    Genius! Perfect marriage of cuisines. It looks so flavourful and delicious, can’t wait to give it a whirl!

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      March 15, 2020 at 9:49 am

      Hope you love it 🙂

  • Reply
    March 15, 2020 at 7:58 am

    5 stars
    OMG YUM!!! I lov this recipe. It also makes me so hungry. The step by step photos are awesome and so clear. Can’t wait to give this a go, am going to cook tonight, cheers!

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      March 15, 2020 at 9:49 am

      That’s awesome, enjoy!

  • Reply
    Krissy Allori
    March 15, 2020 at 2:20 am

    5 stars
    This is a marriage of two of my favorite foods. Tacos and pasta all together. Yes, please! On the menu for next week.

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      March 15, 2020 at 9:49 am


  • Reply
    Denay DeGuzman
    March 15, 2020 at 1:29 am

    5 stars
    I just made this taco pasta bake, and it’s absolutely fabulous! Everyone loved this recipe. It’s festive, flavorful, and very satisfying. This recipe’s a keeper!

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      March 15, 2020 at 9:49 am

      So glad it went down well! 🙂