Taco Stuffed Shells Recipe

Taco Stuffed Shells are a delicious blend of Mexican and Italian cuisines. This comfort food dish takes the familiar flavors of tacos and combines them with the concept of stuffed pasta shells to create a hearty and unique meal that's sure to impress. The blend of spicy taco seasoning, creamy cheddar cheese, and tangy salsa melds perfectly with the soft pasta shells to create a dish that's out of this world.

Taco Stuffed Shells Recipe

Photos of Taco Stuffed Shells Recipe

The ingredients for this recipe are commonly available in most supermarkets. However, jumbo pasta shells might not be in every pantry. They are usually found in the pasta aisle of your local supermarket. If you can't find them, manicotti or large rigatoni can be used as a substitute. Also, be sure to pick up your favorite brand of salsa and taco seasoning, and a good quality cheddar cheese for the best flavor.

Ingredients for Taco Stuffed Shells

Jumbo pasta shells: These will act as the 'taco shell' for our Mexican-Italian fusion dish.

Ground beef: The main protein in our dish. This will be cooked with taco seasoning for that familiar taco flavor.

Taco seasoning: Adds the classic taco flavors to our ground beef.

Water: Used to help spread the taco seasoning evenly among the ground beef.

Salsa: Adds extra flavor and a bit of heat to the dish. Choose the level of spice that suits your taste.

Cheddar cheese: Gives a deliciously creamy finish to our taco stuffed shells.

One reader, Adolph Boynton says:

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This taco stuffed shells recipe is a game-changer! The combination of pasta shells, seasoned ground beef, and gooey cheese is a flavor explosion. It's easy to make and a hit with my family. The fusion of taco flavors and Italian pasta is genius. A must-try for any taco lover!

Adolph Boynton

Techniques Required for Making Taco Stuffed Shells

How to cook the pasta shells: Boil the pasta shells in a pot of salted water according to the directions on the box until al dente, then drain and set aside.

How to brown the ground beef: Add the ground beef to a heated pot or skillet and cook over medium-high heat, breaking it apart with a spoon, until it is no longer pink.

How to make the taco seasoning: Mix together chili powder, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, salt, and pepper in a small bowl to create the taco seasoning.

How to stuff the pasta shells: Using a spoon, carefully fill each cooked pasta shell with the taco meat mixture, ensuring they are evenly filled.

How to top the stuffed shells: Spoon the remaining salsa over the stuffed shells and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top before baking.

How to bake the stuffed shells: Cover the baking dish with foil and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

How to serve: Serve the taco stuffed shells warm and enjoy!

How To Make Taco Stuffed Shells

Make your weeknight dinners better with a filling plate of stuffed shells! It’s loaded with classic taco flavors and creamy cheese for a full meal.

Preparation: 5 minutes
Cooking: 25 minutes
Total: 30 minutes



  • 12ozjumbo pasta shells
  • 1lbground beef
  • taco seasoning1 packet
  • cupwater
  • cupssalsajarred, divided
  • 1cupcheddar cheeseshredded, divided


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

  2. Cook the pasta shells in a pot according to the directions on the box, then drain.

  3. Add the ground beef to the pot, then brown well.

  4. Drain the fat.

  5. Add the taco seasoning and water, then stir and cook until the water has dissolved.

  6. Stir in 1 cup of salsa and ¾ cup of cheese.

  7. Scoop the mixture into the jumbo pasta shells, then top with the remaining salsa and cheese.

  8. Bake in a covered pan for 15 minutes.

  9. Serve warm, and enjoy!


  • Calories: 510.54kcal
  • Fat: 23.53g
  • Saturated Fat: 10.17g
  • Trans Fat: 1.15g
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 8.66g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 1.10g
  • Carbohydrates: 47.00g
  • Fiber: 2.98g
  • Sugar: 4.14g
  • Protein: 26.66g
  • Cholesterol: 76.12mg
  • Sodium: 654.28mg
  • Calcium: 194.30mg
  • Potassium: 532.53mg
  • Iron: 2.50mg
  • Vitamin A: 76.48µg
  • Vitamin C: 1.23mg

Helpful Technique for Preparing Taco Stuffed Shells

When stuffing the pasta shells, it's best to let them cool slightly after boiling. This makes them easier to handle and reduces the risk of tearing. Also, be sure not to overstuff the shells. Leaving a little space allows the flavors of the taco seasoning, salsa, and cheese to meld together beautifully inside the shell during baking.

Time-Saving Tips for Preparing Taco Stuffed Shells

Prep ahead: Prepare the taco meat and cook the pasta shells in advance to save time when assembling the dish.

Use store-bought: Consider using pre-made taco seasoning and salsa to cut down on prep time.

Batch cooking: Make a larger quantity of the taco meat and freeze the extra for future use in this recipe or other dishes.

One-pot cooking: Cook the pasta shells and taco meat in the same pot to minimize clean-up and save time.

Organize ingredients: Gather and measure all the ingredients before starting to streamline the cooking process.

Efficient assembly: Use a piping bag or a resealable plastic bag with the corner snipped off to quickly fill the pasta shells with the taco mixture.

Pre-shredded cheese: Opt for pre-shredded cheese to eliminate the extra step of grating it yourself.

Multi-task: While the pasta shells are cooking, prepare the taco meat to make the most of your time in the kitchen.

Substitute Ingredients For Taco Stuffed Shells Recipe

  • jumbo pasta shells - Substitute with large pasta shells: Large pasta shells can be used as a substitute for jumbo pasta shells, providing a similar shape and texture for the recipe.

  • ground beef - Substitute with ground turkey: Ground turkey can be used as a leaner alternative to ground beef, offering a healthier option while still providing a similar texture and flavor.

  • taco seasoning - Substitute with homemade taco seasoning: Making your own taco seasoning allows you to control the spice level and avoid any unnecessary additives or preservatives.

  • salsa - Substitute with diced tomatoes with Mexican seasoning: Using diced tomatoes with Mexican seasoning can provide a similar flavor profile to salsa while controlling the texture and heat level.

  • cheddar cheese - Substitute with Monterey Jack cheese: Monterey Jack cheese can be used as a substitute for cheddar, offering a milder flavor and smooth melting properties.

Presentation Ideas for Taco Stuffed Shells

  1. Elevate the plating: When presenting the taco stuffed shells, focus on creating an elegant and visually appealing arrangement on the plate. Consider using edible flowers or microgreens to add a pop of color and freshness to the dish.

  2. Incorporate texture: Introduce a contrast in textures by adding a crunchy element to the dish, such as a sprinkle of finely crushed tortilla chips or toasted pumpkin seeds for a delightful crunch.

  3. Emphasize flavor balance: Ensure that each component of the dish is well-balanced in terms of flavor. Highlight the savory notes of the taco seasoning and beef while complementing it with a drizzle of lime crema or a dollop of avocado puree for a touch of creaminess and acidity.

  4. Utilize negative space: Embrace the concept of negative space on the plate to allow the stuffed shells to stand out. Consider using a minimalist approach, allowing the vibrant colors of the dish to take center stage against a clean, white backdrop.

  5. Precision in plating: Pay attention to the placement of each stuffed shell on the plate, ensuring uniformity and precision in presentation. Arrange the shells in a deliberate manner, creating an aesthetically pleasing and organized layout.

  6. Garnish with finesse: Elevate the visual appeal of the dish by garnishing with a drizzle of cilantro oil or a sprinkle of cotija cheese for an added layer of complexity and sophistication.

  7. Consider the plate shape and size: Select a plate that complements the shape and size of the stuffed shells, allowing them to be the focal point of the presentation. Opt for a plate with a wide rim to frame the dish beautifully.

  8. Highlight the filling: Showcase the vibrant and flavorful filling of the stuffed shells by arranging them in a manner that allows the guests to see the enticing ingredients within. Consider a slight tilt or angle to display the contents attractively.

Essential Tools for Making Taco Stuffed Shells

  • Pot: A large, deep container used for cooking food over heat.
  • Oven: A kitchen appliance used for baking or roasting food.
  • Skillet: A flat-bottomed pan used for frying, searing, and browning food.
  • Colander: A bowl-shaped kitchen utensil with perforations used for draining food such as pasta or rice.
  • Baking dish: A deep, oven-safe dish used for baking various dishes such as casseroles and desserts.
  • Spatula: A kitchen tool with a broad, flat, flexible blade used for lifting and turning food during cooking.
  • Measuring cup: A kitchen utensil used to measure the volume of liquid or dry ingredients.
  • Mixing spoon: A long-handled spoon used for mixing and stirring ingredients.
  • Knife: A sharp-edged utensil used for cutting and preparing food.
  • Cutting board: A durable board used as a surface for cutting and preparing food.
  • Tongs: A kitchen tool consisting of two arms with a pivot joint, used for gripping and lifting food items.
  • Baking sheet: A flat, rectangular metal sheet used for baking and roasting in the oven.

Storage and Freezing Instructions for Taco Stuffed Shells

Here are the storing and freezing guidelines for the taco stuffed shells recipe:

  • Allow the taco stuffed shells to cool completely before storing or freezing.
  • To store in the refrigerator:
    • Place the cooled shells in an airtight container or wrap tightly with plastic wrap.
    • Refrigerate for up to 3-4 days.
    • To reheat, place the shells in a baking dish, cover with foil, and bake at 350°F until heated through (about 20-30 minutes).
  • To freeze:
    • Place the cooled shells in a freezer-safe container or wrap tightly with plastic wrap and then aluminum foil.
    • Label the container with the date and contents.
    • Freeze for up to 2-3 months.
    • To reheat, remove the shells from the freezer and let them thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
    • Place the thawed shells in a baking dish, cover with foil, and bake at 350°F until heated through (about 30-40 minutes).
  • For best results, add extra salsa or cheese on top of the shells before reheating to maintain moisture and flavor.
  • If you plan to freeze the shells, consider undercooking the pasta slightly to prevent it from becoming too soft when reheated.

How To Reheat Leftover Taco Stuffed Shells

  • Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Place the leftover taco stuffed shells in an oven-safe dish and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until heated through. This method helps to retain the moisture and prevent the shells from drying out.

  • If you prefer a crispier texture, you can also reheat the shells in the oven without covering them with foil. Bake at 350°F (175°C) for 10-15 minutes or until heated through and slightly crispy on top.

  • For a quick and easy option, you can reheat the taco stuffed shells in the microwave. Place the shells in a microwave-safe dish and cover with a damp paper towel. Microwave on high for 1-2 minutes or until heated through. Be careful not to overheat, as this can cause the shells to become rubbery.

  • If you have an air fryer, you can use it to reheat the shells and give them a crispy exterior. Preheat the air fryer to 350°F (175°C) and place the shells in the basket. Cook for 3-5 minutes or until heated through and crispy.

  • For a stovetop method, place the taco stuffed shells in a skillet with a tight-fitting lid. Add a splash of water or chicken broth to the pan to create steam. Cover the skillet and heat over medium-low heat for 5-7 minutes or until heated through. This method helps to keep the shells moist and prevents them from sticking to the pan.

Interesting Trivia About Taco Stuffed Shells

The taco stuffed shells recipe is a fusion of Italian and Mexican cuisines, combining the flavors of tacos with the classic pasta dish. This unique combination offers a delicious and creative twist on traditional stuffed shells. By incorporating taco seasoning, salsa, and ground beef into the recipe, it creates a flavorful and satisfying meal that is sure to please a crowd. The dish also provides a convenient way to enjoy the flavors of tacos in a different format, making it a versatile and fun option for family dinners or gatherings.

Is Making Taco Stuffed Shells at Home Cost-Effective?

This taco stuffed shells recipe is quite cost-effective for a household. The ingredients, such as ground beef and pasta shells, are affordable and readily available. The versatility of the dish allows for easy customization based on budget and preferences. The approximate cost for a household of 4 people would be around $15-$20. The overall verdict for this recipe would be an 8/10 for its affordability, simplicity, and delicious outcome.

Is This Recipe Healthy or Unhealthy?

This taco stuffed shells recipe, while delicious, is not particularly healthy. Here's why:

  • The recipe relies heavily on ground beef, which is high in saturated fat and calories.
  • Cheddar cheese is also high in saturated fat and sodium.
  • The recipe doesn't include any vegetables, which are essential for a balanced meal.
  • Pasta shells are made from refined flour, which is low in fiber and nutrients compared to whole grain alternatives.

However, with a few tweaks, this recipe can be made healthier without sacrificing flavor:

  • Swap the ground beef for lean ground turkey or a plant-based alternative like crumbled tofu or lentils. This will reduce the saturated fat content and add some extra protein and fiber.
  • Use reduced-fat cheddar cheese or a sprinkle of nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor with less saturated fat and sodium.
  • Add some veggies to the mix! Diced bell peppers, onions, and spinach would be delicious additions that pack in extra nutrients and fiber.
  • Opt for whole grain pasta shells to increase the fiber content and make the dish more filling and satisfying.
  • Use a homemade taco seasoning blend to control the sodium content and avoid any unnecessary additives or preservatives.

Editor's Opinion on Taco Stuffed Shells Recipe

This taco stuffed shells recipe is a delightful fusion of Italian and Mexican flavors. The combination of jumbo pasta shells, seasoned ground beef, and zesty salsa creates a mouthwatering dish that is sure to impress. The simplicity of the recipe makes it accessible for home cooks, while the bold flavors will satisfy even the most discerning palates. The use of cheddar cheese adds a creamy and indulgent touch, elevating the overall experience. This dish is perfect for a casual family dinner or a gathering with friends. It's a versatile and delicious recipe that is bound to become a favorite in any household.

Enhance Your Taco Stuffed Shells Recipe with These Unique Side Dishes:

Guacamole: Create a zesty and creamy guacamole to add a refreshing and flavorful element to your taco stuffed shells.
Cornbread: Whip up a batch of golden, buttery cornbread to complement the savory and spicy flavors of the taco stuffed shells.
Mango Salsa: Prepare a vibrant and tangy mango salsa to bring a tropical twist to your taco stuffed shells dinner.
Churros: Indulge in a sweet and crispy churros for a delightful dessert to follow your taco stuffed shells meal.

Similar Recipes to Try Besides Taco Stuffed Shells

Loaded Baked Potato Soup: This creamy and hearty soup is perfect for a cozy night in. It's loaded with all the classic baked potato toppings, making it a comforting and satisfying meal.
Mango Salsa Chicken: This vibrant and flavorful dish combines juicy mango salsa with tender chicken for a delicious and refreshing meal. It's a perfect balance of sweet and savory flavors.
Grilled Peach Salad: This light and refreshing salad features juicy grilled peaches, mixed greens, and a tangy vinaigrette. It's a perfect way to enjoy the summer's bounty of fresh peaches.

Appetizer and Dessert Pairings for Taco Stuffed Shells

Spinach and Artichoke Dip: Creamy and indulgent, this dip is the perfect way to start off any meal. The combination of spinach, artichoke, and gooey cheese will have your guests coming back for more.
Stuffed Mushrooms: These bite-sized delights are packed with savory flavors and are sure to impress your guests. Whether you choose a classic cheese and herb filling or something more adventurous, these stuffed mushrooms are a crowd-pleaser.
Chocolate Mousse: Indulge in a rich and velvety chocolate mousse, topped with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cocoa powder. The smooth and decadent texture will satisfy any sweet tooth.
Strawberry Cheesecake: Delight in a creamy and luscious strawberry cheesecake, adorned with fresh strawberry slices and a drizzle of strawberry sauce. The combination of tangy cream cheese and sweet strawberries creates a perfect harmony of flavors.

Why trust this Taco Stuffed Shells Recipe:

This recipe is a guaranteed hit for any taco lover. The combination of jumbo pasta shells and savory ground beef seasoned with taco seasoning creates a mouthwatering fusion. The addition of salsa and cheddar cheese adds a burst of flavor and gooey goodness. Trust the rave reviews from our community of food enthusiasts who have tried and loved this Mexican-inspired dish. It's a foolproof way to satisfy your cravings for a delicious and comforting meal.

Excited to try this Taco Stuffed Shells Recipe? Head over to the Recipe Sharing section to share your experience and discuss the dish with fellow cooking enthusiasts!
Can I use ground turkey instead of ground beef?
Yes, you can definitely use ground turkey as a leaner alternative to ground beef in this recipe. Just make sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly as turkey may cook faster than beef.
Can I use a different type of cheese?
Absolutely! Feel free to experiment with different types of cheese such as Monterey Jack, pepper jack, or a Mexican blend to add your own twist to the recipe.
Can I make this recipe ahead of time?
Yes, you can prepare the stuffed shells ahead of time and refrigerate them before baking. Just make sure to increase the baking time slightly to ensure they are heated through.
Can I freeze the leftovers?
Yes, you can freeze the leftover taco stuffed shells for future meals. Simply place them in an airtight container or freezer-safe bag and store them for up to 2-3 months. When ready to enjoy, thaw in the refrigerator and reheat in the oven.
Can I add vegetables to the filling?
Absolutely! You can add diced bell peppers, onions, corn, or black beans to the ground beef mixture to incorporate more vegetables and enhance the flavor of the dish. Just make sure to adjust the seasoning accordingly.

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