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Taco-Filled Pasta Shells

I've been stuffing pasta shells with different fillings for years, but my family enjoys this version with taco-seasoned meat the most. The frozen shells are so convenient, because you can take out only the number you need for a single-serving lunch or family dinner. Just add zippy taco sauce and bake. —Marge Hodel, Roanoke, Illinois
  • Total Time
    Prep: 20 min. + chilling Bake: 45 min.
  • Makes
    2 casseroles (6 servings each)


  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 envelopes taco seasoning
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, cubed
  • 24 uncooked jumbo pasta shells
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • ADDITIONAL INGREDIENTS (for each casserole):
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 cup taco sauce
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1-1/2 cups crushed tortilla chips
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3 green onions, chopped


  • In a Dutch oven, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Stir in taco seasoning and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Stir in cream cheese until melted. Transfer to a bowl; cool. Chill for 1 hour.
  • Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Gently toss with butter. Fill each shell with about 3 tablespoons of meat mixture. Place 12 half of shells in a freezer container. Cover and freeze for up to 3 months.
  • To prepare remaining shells, spoon 1 cup salsa into a greased 9-in. square baking dish. Top with remaining stuffed shells and 1 cup taco sauce. Cover and bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with 1 cup each of cheeses and 1-1/2 cups chips. Bake 15 minutes longer or until heated through. Serve with sour cream and onions.
  • Freeze option: To use frozen shells, thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours (shells will be partially frozen). Spoon 1 cup salsa into a greased 9-in. square baking dish; top with shells and 1 cup taco sauce. Cover and bake at 350° for 40 minutes. Uncover. Sprinkle with 1 cup each of cheeses and 1-1/2 cups chips; proceed as directed.
Nutrition Facts
2 shells: 492 calories, 31g fat (16g saturated fat), 98mg cholesterol, 982mg sodium, 29g carbohydrate (4g sugars, 1g fiber), 23g protein.

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  • colleenwieber
    Apr 29, 2020

    My family loved this dish. Even my 8 year old granddaughter loved it and has requested for me to make it again! She is allergic to eggs and I was so happy to find a recipe she likes.

  • Mike
    Feb 25, 2019

    This was delishious!! I made as written but added chopped onion and a can of black beans to the meat

  • Kristi
    Feb 23, 2019

    I halved the recipe because we only had one pound of hamburger in the fridge. I was able to stuff full 12 manicotti pasta pieces with the hamburger mix instead of the pasta shells called for. (There were 14 in the package so I stuffed the remaining two with shredded cheese.) My favorite Mexican restaurant in Oak Harbor WA tops their enchiladas with Parmesan cheese so I add that to my baked dishes as well, on top of the shredded Colby cheese and green onions. I used all the other requested ingredients. This dish was a big hit and will be in frequent rotation. It’s a lot more work than my super fast lazy chicken tacos (just sliced chicken mixed with salsa and shredded cheese melted on top) but I think it’s worth it.

  • PrplMonky5
    Jan 24, 2019

    I divided this into 1/4 to use leftover ground beef and cream cheese that I had. It was the perfect size for just my husband and I. I think I was able to get them into 9 shells without there being way too little in each shell. I made everything else as-is, except I lowered the butter to 1/2 tbsp instead of the full one. I thought this was very tasty! I also liked having some extra taco sauce leftover so we could add more afterwards if we wanted. Really enjoyed this and will be making it again.

  • wunsagin
    Feb 18, 2018

    Finally made these for the first time and we can't wait until I make them again. Didn't change a thing....... Perfection!!

  • dschultz01
    Oct 15, 2017

    Very good. I just made the entire recipe at once in a 13x9. Next time I would reduce the taco sauce a bit. It was too much all at once.

  • Paige
    Aug 11, 2017


  • ms11145
    May 31, 2016

    Great recipe. I also added refried beans to the meat to act as a binding agent and to add more protein.

  • Peggie0203
    Feb 19, 2016

    These were a big hit at our house. I'm looking forward to using the rest of them when I need a convenient, healthy meal.I am always looking for ways to add more veggies to my meals. To this I added diced onion, celery, and red bell peppers. With the additional bulk I had left over filling.I used a cookie scoop to fill the shells, it worked very well.

  • krohnmary
    Jan 10, 2016

    At our house we call this Pastaco. My daughter chose these for part of her graduation party which was a Mexican menu.