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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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  • debbiegarbs
    Mar 15, 2021

    No comment left

  • Karla87
    Jan 27, 2021

    This is good with jalapeno or chive and onion cream cheese. I also add chili powder and onions to the hamburger mix.

  • Julie
    Jan 11, 2021

    This is a family favorite. I’ve been making it since it was first published in TOH and the recipe has been passed all around. Whenever we make it for a party we always get requests for the recipe.

  • dlynsmith9
    Aug 19, 2020

    I used ground chicken and all taco sauce, because I don't like salsa. It was delicious. My husband said that it was a keeper. He loved the crunch of tortilla chips on top.

  • Angela
    Aug 12, 2020

    I've been making this recipe ever since it first appeared in an issue of TOH almost 20 years ago. It's one of the few freezer meals that everyone in my family enjoys. I love how this recipe is both kid-friendly and suitable for casual entertaining.

  • Jo
    Aug 12, 2020

    I admit I have not yet tried this recipe, but it sounds yummy. I was a little confused about the taco sauce? I am not familiar with with that is. Can anyone help me?

  • 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.

  • danilane
    May 6, 2019

    No comment left

  • 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.