I saw a question on Twitter the other day that said “If you had to choose between eating tacos every day or being skinny for the rest of your life….. would you choose hard or soft shell tacos?” And honestly, I don’t think a tweet has ever spoken to me more.
I love tacos, you guys. I could seriously eat Mexican food every day if I thought my husband wouldn’t eventually start making fun of me. And while I’m all for eating traditional Mexican food like tacos, burritos, nachos, and enchiladas, sometimes, I want to change it up a little. That’s where these taco stuffed pasta shells come in!
This dish is like a mash-up of my two favorite kinds of foods- Mexican and Italian! I was initially a little wary about trying this idea out, only because I’ve made some Mexican-themed pasta and casserole dishes before that just didn’t hold a candle to the traditional Mexican food that I love, but I totally LOVED these pasta shells. I couldn’t stop myself from going back for seconds.
I had never considered adding cream cheese to my taco meat before, but I loved the creaminess it added, which kept the dish from becoming dried out and gross. And mixing the taco sauce into the meat prior to baking really brought out the spicy flavor. Then having the shells topped in a mixture of cheddar and pepper jack cheeses? Swoon. Overall, I’m going to go ahead and give this one a 10!
Taco Stuffed Pasta Shells
Servings: 6 (4-5 shells per serving)
- 26 jumbo pasta shells
- 1 lb ground turkey (or ground beef. I use 99% lean ground turkey)
- 1 (1 oz) package taco seasoning
- 4 oz cream cheese
- 7 tbsp taco sauce, divided
- 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1 cup pepper jack cheese, shredded
- Sour cream and shredded lettuce, if desired, for topping
- Preheat oven to 350. Prepare a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta shells until just al dente, about 6-7 minutes. Drain and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking process (Note: I always cook a few extra shells, just to be on the safe side in case any break or rip during the cooking process). Set aside.
- Using a medium-sized saute pan over medium-high heat, brown ground turkey, breaking it apart with a wooden spoon, until cooked through. Drain fat and return to stove. Add taco seasoning and cook according to package directions. Add cream cheese and 3 tablespoons of the taco seasoning. Stir until well mixed and cream cheese has melted.
- Stuff each shell with a heaping tablespoon of the meat mixture and place shells in the prepared baking dish, opening side up. Continue until all meat and shells have been used and pan is full. Drizzle remaining 4 tablespoons of taco sauce over shells.
- Cover pan with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove aluminum foil and sprinkle cheddar and pepper jack cheeses over shells. Return pan to oven and bake for an additional 5 minutes, or until cheese has melted. Top with sour cream and lettuce, if desired.
To freeze: Follow instructions through Step 4. Cover pan with aluminum foil and freeze. When you’re ready to make, bake covered for 20 minutes (no need to thaw). Top with fresh cheddar and pepper jack cheeses, and bake uncovered for an additional 20 minutes.
Inspired by: Taste of Home