Taco Stuffed Shells blend Mexican and Italian cuisine for a simple family supper. Cheesy, fiesta salsa, and pasta goodness. Add this tasty dish to your easy weeknight lineup!
What do you get when you combine Cheesy Stuffed Shells and taco night? A new surprise hit recipe to add into the weeknight rotation! At first, I was skeptical of this combination, but it tastes just like tacos…. but without shell pieces all over the floor.
I don’t know about your brood, but for mine – few things beat taco Tuesday. The exception to that rule may be Italian cuisine. And that my friends, is precisely why Mexican Stuffed Shells is a match made in culinary heaven for this household.
With seven ingredients and easy to assemble instructions, including a simple prep ahead option, this is a weeknight dream come true. Much like my recipe for Supreme Shredded Nachos, this one is flavorful, fun and family approved!
Ingredients and Notes
Below is an overview of what you will need to make Taco Stuffed shells.
Ground Beef: I use a lean ground beef, but you could use ground or shredded chicken, turkey, or plant-based protein if you wanted.
Jumbo Stuffed Shells: If you can’t find jumbo shells, you could use manicotti or cannelloni, but I would cut them into 2 inch sections. The manicotti tend to be thicker and larger.
Shredded Cheese: I generally use Mexican shredded, but Colby-Jack works too.
Taco Seasoning: You can use storebought or homemade.
Salsa: I use this to coat the bottom of the baking dish, so it doesn’t stick, and it increases the flavor!
Diced Onions: I use this to add more flavor and base to the filling.
Topping Ideas: Sour Cream, Lettuce, Tomato, Diced Green Onions, Cilantro
Step by Step Recipe Guide
The full directions are in the recipe card at the bottom of this post but I include this area as a visual guide with additional tips.
- Cook pasta shells. I cook them until they are just soft and pliable. There shouldn’t be any hardness felt, however. These shells aren’t sitting in juice, so they won’t cook much more in the oven.
2. Make the filling. In a skillet over medium heat, brown and crumble the beef while the onion turns translucent. If you want a fine crumble, you can put the beef in a food processor for a few seconds, but I find crumbling with a spatula while cooking is fine. Add the crushed tomatoes and taco seasoning. Stir frequently until warmed throughout and bubbly. If the mix is very watery, drain in a colander. (Photo 1 above)
3. Fill the shells. Coat the bottom of a 9x13in pan with 1 cup of salsa. (Photo 2 above). Fill each pasta shell with about 2 tablespoon beef mixture and place shells open side up, close together in the dish. (Photo 3 above). Sprinkle with cheddar cheese throughout the top. (Photo 4 above).
4. Bake. Cover with aluminum foil, preferably tented so it doesn’t stick to the cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly.
5. Serve. Top with desired taco toppings such as shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, sour cream, cilantro, or green onions. Serve warm.
Ideas to Personalize This Recipe
I love these simple and easy Mexican stuffed shells, but you can customize them in SO many different ways:
- Add black beans to the filling or on top.
- Top with cotija or farmer’s cheese to the filling or on top.
- Top with Mexican White Cheese Sauce (seriously delicious!)
- Add southwest pre-cooked rice into the filling
- Mix fire roasted tomatoes or red peppers to the filling
- Top with Avocado Crema
- Add diced veggies like corn or zucchini in the filling
- Add hot sauce after baking. Everyone can customize the heat of their own meal.
Store: Store these taco stuffed shells in a well-sealed, airtight container in the refrigerator. Lasts 3-4 days.
Freeze: If you’ve made a huge batch, you can easily freeze them for later! You can freeze the filling or the stuffed shells just before baking. Allow to cool complete Place them in a freezer-safe zip-top storage bag. They last up to 2 months. To thaw, spread them out until they come to room temperature.
Meal Prep: These hold up excellent for meal prep. I store the cold toppings separate from the stuffed shells for reheating in the microwave.
Looking for more alternatives to taco night?
Yes. You can use ground or shredded chicken, as well as turkey, black beans, or a plant based protein.
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PS. If you make this recipe, leave a COMMENT AND A STAR RATING in the comments section at the bottom and be sure to take a photo and tag it #cravingcreative on Instagram! I appreciate you for taking the time to read about me and my family recipes.
Taco Stuffed Shells
- 8 oz Jumbo Shells
- 1 lb Ground Beef
- ½ cup Diced Onion
- 3 tablespoon Taco Seasoning About one packet
- 14.5 oz Crushed Tomatoes
- 2 cup Colby Jack Shredded Cheese
- 1 cup Salsa
- Diced Tomatoes
- Sliced Green Onions
- Sour Cream
- Shredded Lettuce
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook pasta shells for about 7 minutes or until just cooked through and soft. Drain.
- In a skillet over medium heat, add the onion and ground beef. Brown and crumble the beef while the onion turns translucent. Add the crushed tomatoes and taco seasoning. Stir frequently until warmed throughout and bubbly. Drain in a mesh colander to remove excess water.
- Coat the bottom of a 9x13in pan with 1 cup of salsa. Fill each pasta shell with about 2 tablespoon beef mixture and place shells open side up, close together in the dish.
- Sprinkle with cheddar cheese throughout the top.
- Cover with aluminum foil, preferably tented so it doesn't stick to the cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly. Top with desired taco toppings such as shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, sour cream, cilantro, or green onions. Serve warm.